A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Reading explored how certain vitamin supplements may affect consumers’ mental health. According to their findings, taking vitamin B6 may help reduce symptoms related to anxiety and depression.
“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,” said researcher Dr. David Field. “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.”
Improving anxiety symptoms
For the study, the researchers had 300 participants take either vitamin B6, B12, or a placebo pill every day for one month. At the beginning and end of the study, the participants reported on their anxiety and depression symptoms.
The study showed that vitamin B6 was effective at reducing anxiety and depression-related symptoms among the participants, but vitamin B12 didn’t have the same effect on the participants’ mental health.
“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,” Dr. Field said. “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 researchers explained that vitamin B6 can be consumed in several different foods, including fruits and vegetables, tuna, and chickpeas. However, because the participants in the study consumed much higher levels of the vitamin to test its effectiveness, they say opting for supplements would likely provide the greatest boost to consumers’ mental health.
Moving forward, the researchers plan to do more work in this area to better understand how vitamin B6 can be beneficial to consumers’ long-term mental health.
“To make this a realistic choice, further research is needed to identify other nutrition-based interventions that benefit mental well-being, allowing different dietary interventions to be combined in future to provide greater results,” said Dr. Field. “One potential option would be to combine vitamin B6 supplements with talking therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy to boost their effect.”