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how-vitamins-can-affect-your-mood

How Vitamins Can Affect Your Mood


by Matt Durkin
MSc Nutrition Specialist
22/10/2018


Vitamins and minerals have received the name micronutrients as they are only required in smalls amounts. For example, we only require 2.5 micrograms (µg) of vitamin B12 per day, but the consequences of a deficiency can be drastic.

In total, there are 13 vitamins and 15 minerals that are deemed essential to health as the body cannot create them. What is more, there are 9 essential amino acids, and numerous essential fatty acids that also need to be consumed daily to ensure our bodies run smoothly.

With all the nutritional bases we have to cover each day, compounded by the lack of quality in a typical western diet, it is no surprise that certain deficiencies are rife. Although most people would think of the physical signs of deficiencies, there are also psychological implications such as impairment of cognitive ability and mood. 

In the latest instalment of the SimplyGo article series, we are going to explore which vitamins can provide a pick-me-up and which foods we would need to consume to get them. 

Vitamin B

Like certain other vitamins, vitamin B isn’t just one nutrient. In this instance, vitamin B actually is made up of 8 individual compounds, which together are referred to as the B vitamin complex. 

Vitamin B is made up of thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12). Collectively, the B vitamin complex is best known for its contribution to metabolism. However, they also have important roles in reducing fatigue and ensuring our nervous system functions properly.

Aside from the physical benefits, certain B vitamins are crucial for good psychological health. Specifically, vitamins B5, B6, B9 & B12 are the ones with the best evidence of being able to lift our spirits. Let’s explore them in more detail. 

B5 

Vitamin B5 is one of the lesser-known B vitamins but nonetheless, has crucial roles in the body. Alongside its shared importance in various aspects of our health, pantothenic acid is a key player in the health of our mind and is often referred to as the ‘anti-stress vitamin’.

Vitamin B5 is needed by the body to create a myriad of neurotransmitters – the chemical messengers in our brain. One of the key neurotransmitters that B5 helps to create is serotonin, which alongside other actions plays a fundamental role in the regulation of mood. 

What Are Good Sources of Vitamin B5?

Although there is no single food source which is packed with vitamin B5, there are a range of common ingredients which provide respectable amounts. Mushrooms, sweet potatoes, green vegetables, eggs and poultry are all foods you should be focussing on if you are concerned about your intake of B5.

How Much Vitamin B5 Do I Need?

After vitamin B3, we have the highest requirement for vitamin B5 with the European Commission recommending that we consume 6mg per day. However, this is for the average person who is looking to maintain adequate stores. Older adults, those with digestive problems or people who misuse alcohol may need substantially more. 

Supplements can often provide up to 100mg of vitamin B5 which will ensure an adequate supply. It is very difficult indeed to cause harm through B vitamin supplementation as the body simply excretes any excess. 

B6

Closely related to pantothenic acid, vitamin B6 also plays a role in synthesising serotonin. Aside from this, B6 has an important role in regulating the levels of certain hormones in the body, especially the female sex hormones. 

Although the evidence for B6 supplementation leading to meaningful improvements in depressive symptoms is weak, there is good evidence to show it can help irregular moods that stem from PMS and the menopause. 

What Are Good Sources of Vitamin B6?

If you wish to ensure an adequate intake of vitamin B6, regularly consuming foods such as salmon, tuna, beef, chicken, spinach, bananas, sweet potatoes and pistachios will be your best bet. If you are a vegetarian or do not consume any of these foods very often, a supplement is likely to be of benefit. 

How Much Vitamin B6 Do I Need?

To ensure we obtain all the benefits of vitamin B6, the European Commission has currently set the recommended amount at 1.4mg per day for adults. To ensure hormonal balance, higher doses may be necessary, with 50mg being a common dose.

B9

Commonly known as folate, or when in supplement form folic acid, vitamin B9 is often associated with healthy conception and pregnancy. However, as alluded to earlier, folate also helps our mental state. 

Going back to the 1960’s, scientists found a link between low folate levels and incidences of depression. It is thought that a third of people with depression have levels of folate that are either classed as insufficient or clinically deficient. 

