In 2005, Brooke Shields and Tom Cruise fought a media battle over the question of how best to fight depression. Cruise famously argued that depression could be cured with "exercise and vitamins." Anyone who has struggled with depression knows that depression relief is anything but simple. Regardless, there is some basis to Cruise's claim. But what do we mean by "vitamins"? Do vitamins fight depression? If they can, which should you take? Does a multiple vitamin supplement available at any grocery store actually help depression? Depression studies have researched the impact of vitamins.

Scientists gathered volunteers for a depression study and randomly placed them into four groups: (1) a multi-vitamin group (2) a B-vitamin group and (3) a placebo group and (4) no treatment. The multi-vitamin participants took multi-vitamins and the B vitamin participants took B vitamins. The placebo group took a pill that looked like the others but contained a ingredient that should have no effect on depression. What the researchers discovered was interesting: Anyone taking a supplement had a slight change in their symptoms and the authors attribute the change to a placebo effect. Study volunteers improved because they believed the supplement would help their depression and so it did. This study suggests vitamins do not matter, but is this actually the case?

The study examined B vitamins along with multi-vitamins. Take a look at the B vitamin example in more detail. The matter missing in this study is that not all of us are deficient in B vitamins. If a low B vitamin status is implicated in our depression, taking B vitamins may give us relief. If we have enough B vitamins already, why would more vitamins make a difference? Absent in the study is a determination of the patients' need for B vitamins. There is research, particularly of older people, that shows a solid relationship between vitamin B-12 and depression. In fact, researchers are recommending that people take a B-12 and B-6 supplement to protect against the deficiency and, thereby, avoid the depression. There is some indication that B vitamins alleviate depression if the victim is low in those vitamins.

What about that daily vitamin? Multi-vitamin are intended as insurance to give you vitamins and minerals each day to avoid a deficiency. If you have a deficiency in a specific vitamin, the daily vitamin dosage is probably not sufficient for your need. In that case, you are not meeting your need with a multi-vitamin. As with the B vitamin case, you cannot correct a B-12 deficiency with a multi-vitamin (not very quickly in any case). We can tell the same story with other vitamins. You need to pinpoint what your body needs and then meet that need. A daily vitamin is a blunt tool that will have little impact on you in the short run.

For depression, make note of your B vitamins. Have a look at your vitamin D levels. Blood tests are available to test your levels of each of these nutrients. Consider Omega 3 fats, magnesium, and zinc. Meet your body's need, rebuild the nutrients in your brain, and you may find relief from your depression with vitamins for depression.