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New Dietary Option Supports Depression Treatment for Australians

mental health

Adding a newly available food for special medical purposes* to existing depression prescription medications could significantly improve the proportion of people who respond positively to treatment according to research, which was presented at the 2017 Australasian Society for Bipolar and Depressive Disorders (ASBDD) Conference.

Research1 shows that adding L-methylfolate – the bioactive form of folate – to standard prescription medications for depression can significantly increase the proportion of patients that respond positively.

There is evidence to demonstrate a link between low folate levels and the risk and management of major depressive disorder1.

L-methylfolate is a vital nutrient and is the only form of folate that can cross the blood brain barrier and influence the synthesis of serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine, which are key chemical messengers involved in depression management.1

Only around one in seven hard-to-treat patients with depression respond to prescription medications alone, whereas the key study shows that nutritional support with high dose of L-methylfolate (15mg/day) can improve the response rate significantly.1,2

Professor Mal Hopwood, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne and the Immediate Past President of Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, says it is promising to see new options being made available to Australians with depression.

“Given we have an estimated 1 million Australians affected by depression3, many of whom will not respond to current treatments, new options are always very welcome. It is important for Australians with depression to speak with their primary healthcare professionals to discuss options on how to optimise their existing treatment,” said Professor Hopwood.

Dr Darryl Bassett, a Perth-based psychiatrist and formerly Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Notre Dame and Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Western Australia, says one of the keys to better treatment outcomes in depression is increasing response rates.

“There is certainly a trend globally in depression treatment towards augmenting medications with specialised nutritional support to improve the number of people who benefit. The data from the conference certainly shows how promising that approach is likely to be,” said Dr Bassett.

The discussions at the ASBDD conference are very timely given the recent availability of L-methylfolate in Australian pharmacies this September.

L-methylfolate is available as a 15mg dosage to provide dietary support in the management of depression as a medical nutritional product.

L-methylfolate 15mg is a pharmacy-only product and should only be provided on advice and recommendations of GPs and pharmacists.

This high dose L-methylfolate is available in Australia as a “food for special medical purpose” because it is specifically formulated as a dietary support for people with depression and intended to augment prescribed treatment.

*L-methylfolate is classified in Australia as a “food for special medical purpose” (FSMP) by the Food Standards Code.


1. Papakostas G.I. et al. L-Methylfolate as adjunctive therapy for SSRI resistant major depression: Results of two randomised double blind, parallel sequential trials. Am J. of Psychiatry 201; 169; 1267-1274
2. Papakostas G.I. Key note address. 2017 Australian Society of Bipolar and Depressive Disease Disorders Conference. Novel, non-monoamine-based drug therapies for treatment-resistant depression. 16 September 2017.
3. ABS statistics 2007. See here

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