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BMJ. Mar 27, 2004; 328(7442): 768–769.
PMCID: PMC381374

Folic acid as ultimate in disease prevention

Folate also improves mental health
John Geddes, professor of epidemiological psychiatry

Editor—Lucock considered the likely effects of mass use of folate but did not mention the potential benefits to mental health.1

Associations between folate status and mood have been known for some time, with folate deficiency considered a treatable cause of depression. Emerging evidence from randomised trials shows that the augmentation of conventional antidepressant treatments with folate may improve outcome, and this effect may be seen even in patients with normal folate concentrations at baseline.2

Observational studies also find associations between folate status and dementia,3 although currently trials of dietary supplementation are not conclusive.4

The effects on health of fortification with folate may not be limited to birth defects, vascular disease, and cancers.


Competing interests: None declared.


1. Lucock M. Is folic acid the ultimate functional food component for disease prevention? BMJ 2004;328: 211-4. (24 January.) [PMC free article] [PubMed]
2. Taylor MJ, Carney S, Geddes J, Goodwin G. Folate for depressive disorders. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2003;(2): CD003390. [PubMed]
3. Ebly EM, Schaefer JP, Campbell NR, Hogan DB. Folate status, vascular disease and cognition in elderly Canadians. Age Ageing 1998;27: 485-91. [PubMed]
4. Malouf R, Grimley Evans J, Areosa Sastre A. Folic acid with or without vitamin B12 for cognition and dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2003;(4): CD004514. [PubMed]

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