An article I read in the WSJ this morning, re-started me thinking about the insanity of the pharmaceutical companies (Happy New Year, tongue-in-cheek). Apparently, there is a new product named Deplin (made by Pamlab) that is simply L-methylfolate, the active form of the B-vitamin folate. L-methylfolate is one component in the complex chemical pathways that produce the neurotransmitters critical to regulating mood.

It seems that in some people through genetic variation, L-methylfolate production is reduced, which “may” raise their risk of depression. Please note, in addition to genetics, production can be reduced by aging, illness, POOR NUTRITION, excess alcohol consumption and some medications.

This is all excellent information, in my opinion, as scientists and doctors delve deeper into the psycho-neuro-endocrine aspects of mood and behavior. In my new book, The Road to Perfect Health, Rick Sponaugle, M.D., Director of Florida Detox and Wellness Institute, clearly explains how a leaky gut can affect the ability of the body to convert tryptophan into 5-HTP, 80% of which is done in the intestinal lining! 5-HTP is then transformed to serotonin, one of the relaxing neurotransmitters and a primary target in antidepressive medication. Dr. Sponaugle has charted success with his patient base through increasing their intake of high quality 5-HTP (another medical food) which has improved mood and overall function as he helps them learn to heal their guts. The goal – eventually they will be able to increase their serotonin production, from their digested foods. And more and more he’s recognizing the pivotal place an individual’s healthy diet holds in this extraordinarily complex scenario.

Deplin (L-methylfolate) may well prove to be another “food” that helps complete this puzzle. Pamlab officials say Deplin is more efficient to take than folate, similar to the tryptophan scenario explained above, as no conversion need take place. Deplin seems to help patients whose depression didn’t respond to antidepressants initially, or did for while only to have their depression return. At this point, the clinical evidence is limited, although there are positive reports of antidepressant medications seeming to work better coupled with Deplin. There is an upcoming clinical trial on Deplin alone as a possible helpful component in treating depression.

The part I find upsetting is that L-methylfolate, technically categorized as a “medical food” (not a pharmaceutical drug) is being sold for as much as $98 for a one month supply – AND the manufacturer is trying to win FDA approval for Deplin as a prescription drug! As one form of a B-vitamin is swooped up as a pharmaceutical, we Americans are that much closer to losing the right to choose our supplements without a doctor’s prescription!

Depression is such a complex issue. I’ve mentioned often that Omega 3s are effective in enhancing mood. And yes, there are pharmaceutical Omegas now too! Eeeek! At every turn, valuable research information seems to be cornered by big business designed to regulate us away from its value and availability. Are all our “foods” soon to be available only with prescription? After all, food IS the best medicine!

I (gratefully) return to my primary focus (which today is still available) – bring the good stuff in (through your diet), properly eliminate what’s been used (through your gut), and more recently/sadly, make it a habit to detoxify the myriad manmade poisons that are now overwhelming our daily lives (without many of us even realizing). Whether we’ve been clinically diagnosed with depression, or simply navigating our stress-filled lives as best as we can, it seems to me that the most sensible approach is as a lifestyle, an awareness, an entire program.

Ending on an up-note – thank you Dr. Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Health for urging patients to try therapies unrelated to addicting type pharmaceutical drugs. He ends with “remember there is no silver bullet”. Ain’t that the truth?!