Vitamin B6 reduces depression and anxiety, study suggests

By Kavitha Sivasubramaniam

- Last updated on GMT

Vitamin B6 reduces depression and anxiety, study suggests

Related tags Vitamin b6 Vitamin b12 anxiety

A high dose of vitamin B6 supplements may reduce depression and anxiety, according to a new study.

Research carried out by scientists at the University of Reading revealed that B6 supplementation could change the brain’s activity levels to treat or prevent mood disorders.

Published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental​, the study found that young adults who took daily supplements for one month felt less depressed and anxious.

Effect on brain function

The latest research looked at the potential significance of vitamins B6, which can boost the body’s production of a chemical called Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) that prevents impulses between the brain’s nerve cells.

Around 300-plus participants were given either high doses of vitamin B6 or B12, which equated to around 50 times the recommended daily amount, or a placebo. They took them daily for one month.

The results revealed that while vitamin B12 had minimal effect in comparison to the placebo, vitamin B6 made a big difference during the trial.

Visual tests found that participants who had taken B6 supplements had raised levels of GABA. Their visual performance indicated subtle changes that were also harmless, suggesting controlled brain activity levels.

Dr David Field, lead author from the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading, says: “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.”

Important considerations

Dr Field explains: “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.”

He highlights that it is also important to note that the study is in its early stages and that vitamin B6 isn’t as effective as medication in reducing anxiety. However, he believes people might prefer the supplements in the future as an alternative to drugs since nutrition-based interventions have fewer unpleasant side effects.

Dr Field adds: “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.”


Source: Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental

Published online:

‘High-dose Vitamin B6 supplementation reduces anxiety and strengthens visual surround suppression’

Authors: Dr. David Field et al.

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