Depression is one of the most common mental health issues around the world. Although it is a complex illness, more research and studies are made to help people manage the condition. Instead of simply relying on anti-depressants, which have side-effects, scientists are exploring Vitamin B12 supplementation. Here’s what we know so far.
What’s the Link Between Vitamin B12 and Depression?
Researchers and scientists have found a link between Vitamin B 12 and depression. One study confirmed that vitamins B1, B3, B9, and B12 are all essential for the proper functioning of the neurons and that deficiency from these vitamins may affect the neurochemical pathways that can cause depression. (1)
In a study of patients with depression, researchers found that these patients have low vitamin B12 and folic acid. Further, the research found that low folate and depression were also seen in alcoholic patients. (2)
Although there are numerous research and studies that support this link, there is still no clear cut explanation on why vitamin B12 deficiency can cause depression. One possible explanation is that vitamin B12 has an effect on the levels of serotonin in one’s brain. As you may know, serotonin is the happy hormone that helps with mood regulation. Thus, when there are low levels of vitamin B12 in the body, serotonin can drop, too, which may cause depression.
Are You Vitamin B12 Deficient?
Low vitamin B12 levels in the body can be due to poor diet, poor absorption, and risk factors. Some of the most common symptoms of a deficiency are:
- Brain fog/inability to concentrate and focus
- Rapid heartbeat without exercising
Who are at higher risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency?
- People who are vegan or vegetarian because vitamin B12 are found in dairy, meat, fish, and other animal products.
- Those who have celiac or Crohn’s disease will have problems with absorbing nutrients in the body.
- At the age of 50, the stomach will produce less acid, which, in turn, will hamper vitamin B12 absorption.
- People who had weight loss surgery. The operation will make it challenging for the body to extract vitamin B12 from the food they eat.
- Taking heartburn medication can also affect the absorption of Vitamin B12.
Get the Right Diagnosis
If you experience the symptoms above and may be at risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency, consult a doctor the soonest. They will do a blood test to check the level of vitamin B12 in the blood. Disclose any symptoms, supplements, and other medications you’re taking. This is also the best time to consult with a psychiatrist if you are having depressive symptoms.
Do note that there are symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency and depression that are similar. This is why making an appointment with your doctors is the best way to go about it.
Should You Supplement with Vitamin B12?
Studies have shown promising results. In one study, vitamin B supplementation showed improvement in mood symptoms and the mental health quality of life in adults with depression. (3) In another study of 199 depressed patients who were given vitamin B12 supplements, they showed improvement in depressive symptoms.
Nevertheless, it is best to refrain from self-supplementing. Get a diagnosis and discuss with your doctor if supplementing with vitamin B12 is the best way to go. Your doctor should be able to tell you the proper dosage, too.
The takeaway here is diet and nutrition can affect the development of depression and other mental health illnesses. At the same time, this also means that improving one’s diet may help with the treatment of depression. This is a good time to look for alternative treatments that can work together with anti-depressants for more successful treatments.
- The Effects of Vitamin B in Depression
- Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12
- The Effect of Methylated Vitamin B Complex on Depressive and Anxiety Symptoms and Quality of Life in Adults with Depression
- Vitamin B12 Supplementation in Treating Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial