The objective of the present work was to study the interrelationship between white matter hyperintensities (WMHs), cardiovascular risk factors and elements of the one-carbon cycle including serum folate, vitamin B12, and homocysteine levels in a relatively young sample of outpatients with major depressive disorder (MDD), and to compare the severity of white matter hyperintensities in MDD patients and healthy volunteers. Fifty MDD outpatients (34% women, age 40.6 ± 10.3 years), free of psychotropic medications for at least 2 weeks before enrollment, underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the brain to detect T2 WMHs and also had (1) serum folate, vitamin B12, homocysteine and cholesterol levels measured, and (2) cardiovascular risk factors assessed during the same study visit. Thirty-five healthy comparison subjects (40% women, age 39.2 ± 9.8 years) also underwent brain MRI scans. Hypofolatemia, hypertension and age independently predicted a greater severity of total brain WMHs. Separately, the same factors also predicted a greater severity of subcortical WMHs. Hypofolatemic and hypertensive patients had more severe WMHs than normal controls. In light of the adverse impact of WMHs on a number of health-related outcomes later in life, hypofolatemia and hypertension may represent modifiable risk factors to prevent the occurrence of such adverse outcomes.
- White matter