Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

B-Vitamins Help Depression Meds

Supplementing current anti-depressant medication with B-group vitamins improves response to treatment, according to a study of 153 people over the age of 50 who were experiencing a major depressive episode.

The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found that consumption of vitamin B12 and folate every day for at least a year can enhance the effectiveness of anti-depressant treatment, and helps prevent relapse of major depression in middle-aged and older adults.

“The risk of relapse was significantly reduced among participants who took the B-vitamins,” said Prof Osvaldo Almeida of The University of Western Australia’s Centre for Health and Ageing. “Previous work had suggested that certain vitamins could have a role in preventing depression, but this is the first time that we have been able to demonstrate unequivocally that we can improve the treatment of depression by supplementing medication with B-vitamins.”

Depression is common but not all patients respond to standard treatments. Several studies have confirmed that depression is associated with low concentrations of folate and vitamin B12, leading Almeida to predict that GPs will soon be recommending the use of B-vitamins as a safe and inexpensive strategy for treating major depression in older adults. However, he cautioned that the study needed to be replicated before such recommendations could be made.