Data on Mood and Vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine)


According to clinical nutritionist Blake Graham, all vitamins and minerals are involved in one or more biochemical pathways and/or physiological actions which influence the function of the human brain. Most vitamin and mineral deficiencies result in psychiatric symptoms in a significant number of people, and in people with psychiatric diagnoses these deficiencies are often associated with more severe symptoms and poorer outcome from conventional treatment. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies may act as an exacerbating factor secondary to malnutrition, alcoholism, etc. or may be a primary causative factor. Either way, optimisation of nutrient levels is in each patients best interest.

Several named vitamin deficiency diseases may result from the lack of sufficient B-vitamins.  Also, several unnamed, sub-clinical responses can result from B-vitamin deficiency.

Pyridoxine (B-6) is required as a coenzyme for the synthesis of serotonin, dopamine and GABA. Pyridoxine is also required for carbohydrate metabolism and other aspects of amino acid metabolism. (Mann. 2000).

For example, pyridoxine aids in the metabolism of sulphur-containing amino acids including homocystiene and in the synthesis of taurine. (Mann, 2000).  Much more information on amino acid metabolism is forthcoming on WellPostpartum Weblog…

It is involved in the synthesis of dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, histamine and GABA and is a cofactor for an enzyme in the synthesis of serotonin (Baldewicz et al., 2000).

Deficiency of B-6 tends to selectively reduce production of serotonin and GABA (McCarty, 2000).

A single human volunteer consumed a B6 free diet for 55 days. (Hawkins WW. 1948) Depression was a notable symptom which disappeared shortly after B6 supplementation commenced. Lower levels of pyridoxal phosphate, the biochemically active form of B6, are significantly correlated with higher levels of depression. (Hvas AM. 2004) Irritability and confusion have also been reported as symptoms of B6 deficiency (Leklem JE. 1991) and chronically B6 deficient individuals were also found to be significantly more anxious. (Heseker H. 1992)

21/101 outpatients with major depression where found to have B6 deficiency while 14/21 B6 deficient patients displayed numbness, paresthesias and ‘electric shock’ sensations, typical of B6 deficiency. (Stewart JW. 1984) By measuring pyridoxal phosphate levels, 4/7 depressed patients and zero controls where found to be B6 deficient. (Russ CS. 1983) A more in depth evaluation of B6 status performed using an enzyme stimulation method revealed all 7 depressed patients and none of the controls were B6 deficient. Of 172 consecutive mixed psychiatric inpatients, 9% were deficient in B6. (MW Carney. 1982) Significantly more depressed patients, than other psychiatric diagnoses, where documented to have B6 deficiency (MW Carney. 1979) and 6/12 agoraphobia patients were deficient in B6. (LC Abbey. 1982) 19/39 women on oral contraceptives were deficient in B6 and when these 19 women where given B6 supplements 16/19 experienced improved mood. (Adams PW. 1973)

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LC Abbey. Agoraphobia. J Orthomol Psychiatry, 11:243-59, 1982

Adams PW, et al. Effect of pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6) upon depression associated with oral contraceptives. Lancet 1973;1:897-904.

Baldewicz, T. T., Goodkin, K., Blaney, N. T., Shor-Posner, G., Kumar, M., Wilkie, F. L., et al. (2000). Cobalamin level is related to self-reported and clinically rated mood and to syndromal depression in bereaved HIV-1(

Hawkins WW, Barsky J. An experiment on human vitamin B6 deprivation. Science 1948;108:284-6.

Heseker H, Kubler W, Pudel V, Westenhoffer J. Psychological disorders as early symptoms of a mild-to-moderate vitamin deficiency. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1992 Sep 30;669:352-7.

Hvas AM, Juul S, Bech P, Nexo E. Vitamin B6 level is associated with symptoms of depression. Psychother Psychosom. 2004 Nov-Dec;73(6):340-3.

Leklem JE. Vitamin B-6. In: Machlin L, ed. Handbook of Vitamins. New York: Marcel Decker Inc; 1991:341-378.

Mann J & Truswell AS. Essentials of Human Nutrition. 2nd edition. New York: Oxford University Press; 2002.

McCarty, M. F. (2000). High-dose pyridoxine as an “anti-stress” strategy. Medical Hypotheses, 54, 803–807.

Russ CS. Vitamin B6 status of depressed and obsessive-compulsive patients. Nutr Rep Int 1983;27:867-873.

Stewart JW, Harrison W, Quitkin F, Baker H. Low B6 levels in depressed outpatients. Biol Psychiatry. 1984 Apr;19(4):613-6.


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