Vitamin B12 plays an essential role in making red blood cells, nerves and DNA. Like most vitamins, B12 can’t be made by the body. Instead, it must be topped up through food or supplements. Not getting enough of the vitamin can affect the mind in a number of ways.
The link between depression and a vitamin B12 deficiency was first identified in a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
In a study of 700 elderly women, those with vitamin B-12 deficiencies were twice as likely as others to be severely depressed.
“Our most important finding was that vitamin B-12 deficiency and depression are correlated. This is the first proof of this association,” said researcher Brenda W.J.H. Penninx, PhD. But Penninx, from the Sticht Center on Ageing of Wake Forest University.
“This connection is supported by findings that psychiatric patients, especially depressed patients, frequently are found to have abnormalities in vitamin B-12 and folate status,” Penninx and colleagues wrote.
People who find it difficult to get enough vitamin B12 in their diets, such as those following a vegan diet, may need vitamin B12 tablets for life, adds the NHS.
Alternatively, as Harvard Health explains, people following a vegan diet can opt for foods fortified with vitamin B12. These include breads, cereals and other grains.
A supplementation may also be recommended. “A standard multivitamin delivers six micrograms, more than enough to cover the average body’s daily need,” explained the health site.