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VITAMINS & MINERALS
Is Fish Oil Helpful for Depression?
Vitamin Bs Beat Blues
The vitamin B-complex refers to all of the known essential water-soluble vitamins except for vitamin C. These include thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), biotin, folic acid, and the cobalamins (vitamin B12).
Each member of the B-complex has a unique structure and performs unique functions in the human body.
Vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid have all been implicated in depression. Depression is a condition characterized by unhappy, hopeless feelings. It can be a response to stressful events, hormonal imbalances, biochemical abnormalities, or other causes.
Vitamin B6 is the master vitamin for processing amino acids-the building blocks of all proteins and some hormones. Vitamin B6 helps to make and take apart many amino acids and is also needed to make the hormones serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine. Potatoes, bananas, raisin bran cereal, lentils, liver, turkey, and tuna are all good sources of vitamin B6.
Who is likely to be deficient in B6?
How much B6 is usually taken?
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin needed for normal nerve cell activity, DNA replication, and production of the mood-affecting substance SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine). Vitamin B12 acts with folic acid and vitamin B6 to control homocysteine levels. An excess of homocysteine is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and potentially other diseases such as osteoporosis and Alzheimer's disease. Vitamin B12 is found in all foods of animal origin, including dairy, eggs, meat, poultry, and fish.
Who is likely to be deficient in B12?
Deficiency of vitamin B12 can create disturbances in mood that respond to B12 supplementation. Significant vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with a doubled risk of severe depression. Depression caused by vitamin B12 deficiency can occur even if there is no B12 deficiency-related anemia.
Mood has been reported to sometimes improve with high amounts of vitamin B12 (given by injection), even in the absence of a B12 deficiency. Supplying the body with high amounts of vitamin B12 can only be done by injection. However, in the case of overcoming a diagnosed B12 deficiency, one can follow an initial injection with oral maintenance supplementation (1 mg per day).
How much B12 is usually taken?
Absorption of vitamin B12 is reduced with increasing age. Some research suggests that elderly people may benefit from 10 to 25 mcg per day of vitamin B12.
When vitamin B12 is used for therapeutic purposes other than correcting a deficiency, injections are usually necessary to achieve results. Oral vitamin B12 supplements are not generally associated with any side effects.
Folic acid is a B vitamin needed for cell replication and growth. Folic acid helps form building blocks of DNA, the body's genetic information, and building blocks of RNA, needed for protein synthesis in all cells. Therefore, rapidly growing tissues, such as those of a fetus, and rapidly regenerating cells, like red blood cells and immune cells, have a high need for folic acid. Folic acid deficiency results in a form of anemia that responds quickly to folic acid supplementation.
Who is likely to be deficient in folic acid?
Deficiency of folic acid can be precipitated by situations wherein the body requires greater than normal amounts of the vitamin, such as pregnancy, infancy, leukemia, exfoliative dermatitis, and diseases that cause the destruction of blood cells.
A folic acid deficiency can also disturb mood. A large percentage of depressed people have low folic acid levels. Folic acid supplements appear to improve the effects of lithium in treating manic-depressives. Depressed alcoholics report feeling better with large amounts of a modified form of folic acid. Anyone suffering from chronic depression should be evaluated for possible folic acid deficiency by a doctor.
Which form of folic acid is best?