Food and Behaviour Research

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

Herbison CE, Hickling S, Allen KL, O'Sullivan TA, Robinson M, Bremner AP, Huang RC, Beilin LJ, Mori TA, Oddy WH (2012) Prev Med. 2012 Sep 23. pii: S0091-7435(12)00461-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2012.09.014   

Web URL: View this and related abstracts on PubMed here



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.


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 Mental health was assessed using the Youth Self Report (YSR) which measures total, internalising (withdrawn/depressed) and externalising (aggressive/delinquent) behaviour scores.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).


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).


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.


For a summary of this research and its implications, see the associated news article: