New research discovers that vitamin B6 supplements can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
Scientists from the University of Reading studied how a high dosage of vitamin B6 supplements affects young adults’ levels of anxiety and depression. Their findings were published in the Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental journal.
The study provides valuable evidence that supports the use of vitamin B6 supplements and their impact on improving anxiety and depression levels. It also indicates that vitamin supplements could modify activity levels in the brain, therefore, treating mood disorders.
The role of vitamin B6 supplements in treating mood disorders
Vitamin B6 predominately helps the body to use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates in food. Furthermore, vitamin B6 helps the body form haemoglobin. It naturally occurs in small quantities in peanuts, soya beans, oats, and bananas.
Dr David Field, the lead author from the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading, said: “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.
“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.
“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.”
Previous studies have also illuminated the role of multivitamins in reducing stress levels, yet a small number of studies have researched particular vitamins and their roles.
The new study by Reading researchers focussed on vitamin B6 supplements; this supplement is known for its ability to support the body’s production of GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid), which blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain.
Monitoring the levels of anxiety and depression in over 300 participants
Over 300 participants involved in the clinical trial received either vitamin B12 or vitamin B6 supplements in high dosages, and some participants received a placebo, taken once a day for one month.
The trial found that vitamin B12 had little effect compared to the placebo on levels of anxiety and depression, but surprisingly, vitamin B6 supplements made a statistically reliable difference.
Increased GABA levels in the participants taking vitamin B6 supplements were confirmed by visual tests, supporting the theory that B6 supplements can reduce anxiety. The scientists also noted that subtle but harmless changes were reported.
Dr Field said: “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.
“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 the 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.
“One potential option would be to combine Vitamin B6 supplements with talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to boost their effect.”