Mental health is impacted by multiple factors including a satisfactory social and work life, quality of life, and a balanced diet. The latter ensures that the body receives all the nutrients necessary to function properly. In this article, we will talk about the role of B vitamins in maintaining good mental health and how we can obtain them.
B vitamins and their function
B vitamins are a varied group of cofactors essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Some of these vitamins are involved in DNA synthesis and affect our energy levels and mood in general. Here is a list of the B vitamins and some of their main functions:
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Involved in energy metabolism and promotes brain and heart health.
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Helps obtain energy from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It is important for proper cell growth and function and also has been shown to prevent migraines.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): Equally necessary for obtaining energy.
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid): Necessary to obtain energy from fatty acids.
- Vitamin B6: It is necessary for the conversion of tryptophan into niacin and serotonin. Low serotonin levels are related to symptoms of depression.
- Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid): Participates in the process of DNA synthesis during the rapid cell division phase, which is why folic acid supplementation is necessary during the first trimester of pregnancy. It is also involved in the maturation process of red and white blood cells.
- Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): Necessary for the formation and maturation of blood cells and tissues.
Benefits of B vitamins for mental health
B vitamins are involved in enzymatic processes whose result favors the necessary balance for a healthy state of mind.
A meta-analysis on the benefits of supplementation with B vitamins on symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression explains that vitamins B6 and B12 are necessary for a process called DNA methylation and in the elimination of homocysteine, an amino acid related to the production of free radicals. When there is a deficit of these vitamins, homocysteine levels rise, which is related to an increased risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases and depression. This review points out the importance of using B vitamins specifically for stress management.
Likewise, vitamin B9 (folic acid) and B12 are indicated as a supplement in the treatment of cognitive impairment and memory loss.
How to get the right doses of B vitamins
B vitamins are obtained from a balanced diet that contains animal protein (poultry, beef, and fish), dairy, green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, fruits, mushrooms, and grains.
The dose required by each person varies according to their age, sex, physical activity, and previous diagnoses and in the case of women, it is important to consider pregnancy and breastfeeding.
In the first instance, everyone who eats a balanced diet plus some fortified products should cover their daily needs for vitamin B. Those with special needs, such as pregnant women, and people with depression or migraines, should consult their doctor about supplements and the time of administration.
People who have chosen to be vegetarian or vegan can benefit from the use of dietary supplements rich in vitamin B.
Vitamin B supplementation risks
The indiscriminate use of vitamin B supplements can cause unwanted effects or have negative consequences for the health of those who consume them.
In the case of biotin, it has been described that prolonged consumption of biotin can alter the results of some laboratory tests, so it is recommended to suspend these supplements a few days before performing laboratory tests.
It has also been shown that the unnecessary use of folic acid can contribute to the appearance of cancer in adults over 55 years of age.
Ask your doctor and verify your B vitamins levels before starting to use any supplement.
Keep in mind that B vitamin supplementation does not replace the pharmacological and psychotherapeutic treatment of depression and anxiety but rather complements them.
Animo Sano Psychiatry is open for patients in North Carolina. If you’d like to schedule an appointment, please contact us.