What's the relationship between vitamin B-12 and depression?

Answer From Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D.

Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B-6 and folate may be linked to depression.

Low levels of a vitamin can result from eating a poor diet or not being able to absorb the vitamins you consume. Older adults, vegetarians and people with digestive disorders such as celiac disease or Crohn's disease may have trouble getting enough B-12. Sometimes a vitamin B-12 deficiency occurs for unknown reasons. Your doctor may order a blood test to check levels of B-12 or other vitamins if a deficiency is suspected.

If you have a vitamin B-12 deficiency, taking a daily supplement that includes vitamin B-12 may help your body get the nutrients it needs. But study results have been mixed and questionable on whether vitamin B-12 supplements can help reduce the risk of depression. Because B-12 and other vitamin supplements can interact with some medications, especially in high doses, talk to your doctor before you take a vitamin supplement.

The best way to make sure you're getting enough B-12 and other vitamins is to eat a healthy diet that includes sources of essential nutrients. Vitamin B-12 is plentiful in animal products such as fish, lean meat, poultry, eggs, and low-fat and fat-free milk. Fortified breakfast cereals also are a good source of B-12 and other B vitamins.

Keep in mind, the role of B vitamins in depression isn't clear and more research is needed. And no supplement can replace proven depression treatments such as antidepressants and psychological counseling.

