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Vitamin B12, homocysteine and depressive symptoms: a longitudinal study among older adults

Abstract

Background/Objectives:

The roles of vitamin B12 and homocysteine concentration in depression are not clear. We investigated cross-sectional and prospective associations of serum vitamin B12 and plasma homocysteine with depressive symptoms in Dutch older adults.

Subjects/Methods:

In the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (LASA), blood was collected in 1995/1996 among 1352 men and women aged 65 years. Depressive symptoms were assessed with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) six times from 1995/1996 to 2011/2012. Multiple linear regression and mixed models were used to assess whether vitamin B12 and homocysteine were associated with severity at baseline and course of depressive symptoms over 16 years. Cox regression analyses were performed for the associations with incidence of depression (CES-D 16 and/or antidepressant use). All analyses were adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics and lifestyle factors.

Results:

Vitamin B12 was neither cross-sectionally (n=1205) nor prospectively (n=1012) associated with depressive symptoms (adjusted β for CES-D over time, lowest versus highest quartile: −0.04 (95% confidence interval (CI): −0.15−0.06)). We also found no association with incident depression (n=853), except for a higher risk of depression over time in younger participants (aged 64.8–73.4 years; continuous vitamin B12, adjusted hazard ratio per s.d.: 1.38 (95% CI: 1.10–1.72)). For homocysteine, no associations were found, except for a lower risk of depression in younger participants.

Conclusions:

Our study did not confirm earlier shown associations of serum vitamin B12 and plasma homocysteine with severity and course of depressive symptoms and incidence of depression in older adults. Further research into the influence of homocysteine metabolism on mental health is needed.

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Acknowledgements

The Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam is supported by a grant from the Netherlands Ministry of Health Welfare and Sports, Directorate of Long-Term Care. Funding for this paper was provided by the European Union FP7 MooDFOOD Project ‘Multi-country cOllaborative project on the rOle of Diet, FOod-related behaviour, and Obesity in the prevention of Depression’ (grant agreement no. 613598).

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Correspondence to L E M Elstgeest.

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Elstgeest, L., Brouwer, I., Penninx, B. et al. Vitamin B12, homocysteine and depressive symptoms: a longitudinal study among older adults. Eur J Clin Nutr 71, 468–475 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2016.224

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