Elderly vegetarians suffer depression risk: study

By Jenny Wang, Special to The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — If elderly people don’t consume enough meat, they are more likely to suffer from depression due to a lack of vitamin B6, according to the latest findings of the National Health Research Institutes. In order to stay in good health, many elderly people tend to eat lots of vegetables and fruit instead of eating meat. However, if elderly people are anemic and deficient in vitamin B6 and/or folic acid, the risks of developing depression are seven times higher than in the average person.

Pan Wen-han (潘文涵), a researcher from the Institute of Population Health Sciences, announced the research results yesterday, saying that the study confirmed that anemia and the deficiency of vitamin B6 and folic acid lead to higher rates of depression among the elderly.

The research was based on the Elderly Nutrition and Health Survey in Taiwan, which studied 1,371 participants from 1999 to 2000. Researchers used a special scale to measure a person’s level of depression, with results revealing that 31.4 percent of people aged 65 or older experience melancholic emotions, according to Pan. Pan explained that anemia and a deficiency of vitamin B6 and folic acid were the main factors that led to the insufficient synthesis of neurotransmitters and the cutting off of oxygen to the brain.

Zhou Ming-yue (周明岳), a doctor from Kaohsiung Veterans General Hospital, said that if elderly people often feel dizzy, faint or tired, they should go to the hospital to take a blood test. If it is anemia, further analysis should be done to understand the source, otherwise patients may be at risk of developing depression or dementia.