When it comes to nutrients that deliver effects, you’ll notice B vitamins rank near the top of the list. Already well known to boost energy, positive mood, metabolism, and mental focus, B vitamins directly affect the way the mind deals with stress. And that is because of their interaction with the adrenal glands and cortisol levels.
For example, B-vitamin supplementation may help the adrenal glands regulate the cortisol awakening response (CAR). This initial release of cortisol in the morning, a boost of about 50 to 70 percent, typically happens in the first 30 minutes after waking up. And that’s okay – you want to feel a burst of energy in the morning. However, if your adrenal glands are chronically overstimulated and this normal action is thrown off balance and kicks in during the afternoon or before you go to bed, you can suffer from sleep disorders, low energy, and be vulnerable to other illnesses.
The three B vitamins most responsible for keeping cortisol release on track are B6, B12, and folate, also known as vitamin B9. Clinical work shows that supplementing with B vitamins reduces stress. Studies have found that high doses of B vitamins and combinations including B vitamins help those in chronically stressful work environments, or who just have a hectic and stressful life in general.
Camfield DA, Wetherell MA, Scholey AB, Cox KH, Fogg E, White DJ, Sarris J, Kras M, Stough C, Sali A, Pipingas A. The effects of multivitamin supplementation on diurnal cortisol secretion and perceived stress. Nutrients. 2013 Nov 11;5(11):4429-50. doi: 10.3390/nu5114429. PMID: 24284609; PMCID: PMC3847740.
Recent evidence suggests that dietary intake of vitamins, in particular the B-vitamins including B6, B9 and B12 may have a number of positive effects on mood and stress. Given the effects of stress on a range of biological mechanisms including the endocrine system, it could be reasonably expected that multivitamin supplementation may also affect markers of these mechanisms such as diurnal cortisol secretion. In the current double-blind placebo-controlled study 138 adults (aged 20 to 50 years) were administered a multivitamin containing B-vitamins versus placebo over a 16-week period. Salivary cortisol measurements were taken at waking, 15-min, 30-min and at bedtime, at baseline, 8-weeks and 16-weeks. Perceived Stress (PSS) was measured at baseline, 8-weeks and 16-weeks, while blood serum measures of B6, B12 and homocysteine (HCy) as well as red cell folate (B9) were also collected at these time points. A significant interaction was found between treatment group and study visit for the Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR). Compared to placebo, at 16-weeks multivitamin supplementation was found to be associated with a near-significant trend towards an increased CAR. No significant differences in PSS were found between groups, with PSS increasing in both groups across the course of the study. Red cell folate was found to be significantly correlated with the CAR response at 16-weeks while HCy levels were not found to be associated with the CAR response, although HCy significantly correlated with waking cortisol levels at 8-weeks. A possible interpretation of the elevation in CAR associated with multivitamin supplementation is that this represents an adaptive response to everyday demands in healthy participants.
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