British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Association of folate intake with the occurrence of depressive episodes in middle-aged French men and women

Pierre Astorga1 c1, Aline Couthouisa2, Geneviève Potier de Courcya3, Sandrine Bertraisa3, Nathalie Arnaulta3, Pierre Menetona4, Pilar Galana3 and Serge Hercberga3

a1 Unité Nutrition et Régulation Lipidique des Fonctions Cérébrales (NuRéLiCe), INRA, Centre de Recherche de Jouy-en-Josas, France

a2 Caisse Primaire d'Assurance Maladie de Paris, France

a3 UMR Inserm 557/INRA/Cnam/Paris 13 Epidémiologie Nutritionnelle, Centre de Recherche en Nutrition Humaine d'Ile-de-France, Université Paris 13, Bobigny, France

a4 INSERM U367, Département de Santé Publique et d'Informatique Médicale, Faculté de Médecine Broussais, Hôtel Dieu, Paris, France


A low folate intake or a low folate status have been found to be associated with a higher frequency of depression in populations, but the existence and the direction of a causal link between folate intake or status and depression is still uncertain. The aim of this study was to seek the relation between the habitual folate intake in middle-aged men and women and the occurrence of depressive episodes. In a subsample of 1864 subjects (809 men and 1055 women) from the French SU.VI.MAX cohort, dietary habits have been measured at the beginning of the follow-up (six 24 h records) and declarations of antidepressant prescription, taken as markers of depressive episodes, have been recorded during the 8-year follow-up. No significant association was observed between folate intake and the risk of any depressive episode or of a single depressive episode during the follow-up, in both men and women. In contrast, the risk of experiencing recurrent depressive episodes (two or more) during the follow-up was strongly reduced in men with high folate intake (OR 0·25 (95 % CI 0·06, 0·98) for the highest tertile v. the lowest, P for trend 0·046). This association was not observed in women. These results suggest that a low folate intake may increase the risk of recurrent depression in men.

(Received March 14 2007)

(Revised September 27 2007)

(Accepted September 28 2007)

(Online publication December 06 2007)


c1 Corresponding author: P. Astorg, fax +33 1 34 65 23 11, email


Abbreviations: Nad, number of antidepressant prescriptions