Vitamin B12 Deficiency: The Troubling Mental Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore

Taking a B12 supplement is one of the easiest ways to combat this problem. Adults need around 1.5 mcg per day.

Taking a B12 supplement is one of the easiest ways to combat this problem. Adults need around 1.5 mcg per day.

Depression can be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency, another study finds.

People with low levels of vitamin B12 are at a 50 percent higher risk of depression.

Around one-in-eight older adults in Ireland, where the study was carried out, have a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Many more people are not deficient but, nevertheless have low levels of vitamin B12.

Other signs of a prolonged vitamin B12 deficiency include memory issues, confusion, irritability, depression and even psychosis, which is starting to believe things that are not true.

Physical rather than mental symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency include headaches, fatigue, breathlessness and pale skin.

Taking a B12 supplement is one of the easiest ways to combat this problem.

Adults need around 1.5 mcg per day.

For those who have problems with absorption, regular shots may be required.

Usually, symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency will clear up with treatment over time.

Dr Eamon Laird, the study’s first author, said that food fortification is one option:

“There is a growing momentum to introduce a mandatory food fortification policy of B-vitamins in Europe and the UK, especially since mandatory food fortification with folic acid in the US has showed positive results, with folate deficiency or low status rates of just 1.2% in those aged 60 years and older.”

The results come from an Irish study that followed almost 4,000 people across four years.

While a vitamin B12 deficiency was linked to depression, there was no connection with a folate deficiency.

Professor Rose Anne Kenny, study co-author, said:

“Given the rise in loneliness and depression in older adults after the onset of COVID-19 restrictions, this study highlights the importance of increasing B12 intake or supplementation to help mitigate against potential risk factors of depression in older adults. “

The study was published in the British Journal of Nutrition (Laird et al., 2021).


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This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.

It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.

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Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.