Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Depression and B vitamins

Whilst the area of nutrition is often discussed only in terms of physical health, a vast amount of research links the use of dietary supplements with positive effects on behaviour and mental health. A recent study of more than 2000 people found low plasma vitamin B-12 concentrations were associated with higher depression scores, and low vitamin B-6 concentrations were associated lower attention and executive function. 1

In another study from the University of Sheffield regular supplementation of hospitalised older people with multivitamins and minerals improved mental health, compared to a placebo.2 The prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled study included 225 hospitalised, acutely ill older people with an average age of 75.6. Participants received either a normal hospital diet plus multivitamin and mineral supplements providing 100% of the Reference Nutrient Intakes for six weeks or a normal hospital diet plus a placebo for six weeks. Levels of folate and vitamin B12 in red blood cells and plasma, respectively, increased significantly in the supplement group but decreased in the placebo group. Beneficial effects for symptoms of depression scores were observed for patients in the supplementation group regardless of the initial level of depression of the individual. The authors wrote, “Many epidemiological and case-control studies have shown associations between folate and vitamin B12 deficiency and depression. In a study of 3,500 over-65-year-olds in Chicago over an average of 7.2 years of follow-up, the researchers noted that increased intakes of vitamins from food and supplements B6 and B12 were associated with a ‘decreased likelihood of incident depression.’” Vitamin B12 is involved in the synthesis of monoamines, some of which act as neurotransmitters and may also inhibit the accumulation of the amino acid homocysteine, which may lead to toxic reactions that enhance depression. For every 10-milligram increase in the intake of vitamin B6 and for every 10-microgram increase in vitamin B12, the risk of developing symptoms of depression was decreased by two percent per year.3

2            Gariballa and Forster 2007
3            Skarupski et al. 2010

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