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B12 And The Brain: How A Deficiency Affects Emotional Well-Being

Feeling depressed can be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency, a study suggests.

Typical symptoms of depression, along with low mood, include difficulty concentrating and low energy and motivation.

Researchers have found that supplementation with vitamin B12 can help reduce depression symptoms.

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that plays a critical role in the functioning of the brain and the nervous system.

Both vitamin B12 and folate are vital to the production of critical neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and noradrenaline.

Depression is often linked to low levels of serotonin in the brain.

One study has found that those with low levels of vitamin B12 are at triple the risk of developing melancholic depression.

Melancholic depression mostly involves depressed mood.

Depression linked to B12 deficiency

The current study included 115 people experiencing depression

They were split into three group depending on how well they responded to depression treatment.

The results of blood tests revealed that those who responded the best to treatment had the highest levels of vitamin B12.

After treatment, those who were experiencing the highest levels of depression had the lowest levels of vitamin B12 in their system.

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The study’s authors write:

“As far as we know, there have been no previous studies that have suggested a positive relationship between vitamin B12 and the treatment outcome in patients with major depressive disorder who have normal or high vitamin B12 levels.”

The link between depression and vitamin B12 deficiency may be explained by the fact that B12 deficiency can cause damage to the nervous system, which can affect the function of neurotransmitters and lead to symptoms of depression.

Additionally, B12 deficiency can also lead to anaemia, which is a condition characterized by a low red blood cell count.

Anaemia can cause fatigue, weakness, and irritability, all of which can contribute to feelings of depression.

Common signs of B12 deficiency

Other, more common signs of vitamin B12 deficiency include feeling tired, experiencing muscle weakness and being constipated.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is easy to rectify with supplements or by dietary changes

The body uses vitamin B12 to make red blood cells and to keep the nervous system healthy.

Good sources of vitamin B12 include fish, poultry, eggs and low-fat milk.

Fortified breakfast cereals also contain vitamin B12.

People who may have difficult getting enough vitamin B12 include vegetarians, older people and those with some digestive disorders, such as Crohn’s disease.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can also be caused by certain medical conditions or by certain medications, such as proton pump inhibitors or metformin.

The study was published in the journal BMC Psychiatry (Hintikka et al., 2003).

January 27, 2023     Dr Jeremy Dean

source: PsyBlog


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Study finds folic acid treatment is associated with decreased risk of suicide attempts

The common, inexpensive supplement was linked with a 44% reduction in suicide attempts and self-harm.

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the US, with more than 45,000 people dying by suicide in 2020. Experts recommend many strategies and treatments to decrease the risk of suicide, including psychotherapy, peer support, economic support, and medications like antidepressants. Few if any would be likely to put folic acid supplements on that list, but a recent study done at the University of Chicago may change that.

The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry on September 28th, used data from the health insurance claims of 866,586 patients and looked at the relationship between folic acid treatment and suicide attempts over a two-year period. They found that patients who filled prescriptions for folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, experienced a 44% reduction in suicidal events (suicide attempts and intentional self-harm). Robert Gibbons, PhD, the Blum-Riese Professor of Biostatistics and Medicine at the University of Chicago, the lead author of the study, is hopeful that these findings could improve suicide prevention efforts, especially because of how accessible folic acid is.

“There are no real side effects, it doesn’t cost a lot of money, you can get it without a prescription,” Gibbons said. “This could potentially save tens of thousands of lives.”

Gibbons initially became interested in folic acid in the context of suicide because of a previous study in which his group looked for relationships between risk of attempting suicide and 922 different prescribed drugs. The study simultaneously screened each drug for associations with increases and decreases in suicide attempts. Surprisingly, folic acid was associated with a decreased risk of suicide attempt, along with drugs expected to be associated with risk of suicide, like antidepressants, anxiolytics, and antipsychotics.

This could potentially save tens of thousands of lives.

Robert Gibbons, PhD

One of the challenges of this earlier study was to analyze the effects of many drugs in a large-scale data set, which is difficult. Many people take more than one drug, and drugs can have different effects when taken together than when taken alone. It can also be difficult to get meaningful results from studies like these that look for relationships in large data sets because of confounding factors, which can cause two variables in a study, like suicide and a drug, to seem to have a direct causal relationship with each other. Sometimes, these are actually both related to a confounding factor, such as socioeconomic status or health-conscious attitudes, or because they are prescribed for a condition that is associated with suicide (e.g. depression). But Gibbons and his group were able to partially eliminate these complications by comparing subjects to themselves before and after being prescribed a drug, instead of comparing subjects who did and did not take the drug to one another.

