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Vitamin B6

Of all the Vitamins, Vitamin B6 is the most important for the development and maintainance of a healthy immune system, and consequently protects against cancer as well as infection. Many women use Vitamin B6 for the relief of PMS/PMT and menopausal symptoms, with some success and it plays a critical role in fertility.  In addition, Vitamin B6 is intricately involved in the function of many enzymes and in protein metabolism and formation. 

Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin, containing pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine.

Functions of Vitamin B6 in the body

One of the key functions of Vitamin B6 is in the manufacture of proteins, neurotransmitters (chemicals involved in healthy brain function), hemoglobin (in red blood cells), prostaglandins and other structural and functional chemicals.  In addition to this, Vitamin B6 plays a critical role in hormonal balance and fertility as well as having key functions in the immune system that protects us from infection.

as a key component of the coenzymes pyridoxamine phosphate and pyridoxal phosphate, Vitamin B6 has an impotant role in the metabolism of both fats and proteins and contributes to over 60 other enzymes important to health.

Functions of Vitamin B6
Production of healthy red blood cells
Critical for a healthy immune system
Essential for protein and fat metabolism
May alleviate symptoms of PMS / PMT
Required for normal nervous system function
Helps prevent osteoporosis
Essential for proper cell division and multiplication
Involved in over 60 enzymes
Reduces stress-related problems
Can help prevent cancer

Vitamin B6 deficiency

As excess Vitamin B6 is excreted in about 8 hours, mild deficiencies are common.  Excretion can be increased by alcohol, smoking and certain drugs, including diuretics.

Vitamin B6 deficiency may result in poor immune function, hormone imbalances and a variety of other problems.  Lack of Vitamin B6 will also reduce Vitamin B12 absorption and utilization, and may contribute to B12 deficiency.

Signs of Vitamin B6 deficiency

  • Skin problems, especially dry skin, rashes and oily, scaly skin around scalp, eyebrows and behind ears
  • PMS/PMT, morning sickness
  • Fluid retention
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Muscle spasms
  • Sleeplessness

Association with other minerals and vitamins

As suggested above, Vitamin B6 is require for the proper absorption of B12 and many people believe that the B Vitamins should always be taken together, for example as a multivitamin and mineral supplement, as they are often found together naturally in whole foods. 

Vitamin B6 is also important for the absorption of zinc and is integral to the transfer of selenium in the body

Factors which reduce Vitamin B6 absorption

  • Exposure of Vitamin B6 containing foods to ultraviolet light
  • Cooking (may leach out into cooking water)
  • Exposure to alkaline pH
  • Food processing destroys up to 90% of Vitamin B6 content in food

Factors which increase Vitamin B6 excretion

  • Smoking
  • Excess alcohol
  • Excessive tea / coffee / caffeinated drinks consumption
  • Use of hormonal contraception / HRT
  • Use of drugs such as diuretics, dopamine, penicillamine, hydralazine, isoniazid and hydrazine dyes (especially the food colourant tartrazine)
  • Excessive protein consumption

Normal amounts of Vitamin B6 in the diet

Age mg/day
Children (0-1 years) 0.2 - 0.6
Children (1-15 years) 1 - 1.5
15yrs+ (inc adults) 2.0
Lactation + Pregnancy 2.1 - 2.2

People who have a high protein diet (more than 15% of calories from protein) will have an increased requirement for Vitamin B6, although several meats contain generous amounts of Vitamin B6.

Sources of dietary Vitamin B6

Dietary sources of Vitamin B6 (mg / 100g)
Sunflower seeds 1.25 Bananas 0.51
Wheat germ 0.95 Avocado 0.42
Dry Soybeans 0.81 Kale, Rye flour 0.3
Walnuts 0.73 Chicken, white fish 0.29
Soybean flour 0.63 Burssels sprouts, spinach 0.28
Dry Lentils 0.6 Beef 0.27
Dry Lima Beans, Buckwheat flour 0.58 Potatoes 0.25
Dry Blackeye peas 0.56 prunes 0.24
Brown rice 0.55 Sweet potatoes 0.22
Hazelnuts, chickpeas 0.54 Wholemeal bread, baked beans 0.12

Vitamin B6 supplements

As with the other B-vitamins, Vitamin B6 should be taken as part of a b-complex, or idealy as a complete multi-vitamin and mineral supplement.

People requiring additional Vitamin B6.

  • Smokers
  • Alcoholics (absorption may be reduced due to liver disease)
  • Women who use hormonal contraceptives / HRT
  • Pregnant / lactating women (read labels first as some Vitamin B6 supplements are contraindicated during pregnancy).

Vitamin B6 supplements

Vitamin B6 is normally taken as aither a B-complex or multivitamin and mineral supplement, but can also be taken as an individual supplement.

The most common forms of vitamin B6 are as pyridoxine hydrochloride or pyridoxal-5-phosphate, which is slightly better absorbed.

High doses of Vitamin B6 can have negative effects, and can lead to imbalances in the other B-vitamins.

Back from vitamin B6 to nutritional supplements

Further reading

Tranforming your health in 90 days or less

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Plant extracts
Trace elements

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