Vitamin B6: A New Strategy to Help Reduce Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety
You are not alone if you suffer from mental illness. It is estimated that around 45% of Australians will suffer from a mental illness in their lifetime. Looking specifically at anxiety and depression, in any one year around 3 million Australians suffer from these forms of mental illnesses. Just like any illness support and therapy is recommended to help manage and support optimal health and wellbeing. Mental illness can be managed through many different strategies, one which includes your diet. A new study has provided insight to the potential influence vitamin B6 may play in helping to reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine is made up of six different compounds. These compounds are pyridoxine hydrochloride, pyridoxine, pyridoxal, pyridoxamine, pyridoxal-5-phosphate, and 4-pyridoxic acid.
Vitamin B6 makes energy from the macronutrient’s carbohydrate and protein in your foods and beverages. Vitamin B6 also assists in making the building blocks of protein called amino acids. Finally, this vitamin helps to make haemoglobin which is the part of your red blood cells which carry iron and oxygen around your body. Another reason to add to make sure you are meeting your recommended daily intake of vitamin B6 is new research suggests it may help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The researchers of this new research used 478 participants with self-reported diagnosed anxiety and/or depression. The study was double blinded with a high dose supplement of 100mg of B6 as pyroxidine hydrochloride or, 1000 micrograms of vitamin B12 as methylcobalmin or a placebo. The supplements were taken for one month duration.
After the month of supplementation participants who took the vitamin B6 supplement reported a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression. Also, there was an increase in surround suppression of visual contrast detection. This task measured the lowest percentage contrast between the darker and lighter areas of a stripped pattern called the contrast threshold, which could be detected by the participants. The contrast threshold was also measured using a suppressive surround mask. This mask increases the threshold due to the GABAergic connections in the visual cortex area of the brain. This research provides exciting new insight to the potential role of Vitamin B6 to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The participants who took the vitamin B12 supplement showed trends towards a reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms. Although these were not statistically significant.
There are many potential roles vitamin B6 may play in helping to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Your brain requires a careful balance of messages which excite and messages which calm the brain. When this balance is not in balance it can influence your risk of developing anxiety and depression. Vitamin B6 influences the processing of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Gamma-aminobutyric acid is a neurotransmitter or a chemical messenger which can help your central nervous system to relax. This may help to bring the excitation and relaxation messages within your brain back into a more balanced state and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Vitamin B6 is needed in your diet daily for health and wellbeing. The amount taken in this study is not recommended unless under the guidance of a health professional. The recommended daily intake of vitamin B6 for adults aged between 19-50 is 1.3mg a day. For women aged 51 years and older the recommended daily intake increases to 1.5mg a day and to 1.7mg a day for men aged 51 years and older.
Vitamin B6 is present in many different foods. This includes poultry, beef, eggs, sweet potato, tofu, bananas, cow’s milk, avocado, seafood, fortified cereals, and chickpeas. Wholegrains, or wholegrain containing foods such as Corn Thins slices are a good source of vitamin B6.
By eating an overall balanced diet, you should be able to achieve your vitamin B6 requirements each day. If you need support to create a balanced diet reach out to the expert who can help you to achieve this, an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
Take home message: Vitamin B6 could be another strategy to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Structuring your diet to achieve adequate amounts of this vitamin could be the missing component to help increase your mental health and quality of life.
- Field DT, Cracknell RO, Eastwood JR, Scarfe P, Williams CM, Zheng Y, Tavassoli T. High-dose Vitamin B6 supplementation reduces anxiety and strengthens visual surround suppression. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2022 Jul 19:e2852. doi: 10.1002/hup.2852. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35851507.
- Vitamin B6. Nutrient Reference Values for Australian and New Zealand. Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council. https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/vitamin-b6
- Australian Food Composition Database. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/science/monitoringnutrients/afcd/Pages/foodsearch.aspx
- National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Australian Bureau of Statistics. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/mental-health/national-study-mental-health-and-wellbeing/latest-release
- Stach K, Stach W, Augoff K. Vitamin B6 in Health and Disease. Nutrients. 2021 Sep 17;13(9):3229. doi: 10.3390/nu13093229. PMID: 34579110; PMCID: PMC8467949.
- Learn About Mental Health. Beyond Blue. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts