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Vitamins help treat depression

BioMed Central

Vitamin B supplements may help people to fight depression. Research published this week in BMC Psychiatry shows that people suffering from depression respond better to treatment if they have high levels of vitamin B12 in their blood.

Researchers from the Kuopio University Hospital in Finland monitored 115 outpatients, suffering from depression, over a six-month period, and grouped them according to how well they responded to treatment: not at all; partially; or fully. By measuring the level of vitamin B12 in the patients' blood when they first came to the clinic and again at their six-month check up, the researchers could calculate whether the level of the vitamin influenced patient outcome.

The patients who responded fully to treatment had higher concentrations of vitamin B12 in their blood at both the start and the end of the study than those for whom treatment was less effective. The association of the level of vitamin B12 and the responsiveness to treatment remained significant even when other factors such as smoking and drinking habits, type of treatment received, and whether other family members had suffered from depression were taken into account.

The scientists said: "As far as we know, there have been no previous studies that have suggested a positive relationship between vitamin B12 and the treatment outcome in patients with major depressive disorder who have normal or high vitamin B12 levels".

A previous study showed that elderly patients with depression responded better to treatment if they took a supplement containing vitamins B1, B2 and B6. This supplement indirectly increased the level of vitamin B12 in these patients' blood. This new study supports the idea that taking vitamin B supplements may help people respond positively to anti-depressants.


This article is freely available online, according to BioMed Central's policy of open access to research articles:

High vitamin B12 level and good treatment outcome may be associated in major depressive disorder Jukka Hintikka, Tommi Tolmunen, Antti Tanskanen and Heimo Viinamaki BMC Psychiatry 2003, 3:17
Published 2nd December 2003

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For further information about this research, contact Professor Jukka Hintikka by email at

Alternatively, or for more information about the journal or Open Access publishing, contact Gemma Bradley by email at or by phone on 020 7323 0323 x2331

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