Vitamin B12 deficiency: ‘Little-known’ signs include depression – experts

B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that can be obtained through a variety of diets or supplements. This vitamin plays a variety of roles in your body, from taking care of the function of your central nervous system to keeping your blood cells healthy. Lack of it will show up in your emotions.

Medicine Direct’s lead pharmacist, Hussain Abdeh, said: “Vitamin B12 deficiency is directly associated with an increased risk of depression.

“This is because B12 is needed to make sure your central nervous system functions properly.

“When you’re deficient in this vitamin, it can have a direct impact on your mental health.”

The Mayo Clinic explains that this vitamin plays a role in producing brain chemicals that affect your mood and other brain functions.

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“One study even found that vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to more serious mental health problems, including psychosis, dementia, delirium and mood disorders,” Mr Abdeh said.

The study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, reviewed various studies examining the link between depression and this nutrient.

They found that lower levels of vitamin B12 were associated with increased depression.

The team also noted that taking B12 supplements may be beneficial for people with depression.

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Mr Abdeh added: “Insufficient levels of vitamin B12 may lead to increased levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that contains sulfur.

“This increases oxidative stress, cell death and DNA damage.”

Although some studies have highlighted the link between depression and B12, more research is needed to fully understand this link.

The NHS also lists depression as a symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency.

While your mood changes may indicate this, there are other signs that can help spot it.

“While many symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by this condition may be irreversible if left untreated.

“The longer the condition goes untreated, the higher the chance of permanent damage.”

Fortunately, there are different measures to help treat this deficiency, from injections to supplements.

Your treatment will first depend on what exactly is causing the condition.

When it comes to food sources of vitamins, “good” choices include:

  • Meat
  • Salmon and Cod
  • Milk and other dairy products
  • Egg.

Plant-based alternatives that provide vitamin B12 are yeast extracts such as Marmite, fortified breakfast cereals, and soy products.

If you have a mental health problem and need to talk to someone, you can contact Samaritans 24 hours a day on 116 123 (toll-free) or email

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