NMU 250 – Vitamin B6 Supplementation Shown to Help Treat Anxiety Disorders: Large Clinical Trial
Nutrition/Natural Medicine Update No 250 (July 20, 2022)
with Dr. James Meschino
Topic: Vitamin B6 Supplementation Shown to Help Treat Anxiety Disorders: Large Clinical Trial
Source: Journal of Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental (July 19, 2022)
A research study published in the journal of Human Psychopharmacology in July 2022 has shown that providing patients with a 100 mg supplement of vitamin B6 each day can help improve symptoms in those who suffer from anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental health problems, which are estimated to affect one in 10 Canadians. People who suffer from anxiety disorders have long periods of intense feelings of fear or distress that is out of proportion to real events. Their brains interpret real or imagined events to be much more risky or dangerous than they really are. As a result, their lives are often full of unease and fear, which interferes with their personal and professional relationships and productivity. Studies show that people often suffer from more than one anxiety disorder, which can involve any combination of:
- Panic disorder – (accompanied by chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, etc)
- Social Phobia (fear of social situations)
- Specific Phobia (i.e., flying, snakes, heights, open spaces, etc)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (with flashbacks, nightmares, depression, feeling of anger or irrationality, etc)
Treatment of anxiety disorders usually involves the use of drug therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). In the July 2022 study, more than 300 patients were randomly assigned either vitamin B6 supplements (100 mg per day) or vitamin B12 supplements (1,000 mcg per day) or a placebo, taking one of these supplements each day for one month with food. The study showed that vitamin B12 had a minimal effect on improving anxiety compared to the placebo, but those taking the vitamin B6 supplement showed significant improvement in their self-reported anxiety symptoms that was statistically significant and reliable. The researchers suggested that vitamin B6 supplementation (100 mg per day) helped to increase the synthesis of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that has a natural calming effect on emotions and activity in certain regions of the brain. The researchers demonstrated that those taking the vitamin B6 supplement had elevated levels of GABA, which was confirmed by visual tests carried out at the end of the trial, supporting the hypothesis that B6 was responsible for the reduction in anxiety.
As the researchers indicated, the effect of vitamin B6 supplementation is small compared to that attainable with medication, but it has fewer unpleasant side effects than anti-anxiety drugs. But combining vitamin B6 supplementation with anti-anxiety drugs may enable doctors to lower the dosage of medication required or eliminate it altogether, which many patients would welcome. However, the use of vitamin B6 supplements to treat anxiety must be supervised and monitored by a physician, who can adjust anti-anxiety medication dosage to suit the needs of the individual patient. Of course, adding cognitive behavioral therapy to the treatment plan is also very prudent in many cases, and some early research suggests that medical marijuana may be helpful in some cases of PTSD. But each case is different, and a well-informed physician should be guiding the assessment and treatment process and the integration of each of these interventions. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder and your doctor is not aware of the vitamin B6 research, I suggest that you provide them with a link to the study, which I have provided in the text below.
David T. Field, Rebekah O. Cracknell, Jessica R. Eastwood, Peter Scarfe, Claire M. Williams, Ying Zheng, Teresa Tavassoli. High-dose Vitamin B6 supplementation reduces anxiety and strengthens visual surround suppression. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 2022. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hup.2852
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