The survey was published in December 20211 using data from the Ireland Longitudinal Aging Study (TILDA) found that those with vitamin B12 deficiency were at higher risk of depressive symptoms. According to the American Association for Anxiety and Depression,2 264 million people worldwide live with symptoms of depression. In 2017, approximately 17.3 million adults in the U.S. experienced at least one major depressive episode.
That number rose in 2019 to 19.4 million adults who experienced at least one major depressive episode.3 It is not uncommon for someone who has depression to also suffer from anxiety symptoms.4 According to the CDC,5 Data from the National Health and Nutrition Survey show that women are approximately twice as likely to experience depression than men, a pattern observed in each age group surveyed.
Symptoms of depression may include feelings of sadness or emptiness, hopelessness, irritability, worthlessness, and restlessness. You may have difficulty sleeping, feel changes in appetite or weight, or think about death or suicide. Not everyone experiences every symptom. For some individuals, their symptoms make it difficult to function.6
A December 2021 study linked vitamin B12 deficiencies to the frequency of depressive symptoms in the elderly. Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin found in some foods.7 It is also available as a prescription drug and as a dietary supplement. Your body uses vitamin B12 to function and myelinate the central nervous system, to make healthy red blood cells, and to synthesize DNA.
Food sources include those of animal origin, such as poultry raised on pastures, dairy products, eggs and meat. The absorption of vitamin B12 depends on intrinsic factor, which is a protein that binds transport and delivery produced in the stomach.8 Bioavailability from food decreases when the amount of vitamin B12 exceeds the capacity of the intrinsic factor.
Vitamin B12 is released from food by the action of hydrochloric acid and gastric protease in the stomach and saliva in the mouth.9 It was estimated in 199910 that vitamin B12 deficiency affects up to 15% of people over the age of 60. In this study, however, classic symptoms of deficiency were often lacking in this population.
The low status of vitamin B is attributed to the high prevalence of atrophic gastritis which results in the secretion of low acid pepsin and reduces the release of vitamin B12 from food. A 2021 study finds that these low levels of vitamin B12 can increase the risk of depression in the elderly.11
Vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with depression
A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition12 tried to assess the relationship between vitamin B12, folate and the incidence of depression in older people living in the community. 3,849 people over the age of 50 are included.
The results showed an association between vitamin B12 deficiency but not folate deficiency.13 The researchers found that even after controlling factors such as chronic disease, cardiovascular disease, antidepressant use, physical activity and vitamin D status, the results remain significant.14
Elderly people with B12 deficiency had a 51% increased risk of developing depressive symptoms during the four years of the study. The data also showed that certain factors affect vitamin B12 status in the elderly. These include geographical location, obesity, smoking, socioeconomic status, and gender.
Although a link was found between older people living in the community and vitamin B12 deficiency, they also found that older people in the study had a lower risk of depression. In a press release Trinity College Dublin, Eamon Laird, of TILDA15 and the study’s lead scientist spoke about the results in a press release, saying:16
“This study is very relevant given the high prevalence of incidental depression in older people living in Ireland, especially after evidence shows that one in eight older people report high levels of low B12 deficiency rates.
There is growing momentum to introduce a policy of mandatory vitamin B fortification in Europe and the UK, especially as mandatory folic acid fortification in the US has shown positive results, with folate deficiency or low status of only 1.2% in those aged 60 and over. ”
Vitamin D deficiency plays a role in mental health
This recent study highlights the importance of an adequate diet to protect your optimal health. In addition to vitamin B12, other nutrients have a significant impact on mental health. Vitamin D is one of these nutrients. Vitamin D, also known as calciferol,17 is a fat-soluble vitamin, which your body can absorb from several foods and endogenously produce when exposed to sunlight.
