A study from the University of Reading suggests that taking high doses of Vitamin B6 may reduce anxiety and depression.
Over a month, young adults who took the supplements daily reported feeling less anxious and depressed.
The Role of Vitamin B6 in Brain Function
The brain’s functioning relies on a balance between excitatory neurons, which carry information around, and inhibitory neurons, which prevent excessive activity.
Recent theories have linked mood disorders and certain neuropsychiatric conditions to disturbances in this balance, typically towards increased brain activity.
Vitamin B6 helps the body produce a specific chemical messenger, Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), that inhibits impulses in the brain. This study connects this calming effect with reduced anxiety levels among individuals.
The Study and Its Findings
In the study, researchers tested over 300 participants.
These participants were given either Vitamin B6 or B12 supplements far above the recommended daily intake (approximately 50 times the recommended daily allowance) or a placebo, which they took once a day with food for a month.
The results showed that Vitamin B12 had little effect compared to the placebo over the trial period, but Vitamin B6 made a significant difference.
Increased levels of GABA were observed in participants who had taken Vitamin B6 supplements, supporting the hypothesis that B6 was responsible for the reduction in anxiety.
Subtle but harmless changes in visual performance were detected, consistent with controlled levels of brain activity.
Implications and Future Directions
While many foods, including tuna, chickpeas, and various fruits and vegetables, contain Vitamin B6, the high doses used in this study suggest that supplements would be necessary to have a positive effect on mood.
The researchers argue that further research is needed to identify other nutrition-based interventions that benefit mental well-being.
Such knowledge could enable different dietary interventions to be combined in the future for enhanced results.
The study, led by Dr. David Field, was published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental.
This research adds to the body of evidence supporting the use of supplements that modify brain activity levels for preventing or treating mood disorders.
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