Another vitamin that keeps coming up in my research of nutritional deficiencies and depression is B6 or pyroxidine. A deficiency in this vital vitamin is common in depressed patients, typically those who are taking birth control pills or other forms of estrogens. B6 is essential in serotonin production as well as norepinephrine and dopamine production. These are three key neurotransmitters responsible for mood and pleasure. Although Vitamin B6 deficiency is rare it is noted in studies that at least 21% of depressed patients had low plasma levels of pyridoxine.
To understand the importance of B6 to depression, a basic knowledge of how the brain establishes mood is required.
All neuronal communication in the brain goes through neurons or nerve cells. This communication flows in the form of signals which are transmitted in the form of electrical impulses across a synapse to a target cell by endogenous chemicals known as neurotransmitters. A synapse is the gap between two nerve cells.
These neurotransmitters carry impulses that are important for a balanced emotional state as well as form the messengers responsible for the brain’s ability to control other processes in the body.
Pyridoxal phosphate, its active form of vitamin B6 can easily cross into the brain. In the brain, it is a coenzyme that plays an important role in the biosynthesis of the following neurotransmitters: serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
In the synthesis of GABA, pyridoxal phosphate acts as a cofactor for the enzyme glutamic acid decarboxylase which catalyzes the decarboxylation of glutamate to gamma-aminobutyric acid and CO2.
The synthesis of the amino acid, tryptophan to serotonin also depends on the actions of pyridoxal phosphate.
Of the neurotransmitters listed above, three monoamine neurotransmitters largely control mood in the brain. The neurotransmitters that are required in optimal concentrations to improve mood are serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
Pyridoxal phosphate is also essential in the metabolism of homocysteine, a non-protein amino acid that is biosynthesized from methionine by the removal of its terminal methyl group.
Homocysteine is a toxic intermediate of amino acid syntheses. It is meant as a stopgap between two essential amino acids. However, the body requires vitamin B6 to convert homocysteine to the next amino acid or to recycle it back to methionine.
Therefore, high levels of homocysteine can result from pyridoxine deficiency. The accumulation of this toxic intermediate has been shown to cause damage to the brain and the heart. In addition, the accumulation of homocysteine in the brain has been linked to depression.
In summary, low levels of pyridoxal phosphate in the brain can cause depression by
- reducing the amount of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine synthesized
- increasing the concentration of homocysteine which can cause neurological disorders such as depression
Now with all the technical stuff out of the way, are you starting to see the importance of adding a b compound to our diets?
So let’s look at a B-complex that adds 50-100mg of B6 to our body. If you find a good B complex you should be able to get your recommended 800 each of B12 and folate as well, between your B complex and your multi.