The vitamins information pages - Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
Description Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin, also referred to as pyridoxine. It was first isolated in the 1930's. It contains six separate forms, of which one is a coenzyme that plays an important role in human metabolism. Humans must obtain the vitamin from their diets, because it is not synthesized in our body.
Functions of vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 produces haemin, a component of haemoglobin. This substance gives red blood cells the ability to transport oxygen throughout the human body. Vitamin B6 regulates metabolism, digestion and fluid balance. Neurotransmitters in the nervous system are synthesized using vitamin B6 enzymes. Deficiency may cause nervousness, irritation, confusion, facial skin flakes, tongue inflammation and mouth ulcers. Elderly people may experience bad functioning of the immune system when B6 intake is too low.
Vitamin B6 in food
Vitamin B6 can be found in breakfast cereals (muesli, bran flakes and porridge oats), brown rice, brown bread, wheat germ, yeast, nuts, seeds, lentils, potatoes, baked beans, soy beans, bananas, white fish and meat.
Vitamin B6 as a supplement
Vitamin B6 is recommended to those that suffer from cardiovascular disease, morning sickness, insomnia, anxiety and small depressions, and Post Menstrual Syndrome (PMS). Supplemental intake of the vitamin decreases the risk of development of kidney stones for women. It has been suggested that vitamin B6 may assist in curing carpal tunnel syndrome, but so far no evidence was found to support this claim.
Contraception pills may lead to decreases in vitamin B6 levels. Pregnant women are therefore recommended to take additional vitamin B6. Anti-tuberculosis medication such as isoniazid and cycloserine and anti-Parkinson drugs form complexes with vitamin B6, creating a functional deficiency. Vitamin B2 and magnesium may be taken additionally, because these enhance vitamin B6 adsorption. Vitamin B6 plays a vital role in the synthesis of niacin (vitamin B3) from tryptophan. The replacement of oestrogen and other hormones on steroid receptors by vitamin B6 coenzymes suggests, that this vitamin may play a role in the prevention of steroid hormonal diseases, such as breast and prostate cancer. Vitamin B6, B12 and folate regulate blood homocystene levels. High levels of this substance may cause cardiovascular disease.
Cooking causes a loss in vitamin B6 in most food stuffs. Vitamin B6 medication is not suitable for children below the age of 12. When high doses of this vitamin cause symptoms, discontinuation is recommended.
Descriptions of vitamins on this website are based on information provided by BBC Health and The Linus Pauling Institute.