Low intake of B-vitamins is associated with poor adolescent mental health and behaviour

Carly E. Herbison, Siobhan Hickling, Karina L. Allen, Therese A. O'Sullivan, Monique Robinson, Alexandra P. Bremner, Rae-Chi Huang, Lawrence J. Beilin, Trevor A. Mori, Wendy H. Oddy

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Objective: The current prevalence of mental health problems in Western populations is approximately 20% and half of all adult mental health disorders are estimated to originate in adolescence. Diet plays an important role in modulating psychological wellbeing and B-vitamins are vital for the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. We aimed to examine the relationship between B-group vitamins and adolescent mental health and behaviour. Methods: This is a cross-sectional analysis of the West Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study. The 17-year follow-up included collection of a food frequency questionnaire allowing B-vitamin intake calculation. Mental health was assessed using the Youth Self Report (YSR) which measures total, internalising (withdrawn/depressed) and externalising (aggressive/delinquent) behaviour scores. Multiple linear regression was used to analyse associations between B-vitamins and mental health with adjustment for relevant confounders (n=709). Results: Lower intake of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and folate was associated with higher externalising behaviour scores (p≤ 0.05). Reduced intake of vitamin B6 and folate was associated with higher internalising behaviour scores (p≤ 0.05). Conclusions: Poor nutrition may contribute to the pathogenesis of mental health problems in adolescence. The role of B-vitamins requires further investigation in randomised controlled trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)634-638
Number of pages5
JournalPreventive Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent
  • B-vitamin
  • Behaviour
  • BMI
  • Externalising
  • FFQ
  • Internalising
  • Kcal
  • Mental health
  • Nutrition
  • Vitamin
  • YSR

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