Without vitamin B6, enzymes don't work as well.

Vitamin-B6 is the water-soluble B vitamin associated with the immune system, metabolism, electrolyte balance, and digestion. One way to remember this vitamin is to think of it as a helper vitamin. It helps metabolic processes through its connection to enzymatic activity. Without vitamin B6, enzymes don't work as well.

The immune system requires vitamin B6 for the production of antibodies. Without it, bacterial infections can run rampant.

Vitamin B6 is found in foods and in the body in these compounds: pyridoxine, pyridoxal, pyridoxal-5-phosphate (metabolically active form), pyridoxamine, 4-pyridoxic acid, and pyridoxamine-5-phosphate. Many vitamins have more than one compound associated with them, and each form will activate certain pathways in the body. Sometimes one vitamin compound will be a precursor to another compound. For this article, we will use the terms interchangeably.

Vitamin B6 is especially important for the breakdown and utilization of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It acts as a coenzyme needed in these metabolic processes. Glycogen cannot release energy by the liver and muscles unless vitamin B6 is present. Similarly, when blood sugar levels are low, new glucose cannot be created without vitamin B6.

The essential fat linoleic acid functions better in the body with this vitamin. Vitamin B6. Recently, it was discovered that vitamin B6 is an essential component of enzymes that make fats called sphingolipids (ceramide) in the brain. Neurotransmitters such as GABA, serotonin, epinephrine, and norepinephrine depend on the availability of vitamin B6 to be synthesized.

Vitamin B6 helps convert the amino acid tryptophan to niacin so that DNA and RNA can be synthesized. It also converts the amino acid methionine to cysteine, and the amino acid histidine to histamine. Vitamin B6 is essential for the metabolism of selenium compounds in the body, which is a major detoxifier. The vitamin is also important for the conversion of precursor compounds to dopamine in the brain. There is also evidence that cholesterol metabolism pathways in the body require vitamin B6, and many with heart disease supplement with this vitamin.

Pyridoxine helps in electrolyte balance which is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system and the muscles. Red blood cells also need this water-soluble vitamin.

Even digestion needs pyridoxine. Without it, the stomach cannot make hydrochloric acid to digest food.

Morning sickness or hangovers may be decreased by the ingestion of vitamin B6 supplements.

Vitamin B6 Deficiency Symptoms

Deficiency of vitamin B6 can result in low blood sugar, carbohydrate sensitivity, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, loss of hair, numbness and cramps in arms and legs, slow learning, visual disturbances, increase in urination, cracks around the corners of the mouth and eyes. Also nervousness, depression, irritability, dermatitis, muscle weakness and tingling hands are also deficiency symptoms. eyes, arthritis, slow learning and stillbirths.

How Much Vitamin B6 Is Needed?

Adults need from 1.0 to 1.7 mg vitamin B6 per day. During pregnancy the amount needed rises to 1.9 and during breastfeeding, rises further to 2.0 mg.

Those who use oral contraceptives, on fasts or weight loss diets have experienced cardiac failure or are showing signs of aging may need more than the recommended amount. However, increasing the amount of vitamin B6 without increasing the amount of other B vitamins in the proper ratio will result in other deficiencies.

Food Sources of Vitamin B6

Supplements may increase the ability to remember dreams or how vivid the dreams are experienced. This may be due to the increased production of serotonin from having more vitamin B6 in the system.

A person could never overdose from vitamin B6 found in foods. However, there have been some instances where supplementation has resulted in sensory neuropathy, tingling of the arms and feet. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine does not recommend amounts that exceed 100 mg vitamin B6 per day.

1. Bowman, B.A., Russell, R. M. Present Knowledge in Nutrition. 9th Edition. Washington, DC: ILSI Press; 2006.
2. Dunne, Lavon. Nutrition Almanac, 2002.
3. Wikipedia, the online dictionary