Vitamin E Levels in Major Depression.




European Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Vitamin E Depression
Professional Data: Vitamin E Depression


Depression has been part of the human condition since antiquity. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek "Father of Medicine," is generally credited with the first description of an emotional disorder and is thought to have coined the term "melancholia," literally translated as "black bile.”

The causes of depression are too complex to be totally explained by a single social, biological, or developmental theory. Several factors seem to work together to trigger depressive disorders. Heredity does seem to have a role, as studies have shown. Depressive disorders and suicide tend to run in families, and first-degree relatives of patients with depression are one and one half to three times more likely to develop depression than people with no depression in the immediate family.

Depression is not simply "all in the head." Depression has physical causes, linked to abnormalities in brain chemistry. The symptoms of major depression consistently reflect changes in "neurotransmitters," substances that regulate function of the brain and nervous system. The neurotransmitters closely related to depression are norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine.

A recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the plasma levels of vitamin E in relation to major depression. This small study, conducted in Australia, involved 49 people whom were diagnosed with major depression. Blood levels of vitamin E were measured as well as the dietary intake. The results showed that these participants had low plasma levels of tocopherol (vitamin E) than what has been previously reported in Australians. In addition, 89% met or exceeded the recommended dosage of dietary vitamin E. Dietary intake was not associated with plasma levels. The authors concluded that, “These findings suggest that plasma levels of alpha-tocopherol are lower in depression, but this is not likely to be the result of inability to meet recommended dietary intake.”1


1. Owen AJ, et al. Low plasma vitamin E in major depression: diet or disease? Euro J Clin Nutr. Feb 2005;59:304-6.