June 01, 2018 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. MIND diet may cut Alzheimer's risk
  2. Addison's disease
  3. Adjustment disorders
  4. Adrenal fatigue: What causes it?
  5. After a flood, are food and medicines safe to use?
  6. Alzheimer's: New treatments
  7. Alzheimer's 101
  8. Caregiver depression
  9. Understanding the difference between dementia types
  10. Alzheimer's: Can a head injury increase my risk?
  11. Mediterranean diet
  12. Alzheimer's disease
  13. Alzheimer's disease: Can exercise prevent memory loss?
  14. Alzheimer's drugs
  15. Alzheimer's genes
  16. Alzheimer's nose spray: New Alzheimer's treatment?
  17. Alzheimer's or depression: Could it be both?
  18. Alzheimer's prevention: Does it exist?
  19. Alzheimer's stages
  20. Alzheimer's test: Detection at the earliest stages
  21. Ambien: Is dependence a concern?
  22. Antidepressant withdrawal: Is there such a thing?
  23. Antidepressants and alcohol: What's the concern?
  24. Antidepressants and weight gain: What causes it?
  25. Antidepressants: Can they stop working?
  26. Antidepressants: Side effects
  27. Antidepressants: Selecting one that's right for you
  28. Antidepressants: Which cause the fewest sexual side effects?
  29. Antiphospholipid syndrome
  30. Antidepressants and pregnancy
  31. Atypical antidepressants
  32. Atypical depression
  33. Axona: Medical food to treat Alzheimer's
  34. Back pain
  35. Bedtime routines: Not just for babies
  36. Benefits of being bilingual
  37. Binge-eating disorder
  38. Blood Basics
  39. Borderline personality disorder
  40. Breast-feeding and medications
  41. Dr. Wallace Video
  42. Parathyroid
  43. Caffeine and depression: Is there a link?
  44. The role of diet and exercise in preventing Alzheimer's disease
  45. Can music help someone with Alzheimer's?
  46. Can zinc supplements help treat hidradenitis suppurativa?
  47. Can't sleep? Try daytime exercise
  48. Hidradenitis suppurativa wound care
  49. Celiac disease
  50. Celiac disease: Can gluten be absorbed through the skin?
  51. Celiac disease diet: How do I get enough grains?
  52. Chase away the winter blues
  53. Child abuse
  54. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy
  55. CJD - Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
  56. Clinical depression: What does that mean?
  57. Clinical trials for hidradenitis suppurativa
  58. Coconut oil: Can it cure hypothyroidism?
  59. Coffee after dinner? Make it decaf
  60. Complete blood count (CBC)
  61. Complicated grief
  62. Compulsive sexual behavior
  63. Concussion
  64. Concussion in children
  65. Concussion Recovery
  66. Concussion Telemedicine
  67. Coping with the stress of hidradenitis suppurativa
  68. Coping with the emotional ups and downs of psoriatic arthritis
  69. COVID-19 and your mental health
  70. Coping with unemployment caused by COVID-19
  71. Creating a hidradenitis suppurativa care team
  72. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  73. Cupping therapy: Can it relieve fibromyalgia pain?
  74. Cushing syndrome
  75. Cyclothymia (cyclothymic disorder)
  76. Delirium
  77. Depression and anxiety: Can I have both?
  78. Depression, anxiety and exercise
  79. Depression: Diagnosis is key
  80. Depression during pregnancy
  81. Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap
  82. Depression (major depressive disorder)
  83. Depression: Provide support, encouragement
  84. Depression: Supporting a family member or friend
  85. Diabetes and depression: Coping with the two conditions
  86. Diagnosing Alzheimer's
  87. Dissociative disorders
  88. Vitamin C and mood
  89. Drug addiction (substance use disorder)
  90. Alzheimer's elder care
  91. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
  92. Empty nest syndrome
  93. Fatigue
  94. Fibromyalgia
  95. Fibromyalgia or not?
  96. Fibromyalgia and acupuncture
  97. Fibromyalgia: Does exercise help or hurt?
  98. Fibromyalgia: Linked to other health problems?
  99. Fibromyalgia pain: Options for coping
  100. Fibromyalgia: Self-care tips
  101. Fibromyalgia and Neurontin
  102. Fish oil and depression
  103. Folic acid supplements: Can they slow cognitive decline?
  104. Foods and sleep
  105. Ginkgo biloba: Can it prevent memory loss?
  106. Global Bridges
  107. HABIT program orientation
  108. Hangover prevention: Do lighter colored drinks help?
  109. Hangovers
  110. Hashimoto's disease
  111. Headache
  112. Hidradenitis suppurativa
  113. Hidradenitis suppurativa and biologics: Get the facts
  114. Hidradenitis suppurativa and diet: What's recommended?
  115. Hidradenitis suppurativa: Tips for weight-loss success
  116. Hidradenitis suppurativa: What is it?
  117. Hidradenitis suppurativa: When does it appear?
  118. How opioid addiction occurs
  119. How to tell if a loved one is abusing opioids
  120. How to use opioids safely
  121. Huperzine A: Can it treat Alzheimer's?
  122. Hyperparathyroidism
  123. Hypoparathyroidism
  124. Hypothyroidism: Can calcium supplements interfere with treatment?
  125. Hypothyroidism diet
  126. Hypothyroidism and joint pain?
  127. Hypothyroidism: Should I take iodine supplements?
  128. Hypothyroidism symptoms: Can hypothyroidism cause eye problems?
  129. Hypothyroidism
  130. Insomnia
  131. Insomnia: How do I stay asleep?