Like the other B vitamins mentioned so far in this article, B9 has a role in the cascade of events that leads to healthy serotonin creation. Due to this, low levels often translate to an impaired mood and psychological wellbeing. Although the evidence for folate supplements having the power to treat depression is mixed, the research agrees that increasing folate levels certainly have a benefit, especially when combined with other forms of treatment. 

What Are Good Sources of Vitamin B9?

Nutritionists and health experts are always hammering home the importance of green vegetables in the diet. Alongside a plethora of other reasons, most greens happen to be high in vitamin B9. Spinach, lettuce, asparagus, broccoli, sprouts and avocados are the best sources. Moving away from green veg, nuts, seeds and legumes also provide appreciable amounts. 

How Much Vitamin B9 Do I Need?

Compared to vitamins B5 & 6 which are needed in milligram amounts, B9 is only needed in microgram (µg) amounts - 200µg per day to be exact.  When it comes to healthy pregnancy and conception, however, a supplementary 400µg is recommended before conception and through the first trimester. 

B12

The final member of the B vitamin complex has very important roles in metabolism, energy levels, immunity, and the nervous system amongst others. Issues such as tiredness, anaemia, nerve issues, pale skin, stomach problems and vision loss can all be signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency. 

To complement the array of roles, B12 is also needed for good psychological health. It is known that a lack of B12 can lead to issues such as poor mood, memory loss and behavioural changes. Interestingly, numerous research studies have found that as well as B9, B12 levels tend to be lower in people with depression. On a positive note, it seems that improving intakes of B9 and B12 through diet or supplements can help to improve the condition.

To complement other theories, scientists believe that B9 and B12 specifically can help to improve depressive symptoms and the likelihood of treatment being effective because they help to control homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid that is a by-product of the body’s methylation process – a chemical reaction that is important for hundreds of bodily functions. Although homocysteine is fine in moderate amounts, high levels have been linked to depression, dementia and also heart disease. 

What Are Good Sources of Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is a unique member of the B complex as it is exclusively found in animal-based foods. Meat, fish, seafood, eggs, cheese, yoghurt and milk all provide vitamin B12 in high quantities. As there are no common vegan sources of B12, a supplement is highly recommended for those who follow a solely plant-based diet. 

How Much Vitamin B12 I Need?

Vitamin B12 is only needed in amounts of around 2.5µg per day despite its importance. As the body can only utilise a small amount of the ingested B12, supplements can often reach levels of 1mg (1000µg) per day.

Interestingly, research studies have shown that even 500µg per day may not be enough to correct a B12 insufficiency or a clinical deficiency. For this reason, vitamin B12 injections have become quite common and are useful as they are only needed a handful of times per year. 


Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is best-known for its ability to bolster the immune system, helping us to fend off illnesses and infections. However, vitamin C is much more important than that, as it has proven roles in metabolism, our physical appearance, joint health, iron absorption and helping to reduce tiredness and fatigue to name a few. 

On top of all that, this nutrient which is famed for its ability to prevent scurvy is also proven to support mood and overall psychological health. This should come as no surprise given that the brain contains 500 times more vitamin C than any other part of the body. 

In the brain, vitamin C holds numerous key roles. Not only does vitamin C ensure the structural integrity of the blood vessels that help supply the brain with fuel, it also helps create nerve cells and the chemicals that influence cognition. 
Research studies into the mood-boosting effects of vitamin C have provided interesting findings. One study, in particular, found that like certain other vitamins in this article, low levels of vitamin C were common in depressed individuals. It was also reported that rectifying this deficiency was able to reduce mood disturbances by over a third, which is an extremely positive finding. 

What Are Good Sources of Vitamin C?

When this very question is raised, the most frequent answer will certainly be oranges. Although oranges and other citrus fruits and certainly good sources, they surprisingly aren’t the best. 

Goji berries, rosehip, guavas, black currants, peppers, and kiwis all contain gram for gram more vitamin C than oranges. Green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, sprouts and peas are also great ways to obtain your daily dose of this essential nutrient. 

How Much Vitamin C Do I Need?

From the plethora of scientific evidence on the topic, it is widely accepted that 80mg per day is the amount needed for vitamin C to be able to effectively carry-out all its roles. This is certainly achievable for someone who has a healthy diet and lifestyle. 

