Mood Disorders: Are They Caused by Vitamin Deficiencies?

Hippocrates is quoted as saying, "Leave your drugs in the chemist's pot if you can heal the patient with food."

This age old healer knew what many physicians know today: humans require sufficient doses of vitamins and minerals, mostly obtained from food, for optimal health and disease prevention. Unfortunately, most of us are significantly deficient in one or more important vitamins.

Vitamins play a critical role in mental health and insufficient intake of vitamins, or disruptions in our bodies' ability to use vitamins, have been linked to mood disorders. For example, in one study, researchers found an association between low vitamin D and higher incidences of premenstrual syndrome, seasonal affective disorder, major depression, and non-specified mood disorders.

This specific link between vitamins and mental health disorders is not new either. In a 2007 paper published by the American Psychological Association, the authors wrote that medical reports from the 1920s to the 1940s "almost lead us to believe that scientists had successfully defined vitamin and mineral deficiencies as the primary causes of mental illness." The authors went on to say that following the discovery that pharmacological interventions could reduce symptoms of mental illness, interest in nutritional treatment waned.

Mark Hyman, MD, a physician in functional medicine and author of The UltraMind Solution: Fix Your Broken Brain by Healing Your Body First actively promotes the importance of nutrition and vitamins for mental health. He says evidence clearly links low levels of vitamins B12, B6, D, and Folate (among others) to depression and mood disorders.

In fact, in The UltraMind Solution, Hyman writes, "I have tested for vitamin and nutrient deficiencies in thousands of patients and found that by correcting them people feel better, improve their mood, mental sharpness, memory and ability to focus as well as have more energy and even lose weight. Correcting deficiencies also helps prevent disease. I have seen depression, anxiety, bipolar disease, autism, ADHD, mood swings, Parkinson's, and dementia go away or dramatically improve."

Humans need a balanced blend of all of the major vitamins. Increasing our intake of one single vitamin in the hopes of curing a problem may upset the body's natural balance and possibly even create other deficiencies.

Individuals can try to modify their risk for mood disorders by eating a wide variety of whole foods and taking a complex multivitamin. A physician who practices functional medicine can test for vitamin deficiencies and recommend specific diet changes for you.


Gonzalez, Christine PharmD, CHHC. "Vitamin D Supplementation: An Update." Medscape Medical News. Web. 11 November 2010.

Hyman, Mark, MD. "The UltraMind Solution: Fix Your Broken Brain by Healing Your Body First." Scribner. 2009.

Hyman, Mark, MD. "Why Antidepressants Don't Work for Treating Depression." Web. 24 April 2010.

Kaplan, Bonnie J., Crawford, Susan G., Field, Catherine J., and Simpson J. Steven A. "Vitamins, Minerals, and Mood." Psychological Bulletin 133( 5) (2007): 747-760. Web.


Murphy, Pamela K. CNM, MS, IBCLC, and Wagner, Carol L. MD. "Vitamin D and Mood Disorders Among Women: An Integrative Review." Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health 53(5) (2008): 440-446. Medscape Medical News. Web. 1 October 2008.