A new study has discovered that consuming folic acid may lower the chance of suicide. According to the study, which included more than 800,000 Americans in a healthcare database, taking folic acid by prescription reduces the risk of being cured of self-harm or attempted suicide by 44%.
Folic acid, a synthetic version of vitamin B9, or folate supplements, is used in nutritional supplements and is added to some meals. However, scientists have noted that current results do not suggest that folic acid alone reduces the risk of suicide.
Professor Robert Gibbons, the study’s principal investigator, from the University of Chicago, said: “I won’t run to the drugstore right away to get folic acid. “Without a doubt, I would not use supplements to replace any medical evaluation or continuing care,” he said.
He stated that a clinical research study in which participants are randomly assigned to take the vitamin or not is required to demonstrate that folic acid directly affects suicidal behavior.
Folic acid: Vitamin B9 and mental health
The study, which was published in the journal “gamma psychiatry,” adds to the body of evidence associating vitamin B9 to mental health.
Previous research has connected low blood folic acid levels to depression. Some mental health experts perform blood tests to evaluate folic acid as well as vitamins D and B12 when evaluating depressed patients (deficiencies in these nutrients have been linked to depressive symptoms as well).
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Dr. Christine Crawford, a psychiatrist and associate medical director at the charity National Alliance on Mental Illness, stated, “I do it all the time.”
Although this synthetic vitamin is low-risk, Crawford, who was not involved in the new study, highlighted that patients who are already receiving treatment for depression can talk to their healthcare provider about vitamin supplementation because the data supports a clinical trial.
“This is not something that should substitute regular therapy for mental health issues,” she continued, quoting the UBI agency. However, it can still be put to use. She also added that it will have a significant impact if discussing folic acid contributes to “normalizing the debate around suicide.”
The 2019 study by Gibbons and colleagues, which examined the connection between the risk of suicide and all prescription medications currently on the market, served as the foundation for the current investigation.
44 Drugs Lower the Risk of Suicide
It was discovered that 44 drugs were associated with a lower risk, and interestingly, folic acid was one of them.
According to Gibbons, the researchers at first hypothesized that this might be related to the individual taking synthetic vitamin, which is frequently done by pregnant women to lower their risk of developing certain birth abnormalities. So they performed a different analysis on individuals who were men only. In men, we saw the similar connection.
The researchers rephrased the question as, “What was the risk of self-harm or suicide attempt during a period when patients were taking this synthetic vitamin, versus when they were not?” Because users and non-users of folic acid may differ in a variety of ways.
The study discovered that when folic acid was used, the rate of self-harm and suicide attempts was practically cut in half. And monthly, there were slightly under five of these events per 100,000 people. Even after taking age, gender, and a history of mental health diagnoses into consideration, folic acid use was linked to a 44% decreased incidence of suicidal ideation or self-harm.
Another option, according to Gibbons, is that people who use prescription supplements are particularly engaged in promoting their health, which would explain the correlation. Some medications, such as methotrexate, which is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, “destroy” users’ folic acid levels, according to Gibbons. As a result, doctors generally prescribe folic acid to patients who are taking these medications.
Folic acid will be put to the test in a clinical trial by the researchers to see if the supplement might lower suicidal ideas and actions.
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Resources are available from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for those who are mourning a loss, considering suicide, have already attempted suicide, or are concerned about a loved one who may be suicidal.
In times of emergency, call 911, text 988, or send the message “TALK” to 741741.