When you are considering vitamins for depression only certain vitamins have been found to be beneficial.
Nutritional deficiencies can lead to the development of a variety of psychiatric disorders. Vitamins appear to play a role in the development and treatment of mental disorders including depression.
Vitamin D deficiency and depression are closely linked but it is still unclear that whether vitamin D deficiency is the cause or effect of depression. Besides vitamin D, vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiency also appear to play some role in depression.
The symptoms which occur due to the deficiency of these vitamins include sadness or low mood. Vitamin supplements replenish the natural stores and prevent the development of vitamin deficiencies in individuals at risk.
In the US low levels of vitamin D is a common problem and the vitamin D levels which were previously taken as normal are found to be insufficient for the normal functioning of the body.
Vitamin D has widespread role in the body and is associated with various diseases like osteoporosis, diabetes, heart diseases and cancer. Researchers have recently found that vitamin D also plays a role in the brain processes and low levels of vitamin D have been found in the patients of mood disorders.
The presence of both the vitamin D receptors and the vitamin D activating enzyme in the different parts of the brain shows that the vitamin D is involved in the functioning of the brain. One area of the brain where vitamin D receptors have been found is ‘’amygdala’’. It is that part of the brain which deals with the emotions and the behavior of the person. High density of vitamin D receptors is also found in other parts of the brain like the hypothalamus and the substantia nigra.
Association between the vitamin D and depression has been found in numerous studies. Another hint comes from the observation that the light therapy along with antidepressants helps in the improvement of depression which may be due to the increased synthesis of vitamin D in the body on exposure to light.
The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination survey conducted in the United States found that the persons suffering from depression had 8.4% lower levels of vitamin D in their blood than those who did not have depression.
The Longitudinal Aging study(Hoogendijk et al) also found somewhat similar results. In that study, depressed people had 14% lower concentrations of vitamin D in their body than those who did not have depression. Other research studies have similar results that point to the relation between vitamin D status and depression.
Consider taking vitamin D supplement if you have inadequate sunlight exposure, insufficient dietary intake or low vitamin D levels. Supplementation can improve your vitamin D status and overall health.
Jorde et al, in his randomized double blind trial found that supplementation with vitamin D for one year significantly decreased the depression symptoms as it was judged by the Beck Depression Inventory score.
It is still unclear whether vitamin D deficiency causes depression or depression causes vitamin D deficiency. However, they are linked and the coexistence of vitamin D deficiency and depression is definitely there, particularly in the US population.
The exact mechanism by which vitamin D plays its role in the treatment of depression is still unclear. However, vitamin D is found to be an important element in various processes going on in the brain. Vitamin D enhances the antioxidant processes in the brain by stimulating the metabolism of glutathione, thus it protects the brain from degenerative (oxidative) processes.
Numerous studies have shown that vitamin D plays an important role in the brain development and its deficiency leads to various malformations in the brain. It is believed that vitamin D also indirectly affects the neurotransmission (signaling between different brain cells called neurons) in the brain.
Vitamin D also plays an important role in the production of neurotransmitters (dopamine and nor epinephrine) by controlling the gene expression of the enzyme (tyrosine hydroxylase) involved in the synthesis of these brain chemicals. These brain chemicals (dopamine and nor epinephrine) play an important role in controlling the mood.
Folate is an important chemical in the body and plays its role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters in the brain like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine that are vital for our mood. It also plays its role in another chemical cycle in the brain, called the methylation cycle, and its deficiency can lead to the accumulation of homocysteine (a compound) that is linked with the development of various disorders like dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Deficiency of folate in the body is also linked to the development of depression. It is found that people having folate deficiency are at increased risk of developing depression and the episodes of depression are more severe and longer lasting in such individuals. Moreover the response of folate deficient people to antidepressants is 6 times lesser than that of the normal people.
Currently there are no recommendations for starting folic acid supplementation in every depressed patient. However, due to the widespread effects of folate deficiency (anemia, neural tube defects, depression and cognitive impairment) it is advisable to screen the depressed patients for folate deficiency and then give folate replacement as necessary.
It is worth mentioning that the folate supplementation should not be taken at a dose greater than 1mg per day as it is associated with increased chances of developing colorectal carcinoma.
The natural sources for vitamin B12 are animal products like meat and dairy products. The routine western diet contains around 5-7 micrograms of vitamin B12 per day and it can fulfill the requirements of the body. The average body reserves of vitamin B12 are 2-5 milligrams and around 50% of this reserve is in the liver. Therefore vitaminB12 deficiency develops over years when there is impairment in the absorption of vitamin B12 from the intestine or due to some other factor.
Vitamin B12 deficiency also known as pernicious anemia is common in elderly people, those undergone some stomach surgery and malnourished depressed people. The fall in the concentration of vitamin B12 in the blood presents with some psychiatric symptoms like depressed mood, fatigue, apathy, confusion and deficits in the memory.
The treatment is the correction of the vitamin B12 levels in the body with the help of supplements in the form of injections or tablets. When the levels are corrected the psychiatric and other symptoms are improved. Vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the main causes of reversible dementia.
There are certain people who have increased risk of developing the vitamin deficiency and they are elderly people, alcohol dependent, those suffering from some chronic illness or have undergone some intestinal surgery. If you fall in any of the above,you should seriously consider vitamins for depression.
Other vitamins for depression have also been studied but no convincing conclusion can be drawn regarding the beneficial effects of those vitamins.