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March 2013

Folate, Vitamin B12 May Improve Schizophrenia Symptoms

Vitamin B12 and folate supplementation may reduce negative symptoms for some schizophrenia patients, according to a new study.

Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that causes patients to experience delusions and hallucinations for more than six months. Delusions occur when patients lose touch with reality. Common symptoms of schizophrenia include social withdrawal, intense anxiety, feelings of being unreal, loss of appetite, loss of hygiene, difficulty processing information, poor memory, depressed mood and sense of being controlled by outside forces. The behavior of schizophrenic patients varies widely. In men, symptoms of schizophrenia usually develop when patients are in their teens or 20s. Women usually develop the disorder when they are 20-30 years old.

Folate and folic acid are forms of a water-soluble B vitamin. Folate occurs naturally in food, and folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin. Folic acid is well-tolerated in amounts found in fortified foods and supplements.

In a recent study, researchers randomly assigned 140 men and women with schizophrenia from three mental health centers to receive two milligrams of folic acid and 400 micrograms of vitamin B12 by mouth or placebo daily for 16 weeks. Participants were assessed with the Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms and the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale.

The researchers found that overall, significant benefits from folate and vitamin B12 were lacking when compared to the placebo group. However, when factoring for a specific genotype that affects folate metabolism, participants in the folate and vitamin B12 group with high-functioning variants of the folate regulating gene saw significant improvements in their negative schizophrenia symptoms.

The authors concluded that folate and vitamin B12 supplementation may be beneficial for some schizophrenia patients, supporting that a personalized approach to treatment based on genetic variations may be needed. Further larger-scale studies are necessary.

Many integrative therapies have been studied for their potential benefits in schizophrenia patients. Music therapy that includes either chorus or karaoke may improve interpersonal functioning in people with schizophrenia. Music therapy may also help reduce symptoms of schizophrenia, including psychosis. Additionally, based on its proposed antioxidant effects, ginkgo has been studied in the treatment of schizophrenia. Although early research is promising, there is currently not enough scientific evidence to make a firm conclusion.

For more information about integrative therapies with evidence of benefit for schizophrenia, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.

For more information about folate or vitamin B12, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.

To comment on this story, please visit Natural Standard's blog.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
  2. Roffman JL, Lamberti JS, Achtyes E, et al. Randomized Multicenter Investigation of Folate Plus Vitamin B12 Supplementation in Schizophrenia. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013 Mar 6:1-9. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.900. 

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