Deficiency of the B-vitamins such as folate and vitamin B12 are highly present in older people. In Ireland,
Some of the negative consequences of low vitamin B12 status include megaloblastic anemia, impaired cognitive function, or damage to the protective covering (myelin sheath) that surrounds the nerve fibers of the brain.
The link between folate deficiency or low B12 status and depression in later life is not explained well.
To understand the link, a new study examined the relationship between folate and vitamin B12 status and its associations with greater prevalence of depressive symptoms in a group of community-dwelling older adults.
The study used data from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), and examined participants aged 50 years and over for measurement of blood levels of folate and vitamin B12. They were then screened for depression.
Researchers observed that those with deficient-low B12 status had a 51% increased likelihood of developing depressive symptoms over 4 years. No such associations were observed for folate.
These findings remained robust even after controlling for relevant adjusting factors such as physical activity, chronic disease burden, vitamin D status, cardiovascular disease, and antidepressant use.
Other factors that influence micronutrient status in older adults included obesity, medication use, smoking, wealth, gender, and geographic location.
Researchers also found that as age increased, the risk of depression decreased.
These observations provide reassurance for food policymakers that fortification of foods to increase levels of these vitamins could have the potential for benefits in the prevention of this condition.
This study is important when there is a growing momentum to introduce a mandatory food fortification policy of B-vitamins in Europe and the UK.
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.