Researchers from the University of Reading have found that high doses of Vitamin B6 can help to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression in young adults.
The study provides valuable evidence to support the use of supplements that can modify levels of activity in the brain to prevent or treat mood disorders.
The team explains that the functioning of the brain relies on a delicate balance between excitatory neurons that carry information around and inhibitory ones that prevent runaway activity.
Recent theories suggest that mood disorders and some neuropsychiatric conditions are connected with a disturbance of this balance, often in the direction of raised levels of brain activity.
Vitamin B6 plays a crucial role in helping the body produce a specific chemical messenger that inhibits impulses in the brain. This study links this calming effect with reduced anxiety among people.
Previous studies have produced evidence that multivitamins or Marmite can reduce stress levels, but few studies have been carried out into which particular vitamins contained within them drive this effect.
The team focused on the potential role of Vitamins B6, which is known to increase the body’s production of GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid), a chemical that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain.
They tested more than 300 participants who were assigned either Vitamin B6 or B12 supplements far above the recommended daily intake (approximately 50 times the recommended daily allowance) or a placebo and took one a day with food for a month.
The team showed that Vitamin B12 had little effect compared to placebo over the trial period, but Vitamin B6 made a strong difference.
Raised levels of GABA among people who had taken Vitamin B6 supplements were confirmed, supporting the hypothesis that B6 was responsible for the reduction in anxiety.
The participants reported feeling less anxious and depressed after taking the supplements every day for a month.
Subtle but harmless changes in visual performance were detected, consistent with controlled levels of brain activity.
Many foods, including tuna, chickpeas and many fruits and vegetables, contain Vitamin B6.
However, the high doses used in this study suggest that supplements would be necessary to have a positive effect on mood.
The team suggests that further research is needed to identify other nutrition-based interventions that benefit mental well-being, allowing different dietary interventions to be combined in the future to provide greater results.
Mental health is an increasingly important concern in modern society. For example, vegetarian diets may increase depression risk, while Vitamin D has been shown to help reduce depression symptoms.
Recent research has also shown that new drugs for depression and anxiety disorders are emerging. Additionally, the MIND diet has been shown to slow down brain aging by more than seven years.
Maintaining good mental health is essential for overall well-being and quality of life. Here are some tips for protecting mental health:
Practice good self-care: Take care of your physical health by getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. Make time for activities that you enjoy and that help you relax, such as reading, listening to music, or spending time outdoors.
Seek social support: Spending time with friends and loved ones can help reduce stress and feelings of loneliness. Joining social groups or participating in group activities can also be helpful.
Manage stress: Learn effective stress management techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. Try to avoid situations that cause excessive stress, or learn how to cope with them in a healthy way.
Stay engaged: Stay involved in your community by volunteering, participating in local events, or joining a group. This can help you feel more connected and reduce feelings of isolation.
Seek professional help: If you are struggling with mental health issues, don’t hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional.
Therapy, medication, or a combination of both can be effective treatments for many mental health conditions.
The study was conducted by Dr. David Field et al and published in Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental.
If you care about depression, please read studies about a major cause of depression in older people, and how dairy foods may influence depression risk.
For more information about mental health, please see recent studies that ultra-processed foods may make you feel depressed, and extra-virgin olive oil could reduce depression symptoms.
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