Eating for Depression

Could treating depression be as simple as eating more greens?

By Peter Doskoch, published September 1, 1996 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Could supping on some spinach make the difference between depression and happiness for people on Prozac? Research has shown that folks who are blue tend to have low levels of folic acid, a vitamin found most abundantly in leafy green vegetables. Maurizio Fava, M.D., a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, finds that those who are down and out and don't get enough of the nutrient are less likely to benefit from Prozac.

Fava and his colleagues measured blood levels of folic acid in 189 people taking Prozac for eight weeks. While 65 percent of folks with normal folic acid levels significantly benefited from the drug, only 40 percent who were deficient in the vitamin showed the same improvement two months later.

The likely reason, Fava suggested at the recent American Psychiatric Association meeting, is that folic acid is crucial for many components of the nervous system, including the metabolism of neurotransmitters that may play a role in depression.