Vitamin B6 tablets forming the word 'B6' on a blue background
© Zalina Kazantseva

Taking high-dose vitamin B6 tablets can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, new research reveals

Anxiety and depression can ruin lives. Mind reports that as many as 1 in 6 people in England experience a common mental health problem, like anxiety or depression, in any given week.

The discovery of vitamin B6 supplements as a possible method of reducing these feelings is therefore welcome news for many.

New research has shown that taking high-dose vitamin B6 tablets reduces feelings of anxiety and depression.

Scientists at the University of Reading measured the impact of high doses of vitamin B6 on young adults. After taking the supplements every day for a month, the participants reported feeling less anxious and depressed.

The study, published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, provides invaluable evidence. It supports further use of supplements to modify levels of activity in the brain for preventing or treating mood disorders.

Hispanic woman wearing blue jumper looking sad and depressed
© Ocusfocus

‘Vitamin B6 helps the body produce a specific chemical messenger that inhibits impulses in the brain’

Lead author from the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading, Dr David Field, 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.”

The study focused on how B6 produces GABA

Previous studies have found that multivitamins – and even marmite – can reduce stress levels, however, few studies have looked at specifically which vitamins drive this effect.

The new study focused on the potential role of vitamin B6 which is known to increase the body’s production of GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid), a chemical that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain.

In order to test vitamin B6, more than 300 participants were randomly assigned either vitamin B6 or B12 supplements far above the recommended daily intake (approximately 50 times the recommended daily allowance) or a placebo and took one a day with food for a month.

Vitamin B12 had little effect but vitamin B6 made a statistically reliable difference

Young Asian woman in stripy tshirt taking vitamin pill with glass of water
© Kamachi209

The study demonstrated that vitamin B12 had little effect compared to placebo over the trial period, but vitamin B6 made a statistically reliable difference.

Raised levels of GABA among participants who had taken vitamin B6 supplements were confirmed by visual tests carried out at the end of the trial.

This supported the hypothesis that B6 was responsible for the reduction in anxiety.

In terms of visual performance, subtle but harmless changes were detected, consistent with controlled levels of brain activity.

Nutrition-based solutions with far fewer side effects

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.”

Revolutionary evidence from the British Medical Journal is now suggesting that depression is not linked to low serotonin levels. Vitamin B6 might just be the solution.

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