B6 – PYRIDOXINE
The superstar of the B group, this nutrient supports more functions than any of the other vitamins. Not only does it enable our bodies to metabolize amino acids – which are the building blocks of cells, muscle and tissue – without pyridoxine various chemicals we need wouldn’t be produced either. Among these are the feel-good chemical serotonin and norepinephrine, which both balance out mood, dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centres, and adrenaline, a hormone released from the adrenal glands that prepares the body for fight or flight.
Also, when it’s taken together with vitamins B9 and B12, pyridoxine helps reduce the levels of another amino acid called homocysteine in the blood, which is increasingly being recognised as a risk factor for disease and is seen as a predictor of potential health problems such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and stroke.
WHAT DOES IT DO?
Pyridoxine helps red blood cells form and regenerate. It also helps our bodies make DNA and RNA molecules which are the bodies ‘coders’. Some research also shows it may help combat male infertility, pernicious anemia (where your immune system attacks healthy cells in your stomach hindering the production of healthy red blood cells) osteoarthritis, bursitis, and chronic fatigue syndrome, among several other conditions.
On the neurological side, it’s been shown to improve memory, prevent depression and tackle sleep disorders. The benefits may include positive effects on conditions such as chronic pain, seizures, chronic pain, and Parkinson’s disease too. Researchers think this might be linked to the fact that the nutrient plays a vital role in the production of serotonin and dopamine, which are needed for nerve communication.
People who don’t get enough vitamin B6 may have an increased risk of heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. In one large-scale study in Japan, researchers discovered that those who consumed a lot of foods containing both vitamin B6 and B12 had a reduced chance of suffering heart failure and stroke. In a Duke University Medical Centre review of studies on nutritional supplements, researchers found that vitamin B6 could be effective in reducing the risk of macular degeneration (a cause of blindness) as well.
WHERE IS IT FOUND?
Vitamin B6 is found in a wide variety of foods such as pork, poultry, fish, bread, oatmeal, wheat germ and rice. Nuts and seeds are excellent providers too. Sunflower seeds come high on the list with 1.35mg per 100g. Sesame seeds, flaxseeds and pumpkin and squash seeds are also rich in pyridoxine as are pistachio nuts which contain 1.12mg per 100g. Cooked tuna has 1.04mg per 100g and turkey and chicken contain around 0.81mg per 100g. Other good B6 foods are eggs, soya beans, potatoes and peanuts
It is important to get enough pyridoxine in our diets as, over time, a deficiency can lead to skin inflammation, confusion, depression, convulsions, and low levels of iron.
HOW MUCH SHOULD I TAKE?
People need sources of vitamin B6 as well as the other B vitamins every day, but the exact amount of pyridoxine required depends on various factors like age, gender, and any special circumstances, such as whether the individual is pregnant or breastfeeding or has an illness.
Babies up to the age of six months require 0.1mg per day, infants aged seven months to a year 0.3 mg, children aged one to three years 0.5 mg, from four to eight years, 0.6mg daily, and from nine up to teenage years, 1mg. Between the ages of 14 to 18 males require 1.3mg and females 1.2mg.
Among adults, men and women aged 19 to 50 are advised to have 1.3mg per day. After the age of 51 men should increase this amount to 1.7mg and women to 1.5mg.
Most people who eat a well-balanced, carried diet will all the vitamin B6 they need without having to take dietary supplements. For older adults, however, getting a sufficient dose can be difficult if they live alone and cook less. So elderly people should ask about having their pyridoxine levels tested by their doctor.
Some people may actually be getting too much of the nutrient if they consume a lot of energy drinks. Although the vitamin is water soluble, meaning any excess will be excreted, too much can be hard on the kidneys as they have to work overtime to get rid of it. High amounts of vitamin B6 may increase the risk of health problems such as nausea, abdominal pain, and even neurological disorders.
Taking more than 200mg a day of vitamin B6 for a long time can lead to a condition known as peripheral neuropathy, which is a loss of feeling in the arms and legs. Generally, the symptoms are reversible though, so should go away once the amount is reduced.