Biologically, humans are prepared to adapt to any alternation of the external environment with the aim of survival: if we detect a danger or threat to our survival, a powerful physiological response is triggered instantaneously in our body which stimulates the defense mechanisms to mobilize our energy and facilitates us in the flight, attack, defense, or protection of our own. Therefore, we can say that fluctuations in external factors generate physiological responses that are appropriate and positive for humans: it is what we could call biological stress and is completely due to our natural instincts for survival.
However, when a situation of pressure, demand or threat lengthens over time and becomes a permanent and chronic factor in a person's life, it triggers what we understand in our society and generically as stress: a mood disorder that causes a negative psychological experience, where many processes actively intervene in our body.
Stress is a particularly important risk factor for the development of emotional diseases and disorders such as depression, anxiety, and many others. Unfortunately, stress is a common problem in modern society with a great burden on all national health systems. Thus, any improvement in the factors that predispose to the development of stress will constitute the best prevention of possible diseases and future disorders, especially during pandemic era when stress levels are all time high.
Despite being such a common problem in our world, it is not so easy to detect high levels of stress, especially by the person who suffers from it. This is due to the wide range of symptoms and signs which are associated with stress in each person. Some of the common symptoms of stress include neck or back pain that can lead to contractures, stomach discomfort or digestive problems, hair loss, increased frequency of colds or infections, insomnia and problems falling asleep, tiredness, skin problems such as dermatitis or hives, headaches, and weight changes.
One of the factors that directly affects good psychological and cognitive functioning, and therefore a lower predisposition to stress development, is diet. Like a wide variety of hormones and neurotransmitters, nutrients directly affect the physical and mental state of the human beings, so an adequate contribution of nutrients reduces the risk of such emotional disorders and is consequently associated with an improvement in the quality of life of both healthy and affected people.
Particularly important for this purpose are vitamins: nutrients responsible for the proper functioning and regulation of physiological processes. Our body is unable to manufacture most of them, so we must ingest them with the diet. In particular with regard to cognitive and mental activity, the B vitamins are scientifically proven to show direct involvement in the regulation and proper functioning of nervous system and brain function.
B vitamin supplementation has traditionally been used to improve energy levels, reduce fatigue and ultimately feel better to face our demanding day-to-day life. However, in recent years B vitamins are used for improving the mental health of patients in general. In fact, there are studies showing that supplementation with high doses of vitamins such as B6, B9 (folic acid) and B12 in certain circumstances, show a benefit in mood and brain health. As if that were not enough, the absence of these vitamins in the diet has been linked to an increased risk and incidence of depression, a disease that hits our society with virulence.
The presence of vitamins B6, folic acid and B12 in foods such as lean meats, fish, green leafy vegetables, legumes, and nuts make the Mediterranean diet an ideal choice to maintain good mental health and prevent diseases of all kinds. Therefore, supplementation with B vitamins can contribute to the prevention and improvement in mental wellbeing of healthy people, as well as people with stress, depression, or anxiety.
The impact of these vitamins on mental health and mood and the numerous research studies on this action are explained by the characterization of B vitamins as cofactors (substances that favor the development of certain processes) of the manufacture and regulation of the neurotransmitter’s dopamine and serotonin in our body: two substances directly involved in the regulation of mood as well
as depression and anxiety. In fact, Serotonin and Dopamine are common targets of medications used in treatments for depression and other similar mental disorders.
Thus, at the brain and mood level, supplementation with vitamins B6, B9 (folic acid) and B12 results in improving the brain health and mental health of the human beings. Therefore, preventing the development of both mental disorders and diseases of any other kind that appear, in many cases, because of precarious mental health. In addition, for people affected by stress, anxiety or depression, B vitamin supplementation is a good help for antidepressant treatments.
By Angel Fernandez
Doctor en farmacia. Óptico, traductor médico y redactor de ciencia y deportes. Tengo la gran suerte de poder trabajar con lo que realmente me apasiona gracias a mi formación y experiencia multidisciplinar. Creo en la comunicación como la principal herramienta de conocimiento.