  132. Insomnia treatment: Cognitive behavioral therapy instead of sleeping pills
  133. Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction
  134. Is depression a factor in rheumatoid arthritis?
  135. Is fibromyalgia hereditary?
  136. Is the definition of Alzheimer's disease changing?
  137. Depression and diet
  138. Kratom for opioid withdrawal
  139. Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
  140. Lexapro side effects: Is breast tenderness common?
  141. Living better with hidradenitis suppurativa
  142. Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  143. Male depression: Understanding the issues
  144. Managing depression in MS
  145. Managing Headaches
  146. Managing hidradenitis suppurativa: Early treatment is crucial
  147. Hidradenitis suppurativa-related health risks
  148. MAOIs and diet: Is it necessary to restrict tyramine?
  149. Marijuana and depression
  150. Mayo Clinic Minute: 3 tips to reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease
  151. Mayo Clinic Minute: Alzheimer's disease risk and lifestyle
  152. Mayo Clinic Minute New definition of Alzheimer's changes
  153. Mayo Clinic Minute: Prevent migraines with magnetic stimulation
  154. Mayo Clinic Minute Weathering migraines
  155. Mayo Clinic Minute: Women and Alzheimer's Disease
  156. Medication overuse headaches
  157. Meditation
  158. Mediterranean diet recipes
  159. Memory loss: When to seek help
  160. Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness
  161. Mental health providers: Tips on finding one
  162. Mental health
  163. Mental illness
  164. Migraine
  165. Migraine medications and antidepressants
  166. Migraine treatment: Can antidepressants help?
  167. Infographic: Migraine Treatments: Botox & Nerve Blocking
  168. Migraines and gastrointestinal problems: Is there a link?
  169. Migraines and Vertigo
  170. Migraines: Are they triggered by weather changes?
  171. Alleviating migraine pain
  172. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI)
  173. Mild depression: Are antidepressants effective?
  174. Mindfulness exercises
  175. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  176. Natural remedies for depression: Are they effective?
  177. Nervous breakdown: What does it mean?
  178. New Alzheimers Research
  179. Nicotine dependence
  180. Not tired? Don't go to bed
  181. Occipital nerve stimulation: Effective migraine treatment?
  182. Ocular migraine: When to seek help
  183. Opioids and other drugs: What to watch for
  184. Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  185. Pain and depression: Is there a link?
  186. Pancreatic cancer
  187. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancer: Minimally Invasive Surgery
  188. Pancreatic Cancer Survivor
  189. Pancreatic cancer treatment: Why is it so challenging?
  190. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancers-Whipple
  191. Perimenopause
  192. Perimenopause birth control options
  193. Pet therapy
  194. Phosphatidylserine supplements: Can they improve memory?
  195. Pituitary tumors
  196. Polymyalgia rheumatica
  197. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  198. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  199. Prescription drug abuse
  200. Prescription sleeping pills: What's right for you?
  201. Progressive supranuclear palsy
  202. Psychotherapy
  203. Rapidly progressing Alzheimer's: Something else?
  204. Reducing the discomfort of hidradenitis suppurativa: Self-care tips
  205. Salt craving: A symptom of Addison's disease?
  206. Savella may help fatigue
  207. Schizoaffective disorder
  208. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  209. Choosing a light box
  210. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  211. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  212. Skip booze for better sleep
  213. Sleep disorders
  214. Sleep tips
  215. Smoking and rheumatoid arthritis: What's the risk?
  216. Soy: Does it worsen hypothyroidism?
  217. Staying active with hidradenitis suppurativa
  218. Stop your next migraine before it starts
  219. Stress symptoms
  220. Sundowning: Late-day confusion
  221. Support groups
  222. Surgery for hidradenitis suppurativa
  223. Symptom Checker
  224. Tapering off opioids: When and how
  225. Tinnitus and antidepressants
  226. Transcranial magnetic stimulation
  227. Traumatic brain injury
  228. Treating hidradenitis suppurativa: Explore your options
  229. Treating hidradenitis suppurativa with antibiotics and hormones
  230. Treating pain: When is an opioid the right choice?
  231. Treatment-resistant depression
  232. Tricyclic antidepressants and tetracyclic antidepressants
  233. Unexplained weight loss
  234. Vagus nerve stimulation
  235. Valerian: A safe and effective herbal sleep aid?
  236. Vascular dementia
  237. Video: Alzheimer's drug shows early promise
  238. Video: Vagus nerve stimulation
  239. Vitamin B-12 and Alzheimer's
  240. Vitamin D: Can it prevent Alzheimer's & dementia?
  241. What are opioids and why are they dangerous?
  242. What are the signs and symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa?
  243. What is reflexology?
  244. Wilson's disease
  245. Wilson's syndrome: An accepted medical diagnosis?
  246. Young-onset Alzheimer's