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Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine is a water-soluble substance that belongs to the B group vitamins.
Vitamin B6 is involved in the metabolism of fats and amino acids in the body. Amino acids have many uses in the body, including the production of proteins as well as the creation of special chemicals called neurotransmitters, which enable the nerves in the brain to communicate with one another. Vitamin B6 is essential for the creation of haemoglobin, the substance inside red blood cells that transports oxygen around the body. Vitamin B6 is required for normal brain function and for the production of antibodies to help fight infection.
About 80% of the Vitamin B6 in the body is located inside the skeletal muscles, where it helps to break down glycogen into glucose (glycogen is a substance made up of long chains of glucose, which the muscles break down and use for energy).
Vitamin B6 may also help to control the effects of a class of hormones called steroid hormones e.g. oestrogen and testosterone. Certain genetic diseases can affect a person's ability to use Vitamin B6, causing a condition called Vitamin B6 dependency, where large amounts of this nutrient are required to prevent deficiency. Large doses of Vitamin B6 (2 to 6 g per day for at least 2 months) can cause extensive damage to the nerves, which results in impaired sensations in the arms and legs.
Always consult your Health Professional to advise you on dosages and any possible medical interactions. Large doses of Vitamin B6 are taken by people with Vitamin B6 dependency diseases, which are genetic conditions that affect a person's ability to use this nutrient in the body.
Vitamin B6 deficiency can be caused by certain medications, so people taking these medications may be advised by their Doctor to take Vitamin B6 supplements. Certain rare forms of anaemia may be improved by Vitamin B6 supplementation. Vitamin B6, in conjunction with vitamin B12 and folate, may help to reduce the risks of heart disease.
Vitamin B6 deficiency causes changes in the electrical activity in the brain, as well as dermatitis, seizures, anaemia, damage to the nerves that supply sensation to the arms and legs (peripheral neuropathy), redness at the corners of the mouth, known as angular stomatitis, inflammation of the tongue, and inflammation and cracking of the lips. Low levels of Vitamin B6 and folate may cause an increase in the level of a substance called homocysteine in the body. A high homocysteine level is thought to predispose people to heart attack and cardiovascular diseases.
Foods rich in Vitamin B6 include white meat (poultry and fish), bananas, liver, whole-grain breads and cereals, soybeans and vegetables. Vitamin B6 is sensitive to ultraviolet light and heat, so large amounts of this nutrient are lost during the cooking process.
The recommended dietary intake (RDI) for Vitamin B6 is 1.3 to 1.9 mg per day for adult males and 0.9 to 1.4 mg per day for adult females, although women that are pregnant require an additional 0.1 mg per day and those that are lactating require and additional 0.7-0.8 mg daily.