The Mental Health Benefits of Vitamin B Complex

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Mental health is impacted by many factors, including genetics, life experiences, physical environment, socioeconomic status, social interactions, lifestyle habits, and diet. While you can’t control every factor, there are things you can do to improve your mood and quality of life.

How Vitamin B May Help You

Taking a vitamin B complex, for instance, in one study has been shown to have a modest, but positive influence on mood symptoms of depression.

However, vitamin and nutritional supplements should not be used as a replacement for traditional mental healthcare. It can, however, potentially complement your treatment.

Because the connection between the body and brain is so strong, maintaining a healthy diet full of vitamins and nutrients can positively impact your overall health and well-being.

This article covers the importance of B vitamins and the possible benefits of taking a vitamin B complex supplement.

What Do B Vitamins Do?

Vitamins are important to our health. While there are only 13 essential vitamins (including vitamin A, C, D, K, etc.), each plays a different role in the body and brain.

The Role of Vitamin B

The B vitamins, in particular, contribute to optimal brain health and have a direct effect on your mood. B vitamins impact your energy production, DNA/RNA synthesis, and repair, and the synthesis of neurochemicals and signaling molecules, among other aspects of the brain. This is why maintaining adequate levels of vitamin B is necessary for psychological and neurological functioning.

The types of B vitamins include:

  1. Thiamine (B1)
  2. Riboflavin (B2)
  3. Niacin (B3)
  4. Pantothenic acid (B5)
  5. Pyridoxine (B6)
  6. Folate (B9) 
  7. Cobalamin (B12)

Vitamin B Complex

While some people get adequate amounts of vitamin B in their diet, others may benefit from a vitamin B complex.

What Is a Vitamin B Complex?

A vitamin B complex is a supplement that includes all of the B vitamins in one pill. Often, it will contain 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA), but sometimes it can supersede that amount.

You should not supplement with vitamins without guidance from your doctor. While supplementation may be a good way to get adequate nutrient intake, especially in terms of certain B vitamins, you want to make sure that you are receiving adequate amounts of the necessary B vitamins.

The Effect of Vitamin Deficiency on Mental Health

Nearly 10% of the U.S. population has nutritional deficiencies, while 31% of the U.S. population is at risk for at least one vitamin deficiency or anemia.

Vitamin deficiencies can be caused by poor nutrition, vegetarianism, chronic alcoholism, post-gastrectomy surgery, pregnancy, and certain medications, among other factors or conditions.

The most common vitamin deficiencies include folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, with a subclinical vitamin B12 deficiency affecting somewhere between 2.5% and 26% of the population, depending on estimates.

Unfortunately, many people don’t know when they’re experiencing a vitamin deficiency. They may be experiencing physical and mental health symptoms, but are unsure of the underlying cause.

What Happens If a Vitamin B Deficiency Is Left Untreated?

If a deficiency goes untreated and worsens it can cause serious harm to the body and brain. In the case of a B12 deficiency, people could experience significant physical, neurological, and psychiatric symptoms.

Vitamin B deficiency can affect memory function and cognition. It can also affect the neurodevelopment of a child in utero and lead to a greater risk of neurological birth defects.

There’s a reason why a healthy diet, along with exercise and social connection, is recommended for optimal mental health. Countless studies have found that a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients can support the prevention of certain mental health conditions and promote the maintenance of overall mental health.

Signs of Vitamin B Deficiency

Some signs that you’re experiencing a vitamin B deficiency include:

  • Low energy
  • Mood changes
  • Cognitive issues
  • Tingling in the extremities

To evaluate your vitamin levels and overall health, you’ll want to get blood work, which you can request from your primary care physician.

Benefits of Vitamin B on Your Mental Health

While B vitamins are essential for maintaining your bodily function, they can also improve your mental health and well-being. This is is why it's important to maintain healthy levels of vitamin B on a daily basis.

Benefits of Vitamin B

Here's how vitamin B helps support mental wellness:

  • Boosts energy levels: B vitamins help convert food into energy.
  • Supports healthy brain function: Vitamin B6, B9, and B12 contribute to homocysteine metabolism, which can reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
  • Improves mood: Vitamin B6, in particular, is involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters involved in the regulation of mood.
  • Alleviates stress: There is some research that B vitamins are associated with certain measures of reduced stress.

How to Boost Your Vitamin B

While a vitamin B complex is often a good option for maintaining adequate levels of B vitamins, additional approaches may be helpful, including: 

  • Take a vitamin D3 vitamin along with the vitamin B complex
  • Add more fruits and vegetables into your diet, including fibrous foods and foods with antioxidants such as cucumbers, leafy greens, citrus fruits, and berries
  • Consider adopting a plant-based diet and eating foods high in B12
  • Increase your water intake, aiming for half your body weight in ounces 
  • Get sunlight every day
  • Exercise regularly, which can include brisk outdoor walks 
  • Get routine blood work to monitor your levels

What many people don’t know is that B12 can be produced in the gut, is thought to be involved in the regulation of microbes in the gastrointestinal tract, and is potentially influential in the gut-brain connection.

A Word From Verywell

It’s important to take care of your body and brain, especially if you’re experiencing a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression. In addition to working with a primary care doctor and mental health professional to maintain your mental health, it can be important to be aware of your nutritional and vitamin intake.

Understand, however, that severe mental health conditions require professional treatment. A change in diet may help, but it will not resolve underlying mental health issues not related to specific vitamin deficiencies. 

12 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Environmental Health, Division of Laboratory Studies. CDC's Second Nutrition Report. 2021 May 4.

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  7. Mikkelsen K, Stojanovska L, Apostolopoulos V. The effects of vitamin b in depressionCurr Med Chem. 2016;23(38):4317-4337.

  8. Nutritional psychiatry: Towards improving mental health by what you eatEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology. 2019;29(12):1321-1332.

  9. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Pantothenic Acid.

  10. Kennedy DO. B vitamins and the brain: Mechanisms, dose and efficacy—A reviewNutrients. 2016;8(2):68. doi:10.3390/nu8020068

  11. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin B6 Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.

  12. Young LM, Pipingas A, White DJ, Gauci S, Scholey A. A systematic review and meta-analysis of b vitamin supplementation on depressive symptoms, anxiety, and stress: Effects on healthy and “at-risk” individualsNutrients. 2019;11(9). doi:10.3390/nu11092232

By Sarah Sheppard
Sarah Sheppard is a writer, editor, ghostwriter, writing instructor, and advocate for mental health, women's issues, and more.