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Don't "B" Blue: New Study Shows Vitamins Help Depression

Posted Jun 14 2010 11:21am
A new study shows two vitamins can help keep boomers out of the dumps! Here’s what you need to know...

By Colette Bouchez

Feeling a little down in the dumps? Not so happy about that big 50 (or 60, or 70 ) birthday looming on the horizon?

Before you reach for an anti-depressant pill, try increasing your intake of vitamins B6 and B12 – two nutrients that studies now show can help prevent depression from taking hold in your life.

The new study of some 3,500 Chicago residents just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that for every 10 mg increase in B6 and every 10 mcg increase in B12 the risk of developing symptoms of depression decreases by 2 percent a year.

Now while that might not seem like a lot, over time those percentages can add up quicker than those extra pounds on your hips - and that can help keep you might entering your senior years feeling a lot worse than you should.

This study supports previous evidence showing that in general B Vitamins help reduce the risk of depression.

To set the stage for the study researchers obtained dietary and vitamin intake information from some 3,500 men and women from the Chicago area, all 65 years of age or older. Using a clinical depression scale questionnaire they also obtained data on the participants state of mind, including depression symptoms.

The researchers then followed this group of people for over 7 years to see how their dietary and supplement habits may have affected their state of mind.

What they found: Those participants who had increased intakes of vitamins B6 and B12 were much less likely to experience depression. Although the B vitamins came from both food and supplements researchers say it was the supplements alone that appeared to have the most impact on reducing risks.

“Our results support the hypotheses that high total intakes of vitamins B6 and B12 are protective of depressive symptoms over time in community-residing older adults,” concluded the researchers.

How B Vitamins Protect Against Depression

While the study did not uncover any specific reasons why the vitamins supplements were helpful, other research has shown a link between B vitamins and depressive symptoms. In several studies researchers reported that B 12 appears to be necessary to process certain brain chemicals that directly impact neurotransmitters – the chemical impulses that allow brain cells to communicate and play a role in mood disorders.

Vitamin B12 is also believed to prevent the build up of certain amino acids, particularly homocystine, which is linked to an increased risk of depression. Increased levels of homocysteine have also been linked to an an increased risk of heart disease , stroke and diabetes, and most recently infertility in women with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome.

Interestingly, as we age, our digestive tract is less efficient at pulling B12 from the foods we eat – one reason that older adults are frequently deficient in this nutrient. So that’s another important reason to supplement with this vitamin.

Also important to note: Another member of the B vitamin family – a nutrient known as “inositol” - has been found effective against both depression and panic attacks. It is also believed to work by increasing brain cell communication and enhancing neurotransmitter activity.

What To Do Right Now

Regardless of your age, taking a good multi vitamin is a great way to begin ensuring that you meet all your vitamin and mineral requirements. Adding an extra B vitamin supplement may also be helpful. But don't let that dissuade from also eating a healthy diet - and stocking up on some B-healthy foods.

To get your daily supply of B6, a fortified whole grain breakfast cereal is your best bet. But you can also try white meat chicken, bananas, potatoes, and garbanzo beans which are also high in this nutrient.

If you’re deficient in vitamin B12, one serving of liver gives you a whopping 800 times the daily requirement, while a serving of clams offers nearly 600 times the daily dose. Other foods high in B12 include Rainbow trout, sockeye salmon, beef sirloin or a cheeseburger.

But remember, some of these foods are also high in calories and fat, so don’t overload your plate!

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Copyright by ElleMedia Network 2010 - All Rights Reserved.In addition to US Copyright, the text of this RedDressDiary article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. All formatting and style elements of this page are not available under this license, and Colette Bouchez retains all rights in those elements.

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