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9 December 2008
Sydney, Australia

A new link found between depression and amino acid homocysteine might help reduce the risk of depression in old age
A new link found between depression and amino acid homocysteine might help reduce the risk of depression in old age.

The research by a team at the Western Australian Centre for Health and Ageing (WACHA) suggests that high levels of homocysteine contributed to an increased risk of depression among elderly people, reports IANS.

The study involved more than 3,700 men aged over 70, according to a WACHA release.

“Previous studies revealed that older adults with depression have high concentrations of homocysteine, but nobody was sure whether it actually contributed to cause older people to become depressed,” WACHA Research Director Osvaldo Almeida said.

“We’ve now found that the MTHFR gene, which we knew contributed to increasing the basal concentration of homocysteine by 20 per cent, also increases the risk of depression by about 20 per cent in older people.

“These results suggest that if we are able to reduce the plasma concentration of homocysteine by one fifth, we can reduce the number of elderly Australians who are affected by depression by the same amount,” Almedia added.

Around a million Australian adults live with depression each year and the condition is extremely prevalent among older age groups, with as many as 51 per cent of high aged care residents reported as depressed.

Almeida said the research was an important step forward in understanding what led to the development of depression in later life and how to create effective prevention strategies.

“Depression is more than just a low mood–it’s a serious illness and can have serious effects on physical and mental health so this research is very important,” Almeida said.

These findings were published in the November issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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