Depression – Food Supplements

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Vitamin B

Deficiency in Vitamin B1, B3, B5, B6, B9 and especially B12 can all be contributing factors in depression.  Studies have recommended an intake of 1mg of B12 daily to alleviate some depressive symptoms. Low concentrates of this vitamin have been shown to lead to a two fold increase in the likelihood of contracting depression.  Vitamin B12 can be found in shellfish, liver, oily fish such as mackerel and tuna, eggs and some cheeses including parmesan.

A review into the role of vitamin B6 in the treatment of depression found that it was particularly important for pre-menopausal women when depression could be caused by hormonal imbalances which increased B6 could help alleviate. Vitamin B6 can be found in sunflower seeds, pistachio nuts, spinach, avocados, turkey, chicken, bananas, prunes and dried apricots.


A review of evidence for the effect of diet on serotonin levels in the brain, suggests that eating plenty of carbohydrates and making sure you take vitamin B6  can have a positive effect on depression. The review looked at links between serotonin in the brain, the serotonin precursor tryptophan and depression found that diet did indeed play a part, researchers concluded the report highlights the clinical significance of tryptophan-rich diet and vitamin B(6) to boost serotonergic neurotransmission in depression. Eating carbohydrates triggers the release of insulin, which in turn influences levels of tryptophan and then serotonin.

However, when depressive symptoms are at their highest during the day some patients can turn to comfort eating. Recommendations are to avoid the biscuits and heavily processed snacks and turn instead to carbohydrates such as popcorn and nuts or fruits with plenty of fibre.

Folic Acid

Scientists have found an association between low levels of red cell folate and depressive patients in a number of studies. This link is also found in patients with alcoholism and is a cause of poor response to antidepressant medications. A 2005 review of studies into the importance of vitamin B12 and Folic Acid in combating depression, came to the conclusion that “there is now substantial evidence of a common decrease in serum/red blood cell folate, serum vitamin B12 and an increase in plasma homocysteine in depression.”  In populations that eat a traditional Chinese diet, which is rich in folic acid, life time rates of major depression are very low. Researchers recommend an oral dose of 800 microg of folic acid daily.

Folic acid is present in broccoli, asparagus, citrus fruits, peas, beans, lentils, avocados, nuts, carrots and squash.

Vitamin D

There has been a great deal of interest in vitamin D and its role in depression but researchers have struggled to determine whether vitamin D levels decrease because of depression or if low levels of vitamin D give rise to depression. A recent study of twenty scientists stationed in Antarctica for a year, over the long Antarctic winter when there is very little natural light, found that mild vitamin D deficiency was present in just two (10 %) subjects on arrival, but this increased to seven (35 %) subjects during the polar winter at 6 months. The study found that low light exposure during the dark polar winter, lower and increased intact PTH levels were found to be associated with depression during 1 year of Antarctic residence. The researchers concluded that vitamin D supplementation may be necessary. This supports the conclusion from an earlier review of evidence for vitamin D supplementation carried out by Scandinavian researchers. They found there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude that low levels of vitamin D were a cause of seasonal affective disorder  or general depression but concluded that where vitamin D levels were likely to be low then taking vitamin D supplements would be a strategy worth considering. 

Although most of our vitamin D is obtained from sunlight, it is also present in small amounts in oily fish, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, cod liver oil and mushrooms.


Chronic exhaustion can be among the symptoms of depression. A recent study in the Netherlands of patients suffering fatigue symptoms found that Hepar magnesium D10 intravenously administered every week had a significant positive effect on patients’ symptoms. The study measured reported fatigue symptoms including general fatigue, physical fatigue, reduced activity, reduced motivation, and mental fatigue. Twenty three patients took part in the study and the researchers found that eighteen (82%) who completed the final questionnaire judged that treatment overall had been effective for their fatigue symptoms. Nine patients (41%) judged a strong improvement and 9 patients (41%) a light improvement as a result of the treatment. Four patients reported no change. On average, patients received treatment 4.5 times. The researchers concluded that there was a clear indication that hepar magnesium D10 intravenously administered could have a positive effect on seasonal affective disorder symptoms of fatigue.

Foods rich in magnesium include green leafy vegetables, brown rice, nuts and seeds, oily fish,  avocados, dried figs and dark chocolate.


Upping your multivitamins and making sure you have all the minerals your body needs could help with mild symptoms of depression. A recent double blind placebo controlled trial with 50 men, aged 50-69years, supplemented for a period of 8weeks with a multivitamin formulation that contained vitamins (at levels above recommended daily intakes), minerals, antioxidants, and herbal extracts, or a placebo. The trial participants completed a series of mood and stress questionnaires at before the trial started and after the eight week supplementation had finished. The study found that compared with placebo, there was a significant reduction in the overall score on a depression anxiety and stress scale and an improvement in alertness and general daily functioning for the men in the multivitamin group. The study concluded that supplementation with a multivitamin, mineral and herbal formulation may be useful in improving alertness and reducing negative mood symptoms and may also improve feelings of general day-to-day well-being.

Omega 3

There is some evidence to suggest that increasing omega 3 intake may reduce depressive symptoms in women. However it was the EPA rather than the DHA part of the fatty acid that appears to be responsible for the control of depression. Although 241 trials were compared to come to this conclusion, researchers still said that further, better controlled, clinical trials were required to confirm the effectiveness of omega-3.

The foods richest in omega-3 EPA are cold water fish, grass fed beef, free range eggs and fresh seaweed.


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