B-Vitamins Protect Concentration in First-Episode Psychosis

January 23, 2019

B-group vitamins helped patients experiencing first-episode psychosis (FEP) maintain their attention and concentration skills, in a study published online in Biological Psychiatry.

“Given previous studies have shown that increasing the intake of vitamin B12, B6, and folic acid [vitamin B9] decreases homocysteine levels and improves symptoms among people with schizophrenia, we wanted to find out whether giving these vitamins to people experiencing first-episode psychosis would achieve similar results,” explained Kelly Allott, DPsych, a researcher at Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, Melbourne, Australia.

The double-blind study randomized 120 patients with FEP to a once-daily adjunctive B-vitamin supplement (containing 5 mg of folic acid, 0.4 mg of B12, and 50 mg of B6) or a placebo tablet over 12 weeks. Throughout the study, researchers assessed participants’ homocysteine levels, symptoms, and aspects of cognitive functioning including memory, attention, language, and learning abilities.

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Although B-vitamin supplementation did not improve overall psychopathology or global neurocognition, participants who received B-vitamin supplements did perform better in concentration and attention tasks over the 12 weeks, compared with participants who received placebo, researchers reported.

“This indicates the B-vitamins could have a neuroprotective effect,” Dr. Allott said. “Although they are not improving a patient’s concentration skills, they may be protecting these skills from declining.”

Researchers found effects were strongest in females and patients with elevated homocysteine levels or affective psychosis.

“The results of this study support a more personalized approach to vitamin supplementation in first-episode psychosis,” said Dr. Allott, “suggesting those with elevated homocysteine are likely to benefit most.”

—Jolynn Tumolo

References

Allott K, McGorry PD, Yuen HP, et al. The vitamins in psychosis study: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of the effects of vitamin B12, B6 and folic acid on symptoms and neurocognition in first-episode psychosis. Biological Psychiatry. 2019 January 9;[Epub ahead of print].

B-group vitamins can improve concentration among people experiencing first episode psychosis [press release]. Melbourne, Australia: Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health; January 15, 2019.