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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Vitamin Deficiancy and Anxiety Disorders

03/27/2006

Question:

Can a lack of a vitamin or poor absorption of a vitamin cause imbalaces or problems with the body? Is there proof that sublingual B-12 and folic acid, among other things- improve the nervous system, sleep and other conditions?

Answer:

B-12 and folic acid are important vitamins in the body, and serve many different functions.  Both are important in the manufacturing of red blood cells, necessary for the body to transport oxygen throughout the body.  They are also important in the functioning of the nervous system and brain.

b-12 and folic acid are found in many foods we eat, are often added to fortified foods (such as cereal) and are commonly found in multivitamins.  Levels of both B-12 and folic acid can be measured in the blood to see if a serious deficiency exists.

Most people absorb b-12 and folic acid with no problem from the foods and vitamins they take.  However, some people who have some serious stomach problems or who are older may have difficulty absorbing B-12, because certain stomach acids and proteins are necessary to absorb b-12.  These people may need B-12 injections.

There is some research that suggests that low levels of B-12 and folate may be associated with depression and anxiety.  Some believe this may be due to the anemia (low blood count) that can occur with low b-12 or folate, while others think it might be due to the effect on the brain or nervous system.  No one is certain, as the relationship between b-12 and folate and depression and anxiety is still being studied.

Some groups have suggested that taking B-12 and folate can "cure" depression and/or anxiety.  These are usually groups that make and sell B-12 and folate and hope to make more money from it.  There has never been any scientific data that suggest that b-12 and folate will help depression or anxiety in someone who has normal levels of these vitamins in their body, and takes in normal daily amounts required for all people.

If you are concerned, you should see you doctor for a check up.  Your doctor can see if you have any other signs and symptoms of a folate or B-12 deficiency and check blood levels if indicated.  If your levels are normal, it is unlikely that extra large doses of these vitamins will do much to relieve your depression or anxiety.

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Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati