Nutrition Notes

Connection Between Magnesium and Vitamin B6 to Support a Normal Stress Response

Nutritional status and other lifestyle factors may influence the body’s response to psychological stress. The brain is the most metabolically active area of the body and can be vulnerable to disruptions in cellular energy production and certain nutritional imbalances. Some vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and vitamin B6 have been shown to exhibit synergistic activities to help maintain optimal cognitive functioning. Recent research has associated the dietary intake of B vitamin-rich foods such as grains, meat, dairy, and certain fruits and vegetables with lowered risk of certain mood-related changes. In addition, evidence suggests there may also be a potential link between magnesium, vitamin B6 status, and a normal stress response

Population studies have associated the dietary intake of vitamin B6 with lower incidences of depressed moods and psychological stress. Vitamin B6 transforms in the body into an active coenzyme pyridoxal 5-phosphate (P5P). P5P is an essential molecule required to produce the neurotransmitters gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and serotonin, and for the conversion of serotonin to melatonin. Impairments in GABA metabolism have been associated with the incidence of certain mood disorders including anxiety and depression. GABA may also help modulate certain neural signals involving sleep, cognition, and mood

In addition to its role in neurotransmitter synthesis, vitamin B6 may help support neural health through its ability to facilitate the cellular uptake of magnesium. Research suggests that optimal nervous system function is dependent on magnesium. Magnesium is a critical cofactor for cellular energy production and the citric acid cycle; most cellular adenosine triphosphate (ATP) exists as magnesium-ATP complexes. Magnesium helps conduct active transport between calcium and potassium and is fundamental to nerve transmission signaling and neuromuscular coordination. It also helps support the protection against excessive neuronal excitation. Insufficient magnesium levels have been connected to neuronal cell death and increases in oxidative stress.

An eight-week, randomized controlled clinical trial (n=264) assessed the difference between supplementation with magnesium alone or with a combination of magnesium and vitamin B6 on stress levels in individuals who experience moderate to extremely severe stress. The daily intake was approximately 300 mg of elemental magnesium and 30 mg of vitamin B6. Stress levels were measured at baseline, week four, and week eight. Both treatment arms reported an improvement after 8 weeks, with the magnesium/B6 combination reporting greater improvements. More research is needed, however, before clinical conclusions can be made; in particular, studies are needed in individuals with lowered magnesium status and with larger populations. 

While more studies need to be conducted, evidence suggests that magnesium and vitamin B6 may help support the body’s response to psychological stress. These micronutrients may also help promote healthy cellular metabolism, cognitive function, and optimal mood health. 

By Dr. C. Ambrose, ND, MAT