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The New Daily
The New Daily
John Elder

More evidence Vitamin B6 reduces feelings of anxiety and depression

Experiments with salty vitamin B6-rich yeast extracts Vegemite and Marmite have had happy endings. Photo: Getty

People of a certain age will remember the Vegemite song and its cheery lyrics:

We’re happy little Vegemites
As bright as bright can be.

More than a jingle, it was apparently an honest celebration of Vegemite as a balm for one’s creaky mental health.

No kidding.

In the last five years, serious research has explored the brain-calming effects of vitamin B6, plenty of which is found in our national yeast extract that one either loves or shrinks from.

British scientists have put their focus on Vegemite’s cousin, Marmite.

Last week, Dr David Field, a research psychologist at the University of Reading told The Australian that more people should be eating Marmite as a means of coping in these unsettled, scary times.

“If I were a betting man, I would say a teaspoon of Marmite a day might reduce feelings of stress for some people,” Dr Field told the national broadsheet.

“And so many of us are feeling more stressed about everything from exam results to COVID and finances to climate control that I think it would be worth a try.”

Beyond breakfast staples

Dr Field is the lead author of a new study that “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”.

The Reading researchers claim the study “provides valuable evidence to support the use of supplements thought to modify levels of activity in the brain for preventing or treating mood disorders”.

According to Dr Field, the functioning of the brain relies on a delicate balance between the excitatory neurons that carry information around and inhibitory ones, which prevent runaway activity.

“Recent theories have connected mood disorders and some other neuropsychiatric conditions with a disturbance of this balance, often in the direction of raised levels of brain activity,” he said in a prepared statement.

“Vitamin B6 helps the body produce a specific chemical messenger that inhibits impulses in the brain, and our study links this calming effect with reduced anxiety among the participants.”

The new study 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.

The study

In the new trial, more than 300 participants were randomly assigned a placebo, or  high levels Vitamin B6 or B12 supplements, approximately 50 times the recommended daily allowance.

These were taken daily, 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”.

The authors say that 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”.

Dr Field said that many foods, including tuna, chickpeas and many fruits and vegetables, contain Vitamin B6.

However, “the high doses used in this trial suggest that supplements would be necessary to have a positive effect on mood”.

He said the research was at an early stage.

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