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Folate, Vitamin B12 Improve Schizophrenia Symptoms

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by a failure of thought processes and by a lack of appropriate emotional responses. These are manifested by negative symptoms like social withdrawal, apathy and lack of emotional expression. This complex body of symptoms is often not relieved by medications, and scientists looked into the effects of dietary supplements as part of its potential treatment.

The researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) report their results in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, suggesting that folate plus vitamin B12 reduced negative symptoms of schizophrenia in patients at the community mental health centers in Boston, Rochester, N.Y., and Grand Rapids, Mich. An earlier pilot study done in 2011 found improvement of symptoms only among patients carrying a variant gene involved with folate metabolism.

The study participants, who were all receiving antipsychotic medications, experienced relief of positive symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions, but continued to experience negative symptoms. One hundred forty patients were randomized to receive either folate and vitamin B12 or a placebo daily for 16 weeks. Their medical and psychiatric status was evaluated every two weeks, along with measurements of blood levels of folate and an amino acid, homocysteine, which tends to increase when folate levels drop. Nutritional information was also gathered to note differences in dietary intake of the nutrients. Blood samples were analyzed to determine gene variants they carried which have been associated with the severity of negative symptoms of schizophrenia.

They found that patients who received the folate and vitamin B12 supplements had a modest reduction of negative symptoms. The authors believe that the lack of effective treatment for these disabling symptoms and the safety of taking folate and vitamin B12 supplements support the need for larger-scale clinical trials.


Massachusetts General Hospital. Folate and vitamin B12 reduce disabling schizophrenia symptoms in some patients. ScienceDaily.

Posted in: Mental Health, News Briefs

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