Intake of B-group vitamin supplements may be beneficial for maintaining concentration skills among people experiencing a first episode of psychosis — a precursor to developing schizophrenia, finds a study.
The findings showed that patients with psychosis who took vitamins B12, B6, and folic acid (vitamin B9) for over 12 weeks saw improvement in their cognitive functioning such as memory, attention, language, and learning abilities.
“This indicates the B-vitamins could have a neuroprotective effect,” said Kelly Allott from Orygen — an Australia-based research centre for youth mental health.
They may also protect these skills from declining, Allott said.
The study stems from previous studies in people with schizophrenia which revealed that increased intake of vitamins B12, B6, and folic acid (vitamin B9) could decrease patients’ levels of an amino acid called homocysteine and improve their symptoms.
Allott said elevated levels of homocysteine in people living with schizophrenia had been associated with more severe symptoms.
In the new study, reported in the journal Biological Psychiatry, 100 young people were randomly assigned to receive either B-vitamin supplements or a placebo tablet once per day over 12 weeks. During this period, patients’ homocysteine levels, symptoms and cognitive functioning were assessed.
Participants who received the B-vitamin supplements performed better in completing concentration and attention tasks over the 12 weeks than the participants who received placebo.
Interestingly, participants who had abnormally high homocysteine levels at baseline were most responsive to the B-vitamin supplements, in terms of improvement in attention.
“The results support a more personalised approach to vitamin supplementation in the first episode of psychosis, suggesting those with elevated homocysteine are likely to benefit most,” Allott said.