Despite this, an insufficient amount of vitamin C in the diet is quite common, and among other things, can perturb our mood. It is also well-known that smoking, alcohol, stimulants, stress and high sugar intakes can increase our need for vitamin C. At risk categories also include pregnant and lactating women.

If you fall into one of these categories, it is certainly important to pay close attention to your dietary intake of vitamin C. Furthermore it may be worth considering a vitamin C supplement (250-1000mg) to ensure a daily supply. As vitamin C is water-soluble any excess that the body does not need will simply be excreted, so helping to prevent toxicity. 

 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an interesting compound, as the body has the ability to create it through sunlight – hence why it is popularly known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’. Unlike the B vitamins and vitamin C, vitamin D is a fat-soluble compound that the body has the ability to store. It was once thought that we store enough from the summer to see us through the dark winter months. However, it is now accepted that this is not the case, as vitamin D deficiency is the most common deficiency in the developed world. 

Vitamin D is best known for its ability to strengthen the bones and muscles, whilst preventing rickets – a condition that has made a comeback recently. However, vitamin D is also revered for its ability to support psychological health.

Specifically, Vitamin D has been shown to have a somewhat protective effect against Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is characterised as an increase in depressive symptoms that mirrors the lack of sunlight. This should not come as much of a surprise seeing as the shorter and colder days lead to a sudden drop in vitamin D synthesis. 

Looking at published scientific studies, there have been numerous investigations that have highlighted a strong association between the drop in vitamin D and the increase of depression. 

For this reason, many doctors now test vitamin D levels in the blood of people who report depressive symptoms, as improving vitamin D status as opposed to prescribing medication is certainly preferred. 

What Are Good Sources of Vitamin D? 

As expected, the best source of vitamin D is sunlight. However, there are also some good food sources of vitamin D, albeit a limited number. Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, fresh tuna, and foods such as liver, egg yolks, certain mushrooms, and fortified foods are the best options. As vitamin D is fat soluble, we do not necessarily need to consume it daily as long as we have sufficient stores of it. 

However, getting enough vitamin D through food is very difficult indeed. Therefore, the Department of Health (DoH) recommend that through autumn and winter, everyone considers supplementation. However, the DoH also recommends ‘at-risk populations’ such as children, older adults, people with darker skin and those who spend most of their time inside, to take a supplement year-round. 

Those interested in vitamin D supplements are likely to have come across two different forms; D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D2 is a popular choice for vegans as it is derived from plants, but it is not the form preferred by the body. Vitamin D3 is the compound the body creates from sunlight and is, therefore, the preferred form. 

Due to the increased bioavailability of vitamin D3, research has consistently shown that this is the form that is most effective for increasing bodily stores of vitamin D. So unless you are a vegan, vitamin D3 is the best choice.

How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?

Now that we have outlined the difficulty of obtaining vitamin D through the diet, and the feasibility of supplementation, it is important to recommend a dosage that is beneficial. The DoH recommends 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day, which equates to 10µg. 

However, that dose is widely accepted to be quite weak, and not sufficient enough to boost low levels of vitamin D, rather merely to maintain adequate stores. So to boost low levels of vitamin D, 2000IU (50µg) is a widely used daily dose. For people who have been diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency, 5000IU (125µg) is commonly used. 


Summary


Hopefully, this article has made it clear how important certain vitamins are in regulating our mood and overall psychological health. Although we can certainly obtain all the nutrients we need through food, many of us have diets that are far from ideal. Moreover, ‘advancements’ in food harvesting, manufacturing and processing have also led to foods having a poorer nutritional profile than they once had.

For these reasons, millions of people worldwide choose to take a multivitamin supplement on a daily basis to safeguard against deficiency. Although popular in tablet form, more and more people are choosing a multivitamin drink.

If this is of interest, why not check out our SimplyGo Vitality supplement, which provides 16 essential nutrients (including all the ones mentioned in this article) in a convenient and delicious dose.  Alongside an array of other health benefits, this advanced apple and orange flavoured formula will help you mentally stay on top of your game. 



Sources 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/217175
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16938502
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15260915
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1810582/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15671130
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20688474
http://healthandscience.eu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1125:your-brain-and-mood-need-vitamin-c-but-are-you-getting-enough&catid=20&lang=en&Itemid=198
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/286496.php
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-breakthrough-depression-solution/201111/psychological-consequences-vitamin-d-deficiency


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