Seeking a supplement to help boost mental capacity and function can open new doorways and opportunities in life. The more mentally fine-tuned a person is, the easier it will be to not only learn something new and gather more information, but to also stay sharp and focused, thus leading to better problem-solving skills.
There are numerous ingredients that have been advertised as potent nootropics. Vitamin B6 is one of them.
A neurotransmitter support system.
Vitamins B6 is a pyridoxine that is commonly used in various supplements for general health and well-being. It supports many functions throughout the body and three of those functions occur within the brain and that can help boost mental performance and overall brain health.
For one, vitamin B6 can improve the conversion of brain chemicals that are responsible for memory and mood. A second aspect has to do with brain circulation. Homocysteine has a tendency to slow down circulation in the brain, and ultimately cognition, and vitamin B6 helps to combat homocysteine.
Finally, vitamin B6 is a valuable asset in helping to strengthen and grow neurons in the brain, including the sheaths around them and the neural connections themselves.
How vitamin B6 accomplishes these extraordinary measures.
Vitamin B6 can combat homocysteine, thereby reducing the risk of mental decline. There have been numerous studies that indicate people in their later years, such as between the ages of 50 and 80 may begin to show lower scores on learning and aptitude tests and, when they do, it is often associated with high blood homocysteine levels (Strain et al).
What happens when homocysteine levels increase, it can actually “shred” the insides of blood vessels. This causes microvascular damage (Yarlagadda and Clayton).
When vitamin B6 levels increase in the body, it helps metabolize homocysteine, which then improves circulation and protects the blood-brain barrier from this potential damage.
Vitamin B6 boosting brain neurotransmitters.
Chemicals in the brain are critical for proper function and cognition. Without the proper foundation of nutrients, the chemical composition in the brain may not be at optimal levels.
Vitamin B6 is directly involved in the formation and release of various critical brain chemicals. Some of the most important ones that vitamin B6 helps to boost include:
- Serotonin, which is associated with good emotional health and feelings of happiness[i].
- Norepinephrine, which is essential for critical thinking and fast response times, especially when under stress[ii].
- Melatonin, which is essential for regulating brain rhythm and sleep.
The ‘activated’ form of vitamin B6.
In order for vitamin B6 to be extremely effective, it has to be in the “activated” form Pyridoxal 5-Phosphate (P-5-P). While P-5-P is necessary for helping to generate neurotransmitters, it also improves the body’s ability to use those neurotransmitters effectively. It also helps with brain-chemical conversions, including:
- 5-HTP to serotonin
- L-DOPA to dopamine
- Tryptophan to serotonin
The research that supports vitamin B6 as a valuable nootropic.
There have been several human-based research studies conducted through the years that highlight the value of vitamin B6 as a valuable nootropic.
In one study, 37 men between 70 and 79 years of age were provided 20 mg of vitamin B6 or a placebo every day for three months (Deijen, et al). Researchers found that vitamin B6 was beneficial for only one aspect of cognition, and that was long-term memory. The researchers noted that “vitamin B-6 supplementation improves storage of information modestly but significantly.”
In a separate study of 409 people who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and who had normal B-vitamin and homocysteine levels were given a high dose B-vitamin that contained 5 mg of folate, 25 mg B6, and 1 mg B12 or a placebo.
The participants in the study took their supplements every day for 18 months and underwent various tests throughout the study. Researchers found that there was a reduced homocysteine level in those subjects who had taken the supplements compared to placebo subjects, there was no measurable benefit with regard to primary cognitive functions. In other words, these vitamin B supplements did not “slow cognitive decline in individuals with mild to moderate A.D. (Aisen, et al).”
The various dosage recommendations.
When it comes to vitamin B6, there are different dosage levels that are recommended for men and women as well as different age groups.
For example, below is a list of some of the most common recommendations for various groups:
- Adults aged 19-50 should take 1.3 mg.
- Men over the age of 51 should be taking 1.7 mg supplements.
- Women over the age of 51 should be taking 1.5 mg.
Most supplements in retail form have dosages much higher than what is recommended. In fact, many of the supplements that contain vitamin B6 have around 100 mg per dose.
The potential side effects.
While taking too much vitamin B6 has not been shown to be detrimental, much of the dosage in these retail supplements may be going to waste (the body may not be utilizing them effectively or efficiently).
However, there are some potential side effects, though they are extremely rare. Consuming too much vitamin B6 can cause some damage to nerves and even lead to gastric distress and nausea.
It may also increase the risk of headaches and cause difficulty sleeping.
The overall take.
At the end of the day, the majority of people around the world have at least some level of vitamin B6 deficiency. It’s quite common and it does seem to lead to reduced mental function.
There has been plenty of research to support the notion that boosting vitamin B6 levels with supplementation can correct this deficiency. However, it’s important to temper one’s enthusiasm for boosting cognitive function with the fact that B6 is not going to do that on its own. It should be thought of as a maintenance nootropic that may have some positive mood benefits.
Focus on P-5-P as this is a superior form of vitamin B6.
That means you want to focus on the active form, and while the Mayo Clinic recommends 20 mg of B6 for gaining some cognitive benefits, relying on the P-5-P form means you should use a 15 mg dose.