Vitamin B6 supplements may reduce anxiety and depression

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A new study found that participants who were given a high dose of vitamin B6 had a significant reduction in both depression and anxiety.

The investigation, conducted by scientists at the University of Reading in Reading, England, and published in the journal, Human Psychopharmacology Clinical and Experimental, examined the effects of vitamin B12 and B6 on depression and anxiety. According to the study, both vitamins play a part in metabolic processes that decrease neural excitation and increase inhibition.

“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,” explained lead author, David Field, PhD, associate professor at the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading, in a statement. “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.”

The study recruited 478 young adults. Participants were randomly assigned to take either vitamin B6 or vitamin B12, which contained approximately 50 times the recommended daily allowance, or a placebo pill. Participants took their assigned supplement once a day, with food, for one month. Levels of depression and anxiety were self-reported by participants both before, and after the trial periods.

The study’s results showed those who took vitamin B6 reported reduced levels of anxiety. In addition, researchers found that vitamin B6 appeared to induce a downward trend of self-reported depression. The vitamin also seemed to cause slight changes in visual performance, determined by researchers to have no influence on other outcome measures. The investigation indicated that vitamin B12 had little effect on anxiety and depression when compared to the placebo.

Although these results showed that vitamin B6 may have positive effects on levels of depression and anxiety, according to Field, the impact is small when compared to traditional medications for the mood disorders.

“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,” said Field. “However, nutrition-based interventions produce far fewer unpleasant side effects than drugs, and so in the future people might prefer them as an intervention.”

More research needs to be done to identify other nutrient-based interventions that help with anxiety and depression and combine them for the best outcomes, Field added. In addition, he said talk therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapies could enhance the effects of supplements.