This is another of the eight vitamins that make up the vitamin B-complex group. Technically, it is also called pyridoxine. The truth however, is that pyridoxine is just one of the six compounds that exhibit vitamin B6 properties. The vitamin is found in many foods.
What are the functions of vitamin B6 in the body?
One of the functions is that it acts as a coenzyme where it supports over a hundred enzymatic reactions. Some of these include:
- Metabolism of proteins
- Metabolism of amino acid
- Metabolism of fats
- Metabolism of carbohydrates
- Synthesis of neurotransmitters
- Controls levels of homocysteine. This is amino acid that increases the risk of heart disease when too high in the body.
- Supports the production of lymphocytes
- Promotes the formation of hemoglobin
- Helps in the absorption of vitamin B12
Symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency
This deficiency is not very common. However, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center there are many people with mild deficiencies. While this may not cause overt symptoms, they may lead to persistent feeling of not being in your optimal health. One study published in the The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that the current recommended daily allowance (RDA) may not be meeting the actual requirements of vitamin B6 for various groups of people. Low B6 levels usually affect the amounts of other vitamins in the B group. This is especially the case with folic acid (vitamin B9) and vitamin B12. Some of these symptoms include:
- Recall problems
- Poor focus and concentration
- General muscle weakness
- Anemia (microcytic in type)
- Skin problems
- Peeling and cracking lips
- Swollen and inflamed tongue
- Susceptibility to infections due to reduced immunity
- Seizures may occur mostly in children
Who is at a risk of vitamin B6 deficiency?
- People suffering from any type or stage of kidney disease. According to a study published in the Annual Review of Nutrition of 1987 showed that patients suffering from renal disease usually present with symptoms similar to those of vitamin B6 deficiency.
- Malabsorption disorders. This include inflammatory bowel diseases such as celiac disease, ulcerative colitis and Chron’s disease
- Genetic abnormality in the management of homocysteine in the body where there is excess loss of this amino acid in the urine.
- Certain medications used in the treatment of convulsive disorders
- People suffering from autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Alcoholics. Although many alcoholics don’t feed very well, the alcohol they take also lead to the production of a substance called acetaldehyde which interferes with the functions of pyridoxine.
- The elderly
- Severe and prolonged malnutrition
Sources of vitamin B6
It is available in many foods of both plant and animal origin. Nutritional supplements are also available where the vitamin is usually one of the ingredients in a multivitamin or a vitamin-mineral supplement. It is also available as a vitamin B6 standalone supplement. Plant-based sources include:
- Whole grain flour
- Wheat germ
- Brown rice
- Boiled potatoes
How vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) supports your health
There are many benefits associated with vitamin B6. A few are discussed below.
- Supports cardiovascular health
It is not well-understood how this vitamin improves heart health. However, it is known that it lowers the levels of homocysteine. High levels of this amino acid are associate with a higher chance of developing heart disease.
- Reduces inflammation due to rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis as a chronic inflammatory condition lowers the levels of pyridoxine. Enhancing the intake of the vitamin may help to reduce the pain of RA
- Supports normal glucose metabolism in the body
This has been observed in abnormal glucose metabolism in pregnant mothers and women on the oral contraceptive pill. A deficiency in vitamin B6 has been shown to increase insulin resistance in these groups of women. This increases their chances of diabetes. With vitamin B5 supplementation, insulin functions improve.
- Lowers the risk of cancer
In a study published in the JAMA of March 2010, it was found that people in the study group who took the highest amount of vitamin B6 had a 20% lower risk of getting colorectal cancer.
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Many women go through a harrowing experience each month due to symptoms associated with their menstrual cycle. These include painful breasts, fatigue, mood changes and many others. A number of studies have suggested that vitamin B6 supplements can help such women reduce this problem.
- It helps women reduce symptoms of morning sickness
Depending on the severity, these symptoms can lead to serious health effects to the pregnant mother. When part of this so-called morning sickness (can last throughout the day) involves severe vomiting, hospitalization may be needed to correct hydration status and body salts (electrolytes) balance. Using vitamin B6 supplements may help to avoid such a situation.
- Helps in the management of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
This condition that affects the sensation in the hand can arise from factors that may lead to compression of the median nerve. Some patients have improved by using pyridoxine for a number of months. For such prolonged and therapeutic doses, a physician’s guideline is important.
Other benefits of vitamin B5
- Counteracts side effects of certain medication used in psychoses
- Supports serotonin production (reduces depression)
- Helps athletes and other sports people cope better
- Helps some autistic patients
- Helps in some serious forms of seizures.
- Supports a healthy pregnancy
Safety of vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 from the diet and common doses in supplements has no adverse effects. Daily extremely high doses for prolonged periods results in sensation and coordination disorders. It is safe in pregnancy when used in doses not exceeding 200mg a day. Even at higher doses this study did not find an increased risk of fetal deformities.
Vitamin B6 can interact with some medicines. If you are on any long-term medications, consult your doctor if you are considering using the vitamin’s supplements.
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