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B vitamins on the brain: Do they improve mental health?

This meta-analysis found a small impact on stress in people without clinical mental health issues, but it also may have asked too broad of a question.

Study under review: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of B Vitamin Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms, Anxiety, and Stress: Effects on Healthy and 'At-Risk' Individuals.

Introduction

Mood disorders represent a category of mental illness that impact a person’s persistent emotional state. They affect nearly 21% of all adults in the U.S. at some point during their lives. The emotional states that mood disorders affect include depression, stress, and anxiety. Over the past several decades, there has been an increasing awareness about the relationship between diet and mental health, including mood disorders.

B vitamins have received extra attention as a dietary component of mood disorders because of their relationship[1] to brain function. B vitamins play a role in brain chemistry, specifically related to mood, as they act as cofactors ultimately necessary for the synthesis of dopamine and serotonin, as shown in Figure 1. These neurotransmitters are both key components in regulating mood. Supplementation with B vitamins has a good safety profile and may have a lower risk of side effects than antidepressants.

There have been several investigations into the effect of B vitamin supplementation on many aspects of mood. For example, randomized controlled trials have shown that B vitamin supplementation improves depression[2], anxiety[3], and work-related stress[4]. However, not all studies[5] have shown benefit. As such, there is a need to examine the literature in a broader scope to understand the effect B vitamins might have on mood disorders. The present study was a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials examining the effect of B vitamins on mood.

B vitamins are critical components in the synthesis of neurotransmitters that regulate mood, such as dopamine and serotonin. Previous studies have yielded mixed results on the effects of vitamin B supplementation on mood disorders. The present study was a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials examining the effect of B vitamins on mood.

What was studied?

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Other Articles in Issue #63 (January 2020)