B-vitamins in Relation to Depression in Older Adults Over 60 Years of Age: The Trinity Ulster Department of Agriculture (TUDA) Cohort Study

Katie Moore, Catherine Hughes, L. Hoey, M Ward, Conal Cunningham, Anne M. Molloy, Sean Strain, Kevin McCarroll, Miriam Casey, Fergal Tracey, Eamon Laird, Maurice O'Kane, H McNulty

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Objectives: Mental health disorders are major contributors to disease burden in older people. Deficient status of folate and the metabolically related B vitamins may be implicated in these conditions. This study aimed to investigate folate, vitamin B 12 , vitamin B 6 , and riboflavin in relation to depression and anxiety in aging and also considered the role of fortified foods as a means of optimizing B-vitamin status and potentially reducing the risk of these mental health disorders. Design: The Trinity Ulster Department of Agriculture (TUDA) aging study was a cross-sectional cohort study. Setting and Participants: Community-dwelling adults (n = 5186; ≥60 years) recruited from 2 jurisdictions within the island of Ireland from 2008 to 2012. Measures: Depression and anxiety were assessed using the Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression (CES-D) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression (HAD) scales, respectively. The following B-vitamin biomarkers were measured: red blood cell folate, serum total vitamin B 12 , plasma pyridoxal-5-phosphate (PLP; vitamin B 6 ), and erythrocyte glutathione reductase activation coefficient (EGRac; riboflavin). Results: Biomarker values in the lowest 20% of status for folate (odds ratio [OR] 1.79; 95% CI 1.23-2.61), vitamin B 6 (OR 1.45, 95% CI 1.01-2.06), or riboflavin (OR 1.56, 95% CI 1.10-2.00), but not vitamin B 12 , were each associated with an increased risk of depression (CES-D score ≥16). Correspondingly, B vitamin–fortified foods if consumed daily were associated with a reduced risk of depression (OR 0.54, 95% CI 0.41-0.70). A deficient status of vitamin B 6 (OR 1.73, 95% CI 1.07-2.81), but not other vitamins, was associated with increased anxiety. Conclusions/Implications: Better B-vitamin status may have a role in impacting positively on mental health in older adults. Regular intake of fortified foods can provide a means of optimizing B-vitamin status and thus could contribute to reducing depression. If confirmed by a randomized trial, these results may have implications for nutrition and mental health policy, and thus quality of life, in older people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)551-557
JournalJournal of the American Medical Directors Association
Issue number5
Early online date25 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019



  • B-vitamins
  • folate
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • aging
  • food fortification
  • B vitamins

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