Abstract Severe depression is characterized by anorexia and weight loss, symptoms that could endanger the patient's nutritional state. In order to investigate the nutritional state of depressed patients we determined the following in 113 healthy controls and depressed inpatients: (1) anthropometric variables such as body weight, ideal body weight (IBW), percentage of IBW, mean arm circumference, triceps skinfold thickness and arm muscle circumference, and (2) biochemical parameters such as albumin (Alb), prealbumin (Prealb), and transferrin (Tf). We were unable to detect any differences in the anthropometric parameters between healthy controls, minor and major depressed patients. Depressed patients exhibited significantly lower Alb and Tf levels than healthy controls. The drop in both plasma proteins was highly sensitive (72%) and specific (92%) for melancholia. These results may point towards the existence of a disorder in protein homeostasis or protein malnutrition without a marasmic component.