Amazing Facts About Vitamin B6

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Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine, is a water-soluble compound of three vitamers; pyridoxine, pyridoxal, pyridoxamine. This vitamin is a key component in approximately 60 types of proteins in our body. Without Vitamin B6, these proteins won’t be able to metabolize fat, repair and create new cells, make hemoglobin that transports oxygen throughout our bodies, maintain our nervous system, and keep our blood sugar levels in check. Vitamin B6 also enables us to break down proteins in our diet for muscle growth and repair, as well as contribute to antibodies that help our body fight infection.

Vitamin B6 also plays a role in the hormonal regulation of serotonin and norepinephrine. [1] These hormones, in relation to Vitamin B6, play significant roles in our mood stabilization and ability to think. Deficiency in Vitamin B6 have long been linked to neuropsychiatric conditions such as migraine, seizures, chronic pain, and depression.

Perhaps the most intriguing function of Vitamin B6 is its role in breaking down and reducing homocysteine; a sulfuric compound linked to cognitive impairment. Homocysteine is a product of amino acid metabolism, and elevated levels of this compound are linked with autism, as well as the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia among the elderly. Studies have shown that vitamin B6, along with vitamins B9 and B12, lower the body’s levels of homocysteine, thereby reducing the risk for these conditions. [2]

Homocysteine levels and low vitamin B complex intake are also linked with heart disease prevalence, but studies are still in development for the exact link between Vitamin B6 and coronary heart disease. [3] However, the study showed promise that vitamin B6 alone can protect the heart from this condition, without the need for the other B vitamins. Another study in development shows that Vitamin B6 may also be related to decreased incidence of colorectal cancer; the third most common type of cancer affecting men and women all over the world. [4]

Getting Enough Vitamin B6

Teenagers and young adults only need 1.9 milligrams per day to reach the recommended daily allowance, according to the Food and Nutrition Board. Some who have metabolic deficiencies or an increased demand may need supplementation because the amounts of Vitamin B6 in fruits, vegetables and grains are reduced significantly once digested. The elderly, take, for instance, need Vitamin B6 supplementation because of their tendency for malabsorption. People who drink alcohol are also at risk for pyridoxine deficiency since alcohol inhibits vitamin B6 metabolism in the liver.

Individuals who take tuberculosis medication may also need supplementary Vitamin B6 to prevent nerve damage. Peripheral neuropathy is a side effect of taking isoniazid; the first line medication prescribed to patients with tuberculosis. [6] Those who are undergoing chemotherapy or antibiotic treatment, as well as people taking antidepressants may also need adjustments in their Vitamin B6 intake.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also ask their obstetrician if they need Vitamin B6 supplements. Although its effect of reducing morning sickness in pregnant women are still being researched, getting enough Vitamin B6 had a positive effect on maintaining normal birth weight. [7]

Foods highest in Vitamin B6 content are sunflower seeds, pistachio nuts, tuna, turkey and chicken. Bananas, avocados, and spinach also have high amounts of Vitamin B6 per 100 grams.


[1] The effects of Vitamin B6 on Cognition. National Center for Biotechnology Information.

[2] Micronutrients and Cognitive Function. Oregon State University: Linus Paulings Institute.

[3] Prospective Study of Coronary Heart Disease Incidence in Relation to Fasting Total Homocysteine, Related Genetic Polymorphisms, and B Vitamins. American Heart Association.

[4] Vitamin B6 and colorectal cancer: Current evidence and future directions. World Journal of Gastroenterology.

[5] Vitamin B6 Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Health.

[6] Pyridoxine supplementation during isoniazid therapy. US National Library of Medicine.

[7] Interventions with Vitamins B6, B12 and C in Pregnancy. National Library of Medicine.

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