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The Role of B Vitamins in Mental Health: A Comprehensive Guide

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B vitamins are essential in maintaining good mental health by improving mood and sustaining healthy brain functioning. Mood fluctuations are not always situational; they are also intrinsic and arise due to fluctuations in B vitamin levels, causing emotional difficulties and mental health challenges.  Many people dealing with self-doubt, lack of motivation, negative emotions, insomnia, dissatisfaction, unhappiness, low self-esteem and stress overlook the supportive role of B vitamins and fail to realise that these vitamins could be one of the missing pieces of the puzzle, which is disturbing their peace of mind. 

Skin issues and obesity are major causes of psychological burden, especially for self-conscious people who are worried about their appearance and personality.  B vitamin deficiencies are hidden culprits people are usually unaware of and play a causative role in such a scenario. This article explains the role of B vitamins in mental health and holistic approaches to maintaining sufficient vitamin B levels to boost mental health.

B vitamins and mental health

B complex is a collection of eight vitamins: B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), and B12 (cobalamine).

Let us understand closely how B vitamin deficiency and mental health are closely related to each other.

1. B vitamins are coenzymes in enzymatic reactions that support cellular physiological functioning within the brain.

    • They transform food into energy, which our brain requires for optimal performance.
    • Vitamin B12 supports myeline synthesis, which surrounds nerve fibres and maintains the health of nerve cells. It is also involved in RBC formation, neurological functioning, and DNA synthesis. 

2. They play a vital role in homocysteine clearance, and their deficiency leads to elevated homocysteine levels, causing poor mood and depression. Vitamin B supplements reduce homocysteine levels and improve mood in these cases.

3. B vitamins synthesise serotonin, dopamine, and nor-epinephrine, which regulate mood. These neurotransmitters are the main treatment target for anxiety and depression. B vitamin supplements optimise mood by modulating the functioning of these neurotransmitters. They also have anti-oxidant potential and protect the brain from oxidative stress.

Preserving mental health: taking “B” vitamins for  “better” you

Scientific studies support the use of B vitamins in various mental health issues.

  • Vitamin B supplements are used to reduce stress.
  • Over 264 million people are suffering from depression worldwide. Studies have found low vitamin B12 levels among those with depression. According to studies, Vitamin B12 supplements may prevent depression and improve the effectiveness of anti-depressants. Also, it is interdependent with Vitamin B6 and folate. 
  • Daily supplementation of oral Vitamin B12 (100 mcg) and folic acid (400 mcg) increases cognitive function (Walker et al.).
  • Riboflavin regulates inflammation in obesity and may improve mental health parameters due to its neuroprotective potential, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.
  • Vitamin B6 reduces self-reported anxiety.
  • Migraine patients are often depressed due to their poor quality of life. Vitamin B2 and B6 are helpful for these patients.
  • In patients with affective psychosis with elevated homocysteine levels, B vitamins may improve attention and focus.
  • Combo of magnesium supplements and Vitamin B6 improves physical activity and reduces stress in those who have severe stress, anxiety and low magnesium levels.

Symptoms of B vitamin deficiency

Some people have reported numbness in limbs when they woke up in the morning and their blood test revealed B12 deficiency.

B vitamin deficiency leads to neurological symptoms like irritability, sleep disturbances, confusion, fatigue, personality changes, depression, anxiety, demyelination, behavioural changes, cognitive impairment, memory loss, psychotic symptoms,  and convulsions,

Food sources and supplements

You need B vitamins to improve your mental health, and overall well-being, and cognitive performance. There are two best ways to ensure sufficient intake.

Types of B vitamin supplements available for mental health

  • Dietary sources of B vitamins 
  • Thiamine: whole grains, pork, fish, and yeast 
  • Riboflavin: eggs, dairy products, green vegetables, meat, mushrooms, and almonds. 
  • Niacin: soy, nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains. 
  • Pantothenic Acid: fortified cereals, infant formulas, dried foods, mushrooms, eggs, fish, avocados, chicken, beef, pork, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, and lentils. 
  • Pyridoxine:  beef, poultry, starchy vegetables, noncitrus fruits, and fortified cereals.
  • Biotin: organ meats, eggs, fish, seeds, soybeans, and nuts 
  • Folate:  dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, dairy products, meat, poultry, grains, and brussels sprouts.
  • Cyanocobalamin: animal products and fortified foods.

High-quality B vitamin supplements 

These supplements are available for adrenal support, sleep, neurological support, neurotransmitter balance and energy.

Benefits of choosing high-quality B vitamin supplements for mental health

  • Their ingredients are third-party tested.
  • They are bioavailable and easily absorbed by our body without causing GI discomfort.
  • Contains all B vitamins that work synergistically to support mental health.Many people take supplements but are still inadequate with vitamin B9 because the supplements they are taking does not contain B9.
  • The dosage is appropriate and effective.
  • It may contain antioxidants and other herbal extracts that are known to improve cognition and reduce stress.
  • High-quality brands have products formulated under the supervision of expert doctors.

Assessing B vitamin needs

personalised assessment is important to determine which vitamin B your body needs specifically for mental health. Like for example, Emotional mental disorders are associated with vitamins B6 and B12 deficiency.

The assessment includes the following: 

  • Lifestyle-related information: diet, smoking, and physical activity.
  • Occupation: Athlete, night shift worker, prolonged sitting hours
  • Eating patterns: food choices and preferences, processed food, etc.
  • Vegan: Vegetarian or non-vegetarian
  • History of stress, anxiety and depression
  • Medication history: Antidepressants, anti-diabetic medications, etc.
  • Sleep patterns: quality, duration, sleep onset latency, sleep-related daytime impairment.
  • Hormonal status in women: Pregnancy, menopause, etc
  • Biochemical assessment
  • Financial and educational level
  • Social support system

Integrative care approach to restoring B vitamin levels

  • Healthy lifestyle choices. Prefer eating home-cooked food and limit your restaurant visits. Eat fruits and dark, leafy vegetables daily.
  • Stress management. Eat a healthy diet, take supplements and follow relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, journaling, etc.
  • Sleep management. A combination of melatonin, vitamin B6, and herbs is used to manage insomnia. Follow sleep hygiene practices, keep cell phones away at least 2–3 hours before your sleep time, and sleep in a cool and dark environment.
  • Hormonal management. Menopausal women deal with depression, irritability, and anxiety due to hormonal changes. These women should consult a doctor for supplements, maintain physical activity, and attend counselling sessions if required to maintain good mental health.

Takeaway

B vitamins produce neurotransmitters, generate energy and control stress. Their deficiency causes low mood, anxiety and depression.

Mental health issues are rising, with an incidence of over 20% in Western countries. We should know that B vitamins are not stored in our body because they are water-soluble; hence, we need them daily to optimise mental health. It is relatively easy to replenish adequate vitamin levels with the right knowledge, healthy lifestyle, proper diet and high-quality supplements recommended by doctors.  




Dr Aditi is a dedicated healthcare professional, a passionate writer, and a fitness enthusiast who has a deep understanding of nutrition and wellness. At Present, She is working as senior content writer at Nutriessential.com

Dr Aditi has led scientific communication and also promoted patient educational materials. She is the author of international publications and 500+ scientific news articles. Her academic background is in dental surgery, laser, research and nutritional science. She has completed MDS from MP Medical Science University, is a clinical researcher from Apollo Hospital and a Nutritionist from Indira Gandhi University, Delhi.

Aditi’s eight years of experience in various roles across the healthcare industry made her able to provide informative content on various health topics. Her work is informative and motivational, inspiring others to take control of their health and well-being.

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