Vitamin B Memphis TN
Olive Branch, MS
By Catherine Guthrie
George Sisco was near the breaking point. Throughout ten years of grappling with major depression, he had tried several antidepressants, with disappointing results. The drugs enabled him to function, but not much more. They never really made him feel good. And far too often, their side effects left him reeling.
Then he came across an article about how researchers were using vitamin B-12 to increase people’s responses to prescription antidepressants, and for the first time, he felt a flicker of hope. “Heck, I’d try just about anything,” says the 60-year-old in Clearwater, Florida.
So he bought a bottle of B-12 supplements and began taking one each day in combination with his latest antidepressant. Within three weeks he felt a marked improvement. “I got a feeling of well-being that made it easier to accomplish all sorts of tasks,” he says. Now, nearly a year later, he takes a B complex vitamin every other day, and feels better than he has in years. “I don’t understand how the vitamins work, but I know I feel better when I take them,” he says. “And that’s enough for me.”
Could something as simple as a B vitamin ease one of our most tenacious mental health problems? For years, scientists have known that severe B deficiencies can take a toll on the mind, causing confusion, irritability, and memory loss. But the recent discovery that subtle, less obvious, shortfalls may also cause problems suggests the answer might well be yes.
Not only that, studies also suggest that B vitamins might help stave off Alzheimer’s disease. So if you struggle with depression, or fret about a future lost to dementia, there’s reason to take this news seriously. Here’s what you need to know.
Bs for the blues
Of the B vitamins that fuel the brain’s feel-good chemistry, folic acid and vitamin B-12 are at the head of the class. Without plenty of these two substances, the body slacks off its production of SAMe (short for S-adenosylmethionine), an important mood regulator that boosts serotonin levels in the brain. Lagging levels of both nutrients can also directly interfere with levels of serotonin as well as dopamine, which the brain needs to stay on an even keel.
George I. Papakostas, a clinical instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, is one of the most prominent researchers in the field of B vitamins and depression. In his latest study, he found that depressed patients with low folic acid levels were not only more likely to have a relapse during treatment, they were less likely to respond to antidepressants. He suspects that because they were low in folic acid, their bodies’ SAMe levels were also low.
“The evidence connecting low folate and depression is very strong,” he says. He recommends folic acid supplements for many of his depressed patients, particularly if they don’t respond well to drug therapy. And that can be a pretty big group. In a given year, nearly one out of ten Americans will struggle with depression, but up...