Vitamin B6 supplements may improve mood in college-aged women: Study

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

About 40% of women using oral contraceptives have low levels of plasma pyridoxal phosphate (PLP), the main measure of B6 status and coenzyme in the synthesis of the mood-enhancing transmitter serotonin.   Image © martin-dm / Getty Images
About 40% of women using oral contraceptives have low levels of plasma pyridoxal phosphate (PLP), the main measure of B6 status and coenzyme in the synthesis of the mood-enhancing transmitter serotonin. Image © martin-dm / Getty Images

Related tags: Vitamin b6, Dietary supplements, Depression, mood

Supplements of vitamin B6 may reduce depression symptoms in young women using oral contraceptives, suggests a small study from Arizona State University.

Data from a 12-week, randomized, double-blind crossover trial indicated that 100 mg of vitamin B6 reduced symptoms of depression by 20% in college-aged women using oral contraceptives.

“The 20% reduction in depression symptoms noted herein with vitamin B6 supplementation falls within the ranges noted for standard therapies for depression management,” ​wrote Anne Curtin and Carol Johnston in the Journal of Dietary Supplements​. Examples of standard therapies include cognitive-behavioral therapy for people with seasonal affective disorder and mirror exposure training in female college students.

A growing concern

Vitamin B6 deficiency is reportedly the most common nutrient deficiency in the United States, affecting about 15% of men and 30% of women. The numbers are even worse for women using oral contraceptives, with an estimated 40% of these women having low levels of plasma pyridoxal phosphate (PLP), the active coenzyme form of vitamin B6 and the main measure of B6 status.

A link between B6 deficiency and depression has also been reported in the literature, linked to the PLP being the coenzyme in the synthesis of the mood-enhancing transmitter serotonin from tryptophan in the brain.

“Although there is much literature confirming the link between vitamin B6 deficiency and depression, as well as the link between decreased vitamin B6 status and oral contraceptive use, the current literature fails to identify a direct connection between plasma PLP concentrations and mental health in young women who use oral contraceptives,” ​explained Curtin and Johnston.

“Investigating this direct link could help determine whether vitamin B6 supplementation is advantageous for improving symptoms of depression and mood states of young women on oral contraceptives.”

Study details

The new small study included eight healthy women aged between 18 and 25 using estrogen and progesterone oral contraceptives for at least 12 months. The women were randomly assigned to received either 100 mg of vitamin B6 supplements or placebo for four weeks. This was followed by a four-week washout (no interventions), and then the women were crossed over to the other group.

Curtin and Johnston report that average dietary​ B6 intakes did not vary during the study and, unsurprisingly, vitamin B6 status increased significantly following B6 supplementation.

The Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) and Profile of Mood States (POMS) were used to assess mental health before and after each 4-week intervention period. There were no significant impacts on POMS, said the researchers, but B6 supplementation was associated with a 20% reduction in BDI-II scores. These scores increased​ by 11% in the placebo group.  

“These preliminary data support a growing literature suggesting the benefits of B6 supplementation for reducing symptoms of depression in young women using [oral contraceptives],” ​wrote Curtin and Johnston.

Source: Journal of Dietary Supplements
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1080/19390211.2022.2030843
“Vitamin B6 Supplementation Reduces Symptoms of Depression in College Women Taking Oral Contraceptives: A Randomized, Double-Blind Crossover Trial”
Authors: A.C. Curtin & C.S. Johnston

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