Could Taking a Vitamin Supplement Help with Depression Symptoms?

depression, nutrition, B vitamins, dietary supplements
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According to the National Institutes of Health, about one quarter of the United States population suffers from depression. Ensuring proper nutrition is important for many chronic health conditions – mental health included. Researchers have found that possibly supplementation of certain vitamins may be helpful in depression treatment.

Past studies have suggested that a notable feature of the diets of patients who suffer from mental disorders is a deficiency in certain nutrients, especially essential vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. Nutrient deficiencies can lead to improper functioning of many bodily systems, including the central nervous system. Depression is thought to be related to inadequate production of certain amino acids, such as serotonin, and these neurotransmitters need nutrients in order to form and function.

The most common vitamin deficiencies seen in patients with mental disorders are B-vitamins, especially folate and B12. Other B-vitamins such as B1, B2, and B6 are also essential for promoting the functioning of the brain. Researchers with the University of Miami suggest that taking a Vitamin B Complex daily may be linked to improved mood and mental health.

The study involved 60 adults diagnosed with depressive disorders. Those taking a vitamin B complex were found to have significant and continuous improvements in depressive and anxiety symptoms over those taking a placebo.

Vitamin B1 – Thiamine
Thiamine is found in all body tissues and is very abundant in most diets – found in cereals, grains, beans and nuts. Also known as B1, thiamine is necessary for nerve stimulation and metabolism of carbohydrates which give the brain and body energy. Deficiency symptoms include mood disorders, anxiety, insomnia and restlessness.

Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin
Riboflavin is essential for growth and general health. B2 is needed for the metabolism of amino acids and fats, but is also necessary for the activation of other B-vitamins, including B6 and folic acid. Good sources of the vitamin include dairy products and leafy vegetables.

Vitamin B3 – Niacin
Niacin helps improve circulation and reduces cholesterol in the blood. It also helps maintain the nervous system. B3 can be found in meat, poultry, fish, nuts, whole grains and dried beans.

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Vitamin B5 - Pantothenic Acid
B5 protects against most physical and mental stresses, increases vitality, and can help against premature aging. Deficiency can cause chronic fatigue, irritability, dizziness and stomach distress.

Vitamin B6 - Pyridoxine
This is the principle vitamin for processing amino acids and converting nutrients into energy. It also performs many essential function sin the brain, especially the manufacture of serotonin. B6 levels are typically quite low in depressed patients, especially women. Deficiency symptoms include nervousness, insomnia, and irritability. B6 is found in fish, poultry, lean meats and whole grains.

Vitamin B12 - Cyanocobalamin
Vitamin B12 helps to maintain a healthy nervous system and assists with blood cell formation. Recent studies indicate that there is a definite benefit for B12 in depression patients. It may also be beneficial for other mental disorders, including ADHD and in improving cognitive function in the elderly. B12 is found primarily in animal products such as lean meat and poultry, eggs, and dairy.

Folate
It has been observed that patients with depression often have low blood folate levels – on average 25% lower than healthy controls. Low levels of folate have also been identified as a strong factor of poor outcome with antidepressant therapy. Folate is found in leafy greens, dried beans, breakfast cereals (fortified), and whole grains.

Biotin
Biotin aids in the utilization of protein, folic acid, and vitamin B12. Deficiency symptoms may include loss of appetite, extreme fatigue, confusion and mental depression

The Whole Diet
Nutritional supplementation with a B-complex vitamin daily is safe, but should always be a part of an overall healthy diet. Remember that specific vitamins or nutrients alone with not fix or cure depression, and anyone feeling depression symptoms should be evaluated by a physician.

References:
Lewis JE, Tiozzo E, et al. "The effect of methylated vitamin B complex on depressive and anxiety symptoms and quality of life in adults with depression," Psychiatry; 2013
Sathyanarayana Rao TS, Asha MR et al. Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Indian J Psychiatry. 2008 Apr-Jun; 50(2): 77–82.
doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.42391

Additional Resources:
Depression Guide – Vitamin Deficiency

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