People may become deficient when consuming less than the recommended level, have limited exposure to sunlight, their absorption from the digestive tract is inadequate, or the kidneys do not convert the vitamin into its active form. Scientists believe vitamin D deficiency is a largely neglected global health problem of epidemic proportions.18
The way vitamin D deficiency is defined also varies. Most researchers interpret vitamin D deficiency as a level of 25 (OH) D in serum of 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng / mL) or less.19 However, optimal serum vitamin D levels are between 40 ng / mL and 60 ng / mL.20
Early 2000 research21 showed that there is a significant deficiency of vitamin D3 in patients suffering from depression and alcohol dependence. By 2007, scientists had recognized the importance of low levels of vitamin D available.22
Further research23 found that people with fibromyalgia also had a higher risk of low serum vitamin D levels and it was shown that supplementation with high doses of vitamin D in people who were depressed and obese can alleviate symptoms.24 Over the years, researchers continue to question whether vitamin D is a causal link to depression or another symptom of the condition.25
Other scientists have speculated whether effective therapy for depression will be to detect and treat vitamin D deficiency.26 Until 201427 one study found that hypovitaminosis D was associated with the severity of depression that people experienced. Their results suggest that there is an inversely related dose-response, implying that low vitamin D levels may be a fundamental biological vulnerability.
In 2018.28 The British Journal of Psychiatry published a systematic review and meta-analysis that showed that low levels of vitamin D were associated with depression. An important factor to remember is that it is very unlikely that supplementation in people whose serum levels are optimal will have any effect on mood disorders. Instead, the effect is more likely to be found in those whose serum levels are low.
The importance of omega-3 fatty acids for depression
Omega-3 fats are essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which your body needs for various functions. These include digestion, blood clotting, brain health and muscle activity. In early 2021, omega-3 fats became news when data29 found that individuals with an omega-3 index of 5.7% or more had significantly better outcomes than COVID-19.
The omega-3 index measures the amount on red blood cell membranes.30 Those with a rate of less than 4% have a higher risk of heart disease. Individuals with an omega index between 4% and 8% have a medium risk, and those with a level higher than 8% have a low risk of heart disease.
One published analysis of data from 201631 found that there are areas of the world with omega-3 index measurements greater than 8%. This included Scandinavia, the Sea of Japan, and indigenous peoples who did not eat Western food. Areas of the world below 4% included Central and South America, Europe, North America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Africa.
While your omega-3 level is important, the ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 is equally important. It was extremely difficult for me to correct the imbalance by simply taking more omega-3 fats. In fact, just as an excessive amount of omega-6 is dangerous, an excessive amount of omega-3 can also contribute to poor health.
The imbalance between omega 6 and omega 3 that has occurred in the last 150 years is thought to be behind many inflammatory-related diseases common in society, including depressive disorders.32 There is growing evidence to suggest that a lack of omega-3 fats contributes to mood disorders, including depression.33,34,35
Increased risk of deficiency and depression in the elderly
vitamin D,36 B1237 and omega-3 fats are common deficiencies in the general population and the elderly. The reason older adults may be deficient in nutrients is probably related to poor absorption, poor nutrition, and lack of exposure to sunlight.
Lack of optimal levels of nutrients significantly contributes to the development of inflammation and disease, and one of the health conditions associated with inflammation is depression.38 Depression affects the quality of life and productivity of older people, at a time when they are often more isolated than others.
To date, many older people are treated for depression with psychotherapy and / or medication. However, since there is a significant link between diet and mood, it only makes sense to address potential nutrient deficiencies first before adding medications that come with a long list of side effects.
One of the more common classes of antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs),39 may cause nausea, dizziness, insomnia, anxiety, diarrhea and shivering,40 all of which can be dangerous for the elderly. These side effects may negatively affect your intake or increase your risk of falling.
As demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining optimal health and nutrition helps reduce the risk of contracting a viral disease. The study presented also shows that nutrient intake is key to your mental health. It is much easier to get rid of bodily needs before they cause illness and disease. Although it may take some time and energy, it is important for the quality of your life to take control of your health.