A new study from researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago has found that older adults with low intakes of vitamins B6 and B12 may have a higher risk of developing depression than those who get more of the nutrients.
The study included 3,500 Chicago-area adults who were at least 65 years old and depression-free at the outset. Participants' consumption of folate and vitamins B6 and B12 was estimated based on their responses to a detailed dietary questionnaire. They were then assessed for depression periodically over the next dozen years.
The researchers found that anywhere from 11 percent to 14 percent of participants had symptoms indicative of clinical depression at some point during the follow-up.
When they looked at the relationship between B vitamins and depression, they found that the risk generally dipped as consumption of B6 or B12 increased.
In fact, researchers found the risk of developing depression symptoms declined by 2 percent for every 10-milligram (mg) increase in daily vitamin B6 from food and supplements.
The same was true for every 10-microgram (mcg) increase in vitamin B12 intake.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, do not prove that the B vitamins themselves protect against depression. But the results do echo those of some previous studies tying the vitamins to depression risk.
While the results are encouraging, researchers warn they should be interpreted with caution, because study participants' consumption of the vitamins might be a proxy for other factors, like a generally healthy diet.
Vitamin B6 is found in a range of foods, including beans, potatoes, bananas, meat, chicken, peanut butter, salmon and tuna. Foods naturally rich in B12 include beef, salmon, trout, and milk products.
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