Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) and other B vitamins have critical roles in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. Low levels of B12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B6 and folate (B9) may be linked to depression.
Low levels of B vitamins can result from poor dietary choices or from an inability to absorb the vitamins you consume in foods. Older adults, vegetarians and people with digestive disorders may have trouble getting enough B vitamins.
Sometimes a vitamin B deficiency occurs for unknown reasons. Your doctor may order blood tests to check levels of B12, B9 or even B6 (although less likely without you requesting it) or other vitamins if a deficiency is suspected.
The best way to make sure you’re getting enough B12 and other vitamins is to eat a healthy diet that includes sources of essential nutrients. Vitamin B12 is plentiful in animal products such as fish, lean meat, poultry, eggs, and low-fat and fat-free milk.
Taking a daily supplement that includes vitamin B12 may help your body get the nutrients it needs, especially if you’re older than 50, you have digestive issues (this includes patients on antacids) or you’re a vegetarian.
Both low folate (B9) and low vitamin B12 have been found in studies of depressive type patients, and an association between depression and low levels of the two vitamins is found in studies of the general population.
Low plasma or serum folate has also been found in patients with recurrent mood disorders treated by lithium.
It is interesting to note that Hong Kong and Taiwan populations with traditional Chinese diets that are rich in folate have very low life time rates of major depression.
Low folate levels are furthermore linked to a poor response to antidepressants, and treatment with B12 and B9 have been shown to improve response to antidepressants.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) helps the body make several neurotransmitters (the chemicals that carry signals from one nerve cell to another.) B6 is needed for normal brain development and function, and helps make serotonin and norepinephrine, which influence mood, and melatonin, which helps regulate the body clock and sleep. Your body needs B6 in order to absorb vitamin B12 and to make red blood cells and cells of the immune system.
Other studies of hospitalized patients, who often have lower than normal vitamin C levels, found that they experienced an improvement in mood after they received vitamin C.
The link between vitamin C and mood may seem surprising, but it’s not so far-fetched. People who have vitamin C deficiency often feel fatigued or depressed. Plus, some studies show that vitamin C can have mood-elevating effects. So it makes sense that vitamin C levels could affect mood.
If you would like your nutritional status to be evaluated, please contact (636)928-5588 to set up an appointment with Dr Crosby today!