Link between Increased Risk of Depression and B Vitamins for Adults Over 65


A recent study suggests yet another potential benefit of taking B Vitamins, particularly B6 and B12. By following a group of 3500 adults over age 65 for 12 years, scientists discovered that for each 10 mg per day increase in vitamin B6 the subjects’ chances of developing symptoms of depression decreased by 2 percent. The same was found with vitamin B12 for each 10 mcg per day increase. The source of the two B vitamins could be from either supplements or diet.

While the study doesn’t prove that these B vitamins prevent the depression, it reinforces prior research that has linked them with the risk of developing this disorder. Depression is a prominent mental health issue in elderly adults, affecting nearly 6 million adults in the USA age 65 and older. None of the study participants had depression when the study began.

This study, published in June 2, 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is significant because it spanned a period of several years, measuring the participants’ depressive symptoms periodically over the course of those years. Prior studies had not done that.

According to Dr. Kimberly Skarupski, who headed the study, caution must be used when interpreting the results. This is because the role of eating a healthy diet needed to be explored further. However, factors such as education level, income, race, use of antidepressants, and habits such as alcohol use and smoking were accounted for during the study.

Dr. Skarupski’s team found that at some point in time over the 12 year period, 11 to 14 percent of the subjects met the criteria for clinical depression.

This study reinforces the idea that older adults need to be especially concerned about eating a healthy diet. Both B6 and B12 are found in a variety of foods. Foods high in B6 include salmon, chicken, bananas, peanut butter, and beans. Vitamin B12 is found in dairy products, beef, and certain types of fish. It is also found in foods that have been fortified like many cereals.

Prior research has found that a deficiency of B12 can cause depressive symptoms, whereas low levels of B6 affects the synthesis of serotonin. Low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, have long been associated with depression.

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