Help for Depression: B-vitamin shows promise

Research published in BMC Psychiatry shows that people suffering from depression respond better to treatment if they have high levels of vitamin B-12 in their blood. Researchers from the Kuopio University Hospital in Finland monitored 115 patients suffering from depression over a six-month period, and grouped them according to how well they responded to treatment: not at all; partially; or fully. By measuring the level of vitamin B-12 in the patients’ blood when they first came to the clinic and again at their six-month check up, the researchers could calculate whether the level of the vitamin influenced patient outcome.

The patients who responded fully to treatment had higher concentrations of vitamin B-12 in their blood at both the start and the end of the study than those for whom treatment was less effective. The association of the level of vitamin B-12 and the responsiveness to treatment remained significant even when other factors such as smoking and drinking habits, type of treatment received, and whether other family members had suffered from depression were taken into account.

The scientists said: “As far as we know, there have been no previous studies that have suggested a positive relationship between vitamin B-12 and the treatment outcome in patients with major depressive disorder who have normal or high vitamin B-12 levels”.

A previous study showed that elderly patients with depression responded better to treatment if they took a supplement containing vitamins B-1, B-2 and B-6. This supplement indirectly increased the level of vitamin B-12 in these patients’ blood.

BioMed Central, Dec 1, 2003