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Vitamin B12 May Improve Depression Medication Outcomes

The link between vitamin B12 deficiency and depression is well established, but research suggests that vitamin B12 blood levels that measure in the low end of normal may increase depression and affect response to treatment. A study in The Open Neurology Journal found that supplementing antidepressant treatment with vitamin B12 may give depressed people whose vitamin B12 blood levels are on the low end of normal the extra boost they need to feel better.

Vitamin B12 may boost mood

In this study, 73 depressed participants with low-normal vitamin B12 levels were randomly assigned to an oral antidepressant and injectable vitamin B12 group, or an antidepressant only group. Either a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant was prescribed to each participant. People in the vitamin B12 group received 1,000 mcg of vitamin B12 every week for six weeks. Depression symptoms were monitored using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression.

At three months, compared with the antidepressants-only group, depression symptoms improved significantly in a higher proportion of participants in the vitamin B12 group (100% vs. 69%).

While doctors do not usually advise people with low-normal vitamin B12 levels to try supplementation, the study authors point out “that these patients represent [a] sub group within the clinically depressed population, and supplementation with B12 along with the conventional antidepressants may be a useful strategy in the treatment of depression in such cases.” They recommend further research to confirm their findings.

Vitamin B12 is vital

Vitamin B12 is good for the nerves. Vitamin B12 is especially important for blood cell and nervous system health. Too little vitamin B12 is linked to blood, nervous system, and psychiatric problems, which include “irritability, personality change, depression, dementia and rarely, psychosis,” according to the study authors. Getting enough vitamin B12 is good for the body and the mind.

Who is at risk for deficiency? People at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency include older people, strict vegetarians, and people who have had stomach surgery or who have stomach disease. Emerging research suggests that a significant number of healthy people and even younger people may have low-normal levels, which can contribute to disease. The study authors affirm that both vitamin B12 deficiency and low-normal B12 levels are common and advise that such deficiency “may be associated with depression and the inadequate response to antidepressant treatment in patients with depression.”

Talk with a doctor. If you are depressed, see a knowledgeable healthcare professional who can discuss conventional and complementary treatment options with you, including the risks and benefits of supplements.

(Open Neurol J 2013;7:44-8)

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.
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