Observational studies have suggested low serum levels of vitamin B12 or folate to be risk factors of depression and anxiety. However, these results may be biased by confounding and reverse causation. Mendelian randomization studies are not subject to these limitations. The aim was to examine the association of genetic scores of vitamin B12 and folate-associated alleles with depression and anxiety.
The study included 4126 participants from two Danish population-based studies. Serum vitamin B12 and folate were measured. Weighed allele scores were calculated as the sum of weights (genetic effect sizes) for 12 and two variants increasing circulating levels of vitamin B12 and folate, respectively. Symptoms of depression and anxiety were assessed by the Symptom Check List (SCL)-90-R, and self-reported doctor-diagnosed depression and anxiety.
An increased weighed allele score for serum vitamin B12 was associated with decreased odds of a SCL-90-R score above the 90th percentile (OR 0.540 (95%CI 0.302–0.967)) in Health2006 but not in Inter99, in the pooled analysis (OR 0.817 (95%CI 0.331–2.018)) or with other outcomes. The weighed allele score for serum folate was not associated with any of the measured outcome variables: SCL-90-R scores of depression (pooled OR 0.603 (95%CI 0.101–3.602)), anxiety (pooled OR 0.619 (95%CI 0.110–3.495)), combined score or history of doctor-diagnosed depression or anxiety.
Our results do not provide evidence for a causal effect of circulating folate or vitamin B12 on the risk of depression or anxiety. However, we cannot rule out small to moderate effects, and thus large scale studies are needed.
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The study was supported by Aase and Ejnar Danielsen’s Foundation. The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research is an independent research center at the University of Copenhagen and is partly funded by an unrestricted donation from the Novo Nordisk Foundation.
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Supplementary Information accompanies this paper on European Journal of Clinical Nutrition website
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Møllehave, L., Skaaby, T., Simonsen, K. et al. Association studies of genetic scores of serum vitamin B12 and folate levels with symptoms of depression and anxiety in two danish population studies. Eur J Clin Nutr 71, 1054–1060 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2017.97
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