Apparently the connection isn’t totally clear to scientists, but an article at livestrong.com tells us that “B vitamins help maintain blood cells and nerves through complex biochemical reactions in the brain… [and] also help several of the body's neurotransmitters function properly.” One of the affected neurotransmitters is dopamine, which boosts our ability to experience pleasure.
B-12 and folic acid also help prevent the buildup of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood. According to an article at suite101.com elevated levels of homocysteine, a byproduct of protein metabolism, can lead to cerebral vascular disease and neurotransmitter deficiency, which can lead to depression.
Vitamin B-12 can be found in animal products like fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and cheese, as well as dark leafy greens. Other foods, such as breakfast cereals, are sometimes fortified with B vitamins. B vitamins can’t be stored in our bodies, so we need to replenish them daily. They can also be destroyed by alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine, and caffeine, so it may be necessary to supplement our intake, especially for vegetarians and people over the age of 50 (or we could stop our intake of alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine and caffeine, but who wants to do all that?).
Suggested levels for adequate supplementation of B-12, B-6 and folic acid range greatly, especially when we start talking about making up for deficiencies. Some sources caution that vitamin supplements can interact with other medications and cause additional medical concerns, so consulting a doctor before taking supplements is recommended. Also, vitamin supplements are just that – supplemental – and are not a replacement for antidepressants or psychological counseling.
I’m starting to sound like one of those TV drug commercials where they show people smiling and enjoying life – supposedly due to the wonderful drugs they are taking – while the voice-over cheerfully goes on at length about all of the potential side effects and morbidity rates. You can look online at the potential risks of taking supplemental vitamins and make your own judgments.
As for me, I’m going to live on the edge and try B vitamins. I only wish the capsules were smaller.