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Nutritional Deficiencies That May Cause Depression

nutritional deficiencies

Nutritional Deficiencies That May Cause Depression

Depression is a mental health disorder characterized by low moods, irritability, and sadness. You may be diagnosed with depression if these symptoms occur almost every day for more than one week. One of the common mental disorders is major depression, which affects 7.1% of adults in the U.S. Certain nutrition deficiencies such as vitamins D, B9 and, B12 may increase risks of developing mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Though depression and anxiety caused by the nutritional deficiency may not be common in developed countries, some people are experiencing depression related to nutritional deficiency due to a lack of screening for these nutrients each time they seek medical assistance. This may be true, especially for those who already have other medical conditions that may interfere with their nutrition.

However, if you experience depression symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that you have a nutrition deficiency. Depression can also be due to other factors such as environmental and biological factors. A variety of approaches are needed when diagnosing and treating depression to understand the cause and the best way of treating this disorder.

Additionally, although your condition might result from a certain nutrition deficiency, it’s not yet clear if eliminating the deficiency by taking supplements can reduce its symptoms. But it’s important to talk to your doctors about getting tested for nutrient deficiency to rule its link with your condition.

Nutritional Deficiencies 

The following are some nutrients that deficiency can lead to depression:

Vitamin D

Vitamin D can be obtained from sunlight and some food. It helps in calcium absorption in the gut, regulating serotonin, among other functions. Some research suggests that there may be a link between vitamin D deficiency and mental disorders such as depression.

For example, according to one literature review of fourteen studies with about 31,424 participants, the nutritional deficiency was associated with depression. Since vitamin D deficiency interferes with serotonin levels, and low serotonin levels are believed to cause depression, the evidence that lack of vitamin D can cause depression is quite fulfilling.

B Vitamins

Low levels of B vitamins are associated with depression, fatigue, and irritability. An increase in one’s intake of food rich in B vitamins can enhance mood and energy. Vitamins B6, B9, and B12 are very important for your mental health. These vitamins help in the production of chemicals such as serotonin that impact mood and other brain functions.

They also help in detoxifying your body and in balancing your hormones. It’s important to note that apart from B12, your body cannot store these vitamins for longer periods. Therefore, you have to top them up through food. Great sources of Vitamins include eggs, beef liver, feta cheese, grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon, sardines, cottage cheese, lamb, nutritional yeast, and Atlantic mackerel.


Besides having an impact on your nervous system, magnesium is crucial in mood regulation. Magnesium is also important for various functions in your body. However, more than a half of the population is magnesium deficient, mainly due to an individual’s lifestyle.

Alcohol, sodium in processed food, white table salt, sugar, and coffee can reduce one’s magnesium levels. Plus, due to many chemicals in the soil, today’s food does not have enough magnesium. Low levels of magnesium can cause depression, migraines, anxiety, and high blood pressure. Luckily, you can get magnesium from food like dark chocolate, spinach, bananas, almonds, and oily fish.

Omega-3 Fatty Acid

The omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation – they are very important for brain function and enhance mood and memory. When your diet is short of omega-3s, your body makes low-quality nerve membranes. Certain fish such as tuna and salmon are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. You can as well get omega- 3s in walnuts and flaxseeds.


Folate (vitamin B9) is a B vitamin and can be found in lots of food. It helps in cell division, DNA, and other crucial biological processes. Lack of folate is associated with depression, and supplementing it is beneficial to people with depression, especially to individuals with treatment-resistant depression. You can get folate from leafy green, citrus fruits, beans, and fortified grains.

According to NHI, adults are required to consume 400 mcg of folate daily. However, consuming too much synthetic form of vitamin B9 in supplements can be harmful to your body. Therefore, you should get folate from food.


This is one of the minerals with very strong antioxidant properties. It’s crucial for mental wellbeing, healthy metabolism, and optimal thyroid function. It is also crucial in the activation and conversion of thyroid hormone. Low levels of selenium are linked to depression and low mood.

It’s recommended that you get 200 mcg of selenium from either food, supplement, or combination. Selenium can be found in beans, liver, mushrooms, meat, poultry, seafood, sunflower seeds, and Brazil nuts.

Amino Acids

Amino acids help our brain work properly. Its deficiency can cause you to feel foggy, depressed, sluggish, and unfocused. You can get amino acids from fish, seeds, beans, beef, and nuts.


Low levels of iron are more common in women than in men. About 20% of women and 50% of pregnant women are believed to have iron deficiency. Only 3% of men have this deficiency. A common form of anemia is caused by iron deficiency. Symptoms of iron deficiency include brain fog, irritability, and fatigue.

Adults need to consume 8-18 mg of iron daily depending on age, diet, and gender. Good sources of iron include fish, meat, and poultry. For more red blood cells, the liver is the best source. 

Nutritional Deficiencies That May Cause Depression

Before supplementing on certain vitamins and minerals, it’s important to get your blood tested to avoid too much of certain minerals and vitamins. It’s only then that you will know what to add and what not to. It is highly recommended that you get as many minerals and vitamins from food instead of supplements. Additionally, before starting the treatment for depression, all factors must be tested to determine the cause and develop the best form of treatment.

Read more: Nutrition and Mental Health- How it Affects Your Mood

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