Vitamin B6 May Help Reduce Anxiety, Depression

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Raising your levels of vitamin B6 may help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Maskot/Getty Images
  • Researchers say high daily doses of vitamin B6, and to a lesser degree vitamin 12, can help lower anxiety and depression.
  • Experts say the findings are important but further research is needed.
  • Plant-based foods with high levels of vitamin B6 include potatoes, spinach, and bananas.
  • Meat-based foods with high vitamin B6 levels include beef, chicken, turkey, and fish.

High doses of vitamin B6 may help reduce self-reported symptoms of anxiety and depression.

That’s according to a new study of 478 adults published earlier today.

In the study, researchers examined the effects of taking high-dose vitamin B6 and B12 for one month on depression and anxiety. The vitamins were provided by Innopure.

Researchers said the findings suggest that vitamin B6 in particular provides essential nutrients in the proper functioning of mood regulation.

They said vitamin B6 reduced self-reported anxiety in study participants as well as a trend toward reduced depression.

Vitamin B12, they said, produced trends toward changes in anxiety and depression levels.

The researchers acknowledged their study had some methodological limitations and further research is warranted.

Amy Reed, MS, RD, CSP, LDS, is a pediatric dietician and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

She told Healthline it’s exciting to see research that supports a nutrient, such as vitamin B6, could be used in conjunction with other treatments for depression and anxiety.

“The amount of B6 provided in the supplements for the study was 100 mg, which is much higher than the recommended daily average (RDA) of 1.3 mg,” Reed noted. “If a dose of 100mg of B6 is needed to see an effect, then it would be difficult to achieve this from food only.”

Further research, therefore, would be warranted, she added.

“Future studies may want to consider comparing different doses of B6 and its effect on depression and anxiety or examine how B6 supplementation used in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy and/or anti-depressants affect symptoms,” Reed said.

Amy Sapola, PharmD, a certified wellness coach with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, says she’s cautious about drawing any conclusions from this particular study due to a relatively small number of participants and a cited error of missing data, which means the end sample size was actually smaller.

Dr. Sapola told Healthline she would have liked to see baseline labs to determine if participants were B6 and/or B12 deficient prior to taking the supplements.

Sapola noted that study participants were 80% young females and 20% young males.

She said that raises the question of why someone may be deficient in vitamin B6 or B12.

Sapola said oral contraceptives are known to deplete vitamins such as riboflavin, B6, B12, folic acid, vitamin C, and minerals such as magnesium, selenium, and zinc.

People may also become vitamin deficient, says Sapola, due to:

  • inadequate dietary intake (vegan/vegetarian diets)
  • inadequate absorption (from IBS, Crohn’s, celiac, and ulcerative colitis)
  • alcohol consumption

Sapola says food is often the best medicine as it contains a synergistic combination of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber.

“By focusing on only one nutrient at a time we are likely missing the symphony that is going on and only focusing on one instrument,” she said.

Plant-based sources of vitamin B6, says Sapola, include:

  • chickpeas
  • potatoes
  • sweet potatoes
  • winter squash
  • spinach
  • banana
  • nuts
  • sunflower seeds
  • raisins
  • onions
  • watermelon

Reed says fortified breakfast cereals (fortified with greater than 25% of the RDA) can also be good sources of vitamin B6.

Meat sources, says Sapola, include beef, chicken, salmon, tuna, and turkey.

But the key is diversity in the diet, she added.

“Make sure to focus on including a variety of different colors of plant-based foods and eat with the seasons,” she said. “This helps to ensure you are not only optimizing the vitamins and minerals you receive but also the phytonutrients.”

Sapola said diet supplementation is best done with a professional who orders lab tests to determine where your current nutrient levels are at and what dosing and formula may be best suited to your health goals.

“More is not better when it comes to B vitamin supplementation,” she said.

“With mild to moderate deficiency, I would encourage a two-fold approach using a B complex supplement (instead of Vitamin B6 alone) that contains around 100% of the DV for each of the B vitamins in addition to increasing the amount of vegetable-forward diverse whole foods that are high in B vitamins that they are consuming”, she explained.

“When selecting supplements, I also like to examine the inactive ingredients to make sure that the product does not contain unnecessary fillers, artificial colors, and/or potential allergens (ex. gluten, soy, dairy, corn, etc.),” Sapola added.

“Once the root cause(s) of why the deficiency has occurred has been identified and addressed it may be possible to stop the supplement and maintain healthy levels with ‘food as medicine,’” she said.