B6
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Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is a vitamin that is naturally present in many foods. The body needs vitamin B6 for more than 100 enzyme reactions involved in metabolism. Vitamin B6 is also involved in brain development during pregnancy and infancy as well as immune function.

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› Health benefits

Scientists are studying vitamin B6 to understand how it affects health. Here are some examples of what this research has shown.

Cardiovascular disease
Some scientists had thought that certain B vitamins (such as folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6) might reduce cardiovascular disease risk by lowering levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood. Although vitamin B supplements do lower blood homocysteine, research shows that they do not actually reduce the risk or severity of heart disease or stroke.

Cognitive Function
Some research indicates that elderly people who have higher blood levels of vitamin B6 have better memory. However, taking vitamin B6 supplements (alone or combined with vitamin B12 and/or folic acid) does not seem to improve cognitive function or mood in healthy people or in people with dementia.

Premenstrual Syndrome
Scientists aren’t yet certain about the potential benefits of taking vitamin B6 for premenstrual syndrome (PMS). But some studies show that vitamin B6 supplements could reduce PMS symptoms, including moodiness, irritability, forgetfulness, bloating and anxiety.

Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy
At least half of all women experience nausea, vomiting, or both in the first few months of pregnancy. Based on the results of several studies, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends taking vitamin B6 supplements under a doctor’s care for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy

› How much do I need

The daily amount of vitamin B6 depends on age and gender. For women, it increases during pregnancy and when lactating. Adults age 19-50: 1.3 milligrams daily; men 51-plus: 1.7 milligrams, women 51-plus: 1.5 milligrams. Pregnant women: 1.9 milligrams; breastfeeding women: 2.0 milligrams.

Most people in the United States get enough vitamin B6 from the foods they eat. However, certain groups of people are more likely than others to have trouble getting enough vitamin B6:
• People whose kidneys do not work properly, including people who are on kidney dialysis and those who have had a kidney transplant.
• People with autoimmune disorders, which cause their immune system to mistakenly attack their own healthy tissues. For example, people with rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or inflammatory bowel disease sometimes have low vitamin B6 levels.
• People with alcohol dependence.

Vitamin B6 deficiency is uncommon in the United States. People who don’t get enough vitamin B6 can have a range of symptoms, including anemia, itchy rashes, scaly skin on the lips, cracks at the corners of the mouth, and a swollen tongue. Other symptoms of very low vitamin B6 levels include depression, confusion and a weak immune system. Infants who do not get enough vitamin B6 can become irritable or develop extremely sensitive hearing or seizures.

› In food

Vitamin B6 is found naturally in many foods and is added to other foods. You can get recommended amounts of vitamin B6 by eating a variety of foods, including poultry, fish, and organ meats; potatoes and other starchy vegetables; and fruit (other than citrus).

› Dietary supplements

Vitamin B6 is available in tablets and capsules, usually in the form of pyridoxine. Most multivitamin-mineral supplements contain vitamin B6.

Source: National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements
Please consult your health care provider before making changes to your vitamin/supplement regimen.

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