Posted on 22 July 2022

Reduce anxiety and depression with a supplement, say experts

Taking high-dose vitamin B6 supplements can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, a new study has shown. As well as helping to build stronger bones, vitamin B6 can help people improve mental health.

Researchers at the University of Reading found that young adults given high concentrations of vitamin B6 for a month reported feeling less anxious and depressed after taking the supplements every day for a month.

The study shows the benefits of supplements on the body and the brain, says Dr David Field, lead author from the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading. “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 was recently published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental. It provides valuable evidence to support the use of supplements as a mechanism to improve activity levels in the brain and boost mood.

The study adds to a growing body of evidence about the positive impact of supplementation on the body and the brain.

Specifically, the new study focused on the potential role of Vitamins B6 in affecting mood. Scientists know that vitamin B6 can increase the body’s production of GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid), a chemical that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain.

In the study, 300 people were given huge amounts of either Vitamin B6 or B12 supplements for a month. The daily dose was 50 times the recommended level. The results showed that vitamin B6 made a “statistically reliable difference” in mood. In contrast, Vitamin B12 had little effect compared to the placebo.

Vitamin B6 can be found in many foods, including tuna, chickpeas and many fruits and vegetables, says Dr Field. But it’s almost impossible to consume from even the healthiest and most varied diet. “The high doses used in this trial suggest that supplements would be necessary to have a positive effect on mood,” said Dr Field.

The research is at an early stage, and vitamin B6 shouldn’t be considered a replacement for medication or professional advice from a doctor. “The effect of Vitamin B6 on anxiety in our study was quite small compared to what you would expect from medication,” says Dr 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.”

The findings are an exciting development and highlight the importance of ensuring we get the essential vitamins we need. “One potential option would be to combine Vitamin B6 supplements with talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to boost their effect,” says Dr Field.

People shouldn’t take high doses of any supplement unless advised by a medical professional. The NHS has published guidance on safe levels of all vitamins.

You can read the full study, High-dose Vitamin B6 supplementation reduces anxiety and strengthens visual surround suppression, here.

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