What role do vitamins play in depression?


Vitamins are essential for many body functions.
A vitamin deficiency can trigger severe deficiencies that can manifest in various organ systems.
For example, the eyes, the skin or the nervous system can be affected.

Depression is a very common disease that is still the subject of numerous scientific studies. The causes of depression are the subject of much research.
With regard to therapy options for the treatment of depression, however, many advances have been made in the last few decades.

What influence does a vitamin deficiency have on depression?

Vitamins are compounds that the body needs to survive, but which it cannot make itself.
The human body is therefore dependent on an external supply of these vitamins.

If there is either insufficient intake through food or an increased need, for example during pregnancy and breastfeeding, a vitamin deficiency can occur.

There is no general answer to the question of the influence a vitamin deficiency has on depression.

But why is it sometimes assumed that vitamin deficiencies can lead to diseases such as depression?
This is due to the fact that the body needs vitamins for a large number of vital metabolic processes. A deficiency means that the body can no longer adequately pursue certain tasks because the vitamins that are essential for these tasks are missing.

Since there are many different vitamins, the first question is which vitamins can influence mental illnesses such as depression and which cannot.
However, there are two vitamins that are particularly debated as to whether there is a link. These two vitamins are:

  • Vitamin D
  • and vitamin B 12 (Cobalamin).

This is discussed in more detail in the following sections.

Although vitamins have an important function for the human body, it has to be said that, according to the current state of research, there is no reliable connection between vitamin deficiencies and depression.

Influence of vitamin D in depression

Vitamin D and winter depression are two things that can affect each other.

A winter depression occurs - as the name suggests - especially in the winter months. It is also called seasonal depression designated. Their increased occurrence in the winter months is related to the significantly less available daylight in winter. Some people react very strongly to this lack of light and can develop depression.

This depression shows symptoms similar to those of non-seasonal depression:

  • Listlessness,
  • depressed mood,
  • lack of interest
  • and joylessness.

In contrast to non-seasonal depression, those affected often complain of an increase in appetite with food cravings and weight gain.

Read more about this at: Symptoms of depression

Vitamin D is one of the few vitamins that can be produced by the body itself. But what the body needs in order to be able to synthesize vitamin D is sunlight.

A lack of sunlight can lead to a vitamin D deficiency. Such a deficiency occurs more often, especially in older people who no longer regularly get out into the fresh air and the sun.

The main symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency are:

  • Increased fragility of bones
    Vitamin D plays an important role in bone metabolism.
    A lack of vitamin D can therefore lead to osteoporosis and brittle bones with spontaneous fractures (the bone breaks without adequate trauma).
  • rickets
    In children, a deficiency in vitamin D3 can lead to rickets, in which the bones are severely deformed.

But what is the connection between vitamin D and depression?
Actually only one, namely the commonality that both a vitamin D deficiency and seasonal depression result from a lack of daylight.

There are already some studies researching whether the regular intake of vitamin D leads to an improvement in symptoms in patients suffering from depression. So far, however, no clear results have been found.
In this respect, there are still no recommendations regarding the intake of vitamin D3 supplements for depression. However, the ever-advancing research will certainly provide answers to this in the next few years.

In general, vitamin D intake is recommended in the winter months, especially for older people. However, this should always be discussed with the family doctor.

Read more about this at: Vitamin D deficiency

What dose of vitamin D is recommended?

In general, healthy people who go about their normal everyday life and have enough fresh air do not need to take vitamin D as capsules or tablets.

Exceptions to this are infants and many elderly people.
Vitamin D is found in larger quantities in foods that are rarely consumed, such as cod liver oil. But vitamin D is also found in eggs, milk and dairy products. But since vitamin D can be produced by the body itself, provided that there is enough sunlight exposure, absorption with food is of secondary importance.

The daily requirement for vitamin D is around 20 µg. In the elderly, the recommended dose for taking vitamin D supplements daily is between 800 and 2000 IU as capsules / tablets. In addition, older people should also take calcium if the recommended daily intake cannot be achieved.

What influence does vitamin B-12 have on depression?

Vitamin B-12 is mainly found in animal products.

Vitamin B 12 will too Cobalamin called. It is mainly found in animal products such as meat, fish, milk and eggs.

Since the human liver can store vitamin B 12 for a longer period of time, a deficiency is often only noticed after a long time.

Vegans and vegetarians are the most susceptible to vitamin B 12 deficiency. But older people are also more likely to have a vitamin B12 deficiency, since the intake (Absorption) in the bloodstream no longer works as well.
Certain medications can also reduce the absorption of vitamin B 12 by the body.

The level of vitamin B 12 in the blood can be determined and thus find out whether there is a deficiency or not.
As with vitamin D, there is so far no reliable unanimous opinion regarding the connection between a vitamin B 12 deficiency and depression.

A few (few) studies, however, provide evidence that a vitamin B 12 deficiency is more frequently detectable in patients with depression than in the healthy population. In addition, a study has shown that in patients who responded poorly to drug therapy with antidepressants, a substitution with vitamin B 12 led to better results of the antidepressant therapy after a short time.
However, since these studies only looked at very few patients, no general statement can be drawn from them.

So there are no recommendations for taking vitamin B 12 supplements during a depressive episode. However, there is no harm in having your vitamin B 12 level determined if you are diagnosed with depression. If there is a deficiency here, substitution therapy should be initiated.

What dose of vitamin B-12 is recommended?

The daily recommended intake of vitamin B 12 is 3 µg. Pregnant women have an increased need and should therefore consume 3.5-4 µg daily.

The capsule preparations, which can be purchased without a prescription in pharmacies or drugstores, contain doses between 10 and 1000 µg, i.e. significantly higher doses.
However, it is not yet known that overdose has any side effects.

Besides the tablets, vitamin B-12 can also parenteral (i.e. via a vein) or intramuscular (like a vaccination). These injections are usually given by your family doctor.

Read more on the subject below Vitamin B12 supplements.

Can you also take a vitamin B complex as a substitute?

When it comes to a substitution of vitamin B 12, you can theoretically also take a vitamin B complex.

For most vitamins, however, it is not necessary to substitute them, so it makes more sense to buy a product that specifically replaces one vitamin (for example vitamin B 12). Of course, this only applies if there are no other vitamin deficiencies.
Nevertheless, there are numerous (mostly unnecessary) vitamin complex preparations available in most drugstores.

Read more about this at: Vitamin B complex

How quickly do vitamins work in depression?

Since the effectiveness of vitamins for the treatment of depression has not been proven, no general statement can be made about how quickly vitamins develop an effect in the context of depression.

In the case of other illnesses that have been caused by vitamin deficiencies, the symptoms usually decrease just a few days after taking the first vitamins.