Vitamin B6 is a multi-purpose, water soluble nutrient that can impact your appetite, sleep, and thinking. New research from the University of Reading in the UK shows high-dose vitamin B6 supplementation can also effectively reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
The study results, published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, detail how young adults reported feeling less anxious and depressed after taking vitamin B6 every day for a month. It provides valuable confirmation for researchers looking to treat mood disorders through the use of supplements thought to modify levels of activity in the brain.
"The functioning of the brain relies on a delicate balance between the excitatory neurons that carry information around and inhibitory ones, which prevent runaway activity," said Dr. David Field, lead author from the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading. "Recent theories have connected mood disorders and some other neuropsychiatric conditions with a disturbance of this balance, often in the direction of raised levels of brain activity."
Field went on to say, "Vitamin B6 helps the body produce a specific chemical messenger that inhibits impulses in the brain, and our study links this calming effect with reduced anxiety among the participants."
Hoping to build on previous research that showed multivitamins had the ability to reduce stress levels, Field and his team narrowed their focus to the role vitamin B6 can play. It was chosen because of its ability to increase the body’s production of GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid), a chemical that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain.
The placebo-controlled trial had participants take 100 mg of vitamin B6 or a placebo daily with food for a month. The levels of GABA were confirmed by testing after the trial, which supported the theory vitamin B6 was responsible for the anxiety reduction.
"Many foods, including tuna, chickpeas and many fruits and vegetables, contain Vitamin B6. However, the high doses used in this trial suggest that supplements would be necessary to have a positive effect on mood," Field said. "It is important to acknowledge that this research is at an early stage and the effect of Vitamin B6 on anxiety in our study was quite small compared to what you would expect from medication. However, nutrition-based interventions produce far fewer unpleasant side effects than drugs, and so in the future people might prefer them as an intervention.
"To make this a realistic choice, further research is needed to identify other nutrition-based interventions that benefit mental wellbeing, allowing different dietary interventions to be combined in future to provide greater results."