Stress is associated with a host of physical and psychological health problems such as headache, fatigue, tension, insomnia, sore throat, constipation, flu-like symptoms, depression, and anxiety. Stress is not all in your mind. It is a physiological condition that affects the whole body and increases your need for specific nutrients. Earlier studies carried out with humans and animals have shown that supplements of magnesium and vitamin B6 both have the potential to reduce stress symptoms. Now, a team of French scientists has carried out a randomized study showing for the first time ever that a combination of magnesium and vitamin B6 administered to people with severe stress and magnesium deficiency works better than magnesium supplementation alone.
Magnesium is the second-most prevalent mineral inside our cells, and it is only surpassed by potassium. Magnesium has a key role in a variety of enzyme functions and more than 600 biochemical reactions. It is commonly known that stress affects the magnesium concentration inside and outside the cells. Adrenalin and corticosteroids such as cortisol that are excreted in connection with stress cause the cells to consume more magnesium, and they also the increase excretion of magnesium by way of the urinary tract. On the other hand, low magnesium levels increase the body’s excretion of stress hormones. This affects the brain and creates a vicious cycle with even more magnesium deficiency and a lower stress threshold.
|Many people succumb to stress, which is part of our modern lifestyle. Psychotherapy is not enough if you lack essential nutrients at the same time.|
Supplementing with magnesium improves stress and insomnia
The link between stress and low serum levels of magnesium was shown in an earlier study of otherwise healthy women, who reported to be stressed. Other studies have shown that magnesium has a positive effect on stress symptoms such as insomnia and various biomarkers of stress. Here, the participants received 500 mg of magnesium daily for a period of eight weeks. This amount is a lot higher than the reference intake (RI) level.
Vitamin B6 and magnesium work in synergy against stress
Vitamin B6 is involved in over 100 enzyme processes that are particularly relevant for the body’s energy turnover. Vitamin B6 supports the synthesis of neurotransmitters that are important for cognitive functions and our mental balance. Vitamin B6 can also lower blood pressure and reduce the excretion of corticosteroids, thereby limiting the body’s reaction to stress. High-dosed supplementation with vitamin B6 has also proven to be useful as anti-stress therapy in a number of studies, where daily doses of 100-300 mg have been administered. This is far more than the reference intake (RI) level of 1.4 mg, and there are no side effects.
In animal studies, large quantities of vitamin B6 have been shown to improve magnesium concentrations in different tissues, thereby helping to prevent stress-induced stomach ulcers. It is assumed that vitamin B6 stimulates the cellular magnesium uptake, which can both enhance the efficacy of magnesium and lower magnesium excretion in serum.
We still need clinical studies to show how the combination of magnesium and vitamin B6 affects stressed individuals.
The new French study
The new French study includes 268 healthy people aged 18-50 years, all of whom lacked magnesium and suffered from moderate to severe stress, depression, and anxiety as assessed by the DASS-42 scale (Depression Anxiety Stress Scales-42). Half of the participants got 300 mg of magnesium daily, while the other half got the same amount of magnesium combined with 30 mg of vitamin B6. The magnesium-vitamin B6 ratio was 10:1, as it is believed that this ratio helps in the prevention and treatment of magnesium deficiency and related symptoms such as fatigue, mild anxiety, and nervousness.
The participants took the different supplements together with their three main meals of the day in order to get the best utilization of the nutrient. The study lasted for a period of eight weeks. During this period, levels of magnesium in the red blood cells were measured, as the intra-cellular concentration of the nutrient provides a more reliable picture of the body’s magnesium status. The participants were also assessed in accordance with the DASS-42 stress scale after four and eight weeks.
The combination of magnesium and vitamin B6 is especially relevant for severe stress
The study demonstrated that the participants in either group, who suffered from moderate stress, improved rapidly by around 30% on the DASS-42 scale after four weeks and by 40% after eight weeks, which is a sign of reduced stress. In other words, it did not make much of a difference if the participants with moderate stress took magnesium alone or in combination with vitamin B6.
On the other hand, combining magnesium with vitamin B6 made a significant positive difference for those participants, who suffered from severe stress, as their score improved by 50% after eight weeks.
According to the scientists, the study suggests that magnesium is relevant for all people affected by stress, who are magnesium-deficient. However, it is advisable to include vitamin B6 in order to increase the absorption and utilization of magnesium in the cells, especially if you suffer from severe stress or want to avoid it. The scientists call for placebo-controlled studies carried out on larger populations. Their work is published in PLoS One.
Magnesium sources, deficiency, and supplementation
We get magnesium from kernels, almonds, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grain, avocado, cabbage and other vegetables, seaweed, and dark chocolate. Lack of magnesium may be a result of unhealthy diets, stress, large consumption of alcohol and other stimulants, too much calcium from dairy products, chronic diarrhea, and being deficient of vitamin B6, which impairs cellular magnesium uptake.
Beware of the large difference in quality and absorption from one magnesium brand to another.
Magnesium oxide, which is found in a number of supplements, and Magnesia that is used to treat constipation, are not absorbed very well and only work locally in the intestine.
On the other hand, magnesium carbonate, magnesium acetate, and magnesium citrate are highly assimilable magnesium sources. You can easily test this by dropping a magnesium tablet in a glass of water and watching it dissolve. If the tablet dissolves fast (within less than a minute), you have more of a guarantee that the magnesium content will be absorbed in the small intestine.
Vitamin B6, sources, and supplementation
Good sources of vitamin B6 are liver, meat, fish, eggs, whole grain, and legumes. Make sure not to overcook your food, as heat tends to destroy the vitamin. Vegetarians and vegans should pay careful attention so they are sure to get enough vitamin B6. Stress, birth control pills, and alcohol abuse may increase your need for the nutrient. The same is the case with antibiotics and many other types of medicine. You can find strong vitamin B6 supplements on the market and combine them with magnesium.
Etienne Pouteau et al. Superiority of magnesium and vitamin B6 over magnesium alone on severe stress in healthy adults with low magnesia; A randomized, single-blind clinical trial. PLosOne 2018
Anprisninger af vitaminer og mineraler. Miljø- og Fødevareministeriet.
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