Vitamin B12 deficiency: The ‘less known’ signs include depression – expert

B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that can be obtained through a varied diet or supplements. This vitamin plays multiple roles in your body, ranging from looking after the function of your central nervous system to keeping your blood cells healthy. The lack of it can show up in your mood.

Hussain Abdeh, Superintendent Pharmacist from Medicine Direct, said: “Being deficient in vitamin B12 has been directly linked with an increased risk of developing depression.

“This is because B12 is required to ensure your central nervous system functions properly.

“When you are deficient in this vitamin, it can have a direct impact on your mental health.”

The Mayo Clinic explains that this vitamin plays a part in producing brain chemicals that affect your mood and other brain functions.

Mr Abdeh said: “One study even found that being deficient in vitamin B12 can result in more serious mental health problems, including psychosis, dementia, delirium, and mood disorders.”

Research, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, reviewed various studies looking into the link between depression and this nutrient.

They found that lower levels of vitamin B12 correlated with an increase in depression.

The research team also noticed that taking B12 supplements might be beneficial for those with depression.


Mr Abdeh added: “Having an insufficient level of vitamin B12 may result in higher levels of homocysteine, which is an amino acid that contains sulphur.

“This can increase oxidative stress, cell death, and damage to your DNA as a result.”

Although there’s some research highlighting the association between depression and B12, more studies are needed to fully understand the connection.

The NHS also lists depression as a symptom of a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Even though changes in your mood could point to the condition, there are also other signs which can help spot it.

“Although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated.

“The longer the condition goes untreated, the higher the chance of permanent damage.”

Fortunately, there are different measures that could help treat this deficiency, varying from injections to supplements.

Your treatment will depend on what exactly caused the condition in the first place.

When it comes to the food sources of the vitamin, “good” options include:

  • Meat
  • Salmon and cod
  • Milk and other dairy products
  • Eggs.

Plant-based alternatives that offer vitamin B12 are yeast extracts like Marmite, fortified breakfast cereals and soy products.