In fact, they initially thought folic acid had only shown up in their study because of a simple explanation, but that turned out not to be the case. “When we first saw this result, we thought it was pregnancy. Pregnant women take folic acid, and pregnant women tend to have a low suicide rate, so it’s just a false association. So, we just did a quick analysis to restrict it to men. But we saw exactly the same effect in men,” Gibbons said.

To investigate and further confirm the relationship between folic acid and suicide risk, Gibbons and his co-authors did this new study and focused specifically on folic acid, and accounted for many possible confounding factors, including age, sex, mental health diagnoses, other central nervous system drugs, conditions that affect folic acid metabolism, and more. Even after adjusting for all these factors, filling a prescription for folic acid was still associated with a decreased risk of attempting suicide.

They even found that the longer a person took folic acid, the lower their risk of suicide attempt tended to be. Each month of being prescribed folic acid was associated with an additional 5% decrease in risk of suicide attempt during the 24-month follow-up period of their study.

It also occurred to the authors that maybe people who take vitamin supplements in general want to improve their health and would thus be less likely to attempt suicide. To address this possibility, they did a similar analysis with another supplement, vitamin B12, as a negative control. But unlike folic acid, there didn’t seem to be any relationship between vitamin B12 and risk of suicide.

Although Gibbons and his co-authors were careful to adjust for confounding factors, they cannot yet say for sure whether the relationship between folic acid and suicidal events is causal; that is, they don’t yet know if taking folic acid will directly cause a person’s risk of suicide to become lower. To know for sure, the authors are following up this study with a large-scale randomized controlled trial (RCT) to test whether folic acid directly lowers the risk of suicidal events, including ideation, attempts and completion. This will involve randomly splitting subjects into two groups, giving a placebo to one group and folic acid to the other and comparing the rate of suicidal events over time.

If their findings are confirmed in the new research, folic acid would be a safe, inexpensive, and widely available suicide prevention strategy, and potentially help save thousands of lives.

September 28, 2022

By Lily Burton
PhD candidate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics

source: https://biologicalsciences.uchicago.edu

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Five Foods That May Increase Your IQ

A healthy diet as you’re growing up may help you have a higher IQ, while a diet high in processed foods, fat and sugar may result in a lower IQ, according to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health in February 2011. Many of the same foods typically recommended for a healthy diet may also be good for your IQ.

Fish and Omega-3 Sources

Omega-3 fats, found in many types of fish and seafood, walnuts and flaxseeds, are important for infant brain development. An article published on the Association for Psychological Science website notes that children given omega-3 fats have higher IQs than those who don’t consume much of these essential polyunsaturated fats. These healthy fats may also help protect against dementia as you get older. Oysters are also a good seafood choice, because they’re rich in zinc. Zinc deficiency may adversely affect brain development, according to a review article published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in 2013.

Children and pregnant women are particularly sensitive to contaminants in fish, so choose those that are high in omega-3 fats but low in contaminants, such as wild salmon, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, mussels and rainbow trout for the recommended two servings per week of seafood to maximize benefits while minimizing risks.

Fruits and Vegetables

Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, such as leafy greens and orange and red fruits and vegetables, may help protect your brain function and your memory as you age because of the beta-carotene and vitamin C they contain.

A diet rich in herbs, legumes, raw fruits and vegetables and cheese resulted in a higher IQ in children than a diet that included higher amounts of sweet and salty snacks, according to a study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology in July 2012.

Another study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry in 2009, came to a similar conclusion, showing that children who ate higher amounts of fruits, vegetables and home-prepared foods had higher IQs.

Iron-Rich Foods

Iron-deficiency anemia may impair your attention span, IQ and ability to concentrate, so eat plenty of iron-rich foods. Increasing iron intake only appears to help IQ when children are deficient in iron, however, according to the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience article. Iron-rich foods include lean meats, oysters, beans, tofu, spinach, sardines and fortified breakfast cereals.

Other Protein-Rich Foods

Diets higher in protein and lower in fat may help improve your concentration because of the dopamine your body releases with protein consumption. Soy protein may be particularly helpful, since it also contains lecithin, which may improve memory and brain function. Lowfat dairy products, lean meats and poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes are all nutritious sources of protein.

Get Plenty of B Vitamins and Choline

Foods containing folate, vitamin B-12 and choline may also help keep your brain healthy, limiting your risk for dementia, depression and neurological disorders. They are also important for cognitive development, so if children don’t get enough of these vitamins they may have a lower IQ. Folate is available in fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, beef liver, rice, asparagus, black-eyed peas, Brussels sprouts and avocado, and most animal-based foods contain vitamin B-12. Good sources of choline include beef, eggs, scallops, salmon, chicken breast, cod, shrimp, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

by JESSICA BRUSO       Jun 17, 2015