High Dose of Vitamin B6 Could Diminish Anxiety and Depression Symptoms

According to the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety disorders are the most common type of psychiatric disorders.Many patients with anxiety disorders experience physical symptoms related to anxiety and subsequently visit their primary care providers.

The lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorders among American adults is 28.8%.

Anxiety disorders appear to be caused by an interaction of biopsychosocial factors, including genetic vulnerability, which interact with situations, stress, or trauma to produce clinically significant syndromes

Major depressive disorder has significant potential morbidity and mortality, contributing to suicide, incidence and adverse outcomes of medical illness, disruption in interpersonal relationships, substance abuse, and lost work time. According to the CDC, in 2019, 2.8% of adults experienced severe symptoms of depression, 4.2% experienced moderate symptoms, and 11.5% experienced mild symptoms in the past 2 weeks. 

The percentage of adults who experienced any symptoms of depression was highest among those aged 18–29 years (21.0%), followed by those aged 45–64 years (18.4%) and 65 and older (18.4%), and lastly, by those aged 30–44 years (16.8%). Women were more likely than men to experience mild, moderate, or severe symptoms of depression.

B vitamins play an integral role in a large number of anabolic and catabolic cellular processes that are essential for nervous system and brain function, including several that help to maintain an appropriate balance between neural inhibition and excitation by up-regulating inhibition and down-regulating excitation. This is an important role because an equilibrium shifted too far towards excitation has been implicated in a number of neuropsychiatric disorders, including anxiety and depression 

High doses of B6 can improve psychiatric syndromes symptoms

Scientists at the University of Reading measured the impact of high doses of Vitamin B6 on young adults and found that they reported feeling less anxious and depressed after taking the supplements every day for a month.

Dr David Field, lead author from the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading and his 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..

More than 300 participants were randomly 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 study showed that Vitamin B12 had little effect compared to placebo over the trial period, but Vitamin B6 made a statistically reliable difference.

Raised levels of GABA among participants who had taken Vitamin B6 supplements were confirmed by visual tests carried out at the end of the trial, 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.

This research is at an early stage and the effect of Vitamin B6 on anxiety in the study was quite small compared to what you would expect from medication. However, nutrition-based interventions produce far fewer unpleasant side effects than drugs, and so in the future people might prefer them as an intervention.

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 Behavioral Therapy to boost their effect.


David T. Field, Rebekah O. Cracknell, Jessica R. Eastwood, Peter Scarfe, Claire M. Williams, Ying Zheng, Teresa Tavassoli, (July 19, 2022). High‐dose Vitamin B6 supplementation reduces anxiety and strengthens visual surround suppression. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental. Retrieved from : https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hup.2852