Vitamin B6 and its Benefits/Side Effects

Nutrients especially vitamins play a key role in maintaining optimal health and good well-being. B vitamins are the building blocks of a healthy body and have a direct impact on life-essential functions in the body. One of the most important yet overlooked B vitamins is vitamin B6. Discovered in 1932, vitamin B6 has ever since been associated with a wide array of health benefits.

What is Vitamin B6?

Pyridoxine, better known as Vitamin B6 is one of the eight B vitamins that is necessary for good health. Like other B vitamins, it is a water-soluble vitamin that performs several vital functions. Our body cannot store it as it is excreted in urine thus it needs to be consumed daily in adequate amounts. The most important role of vitamin B6 is keeping the nervous system and the immune system healthy and strong. Vitamin B6 in the form of coenzyme performs several versatile functions in the body. The most astounding one is its involvement in as many as hundred enzymes reactions associated with metabolism. Other functions include the formation of hemoglobin and marinating homocysteine levels in the blood. Vitamin B6 is also involved in yielding processes such as gluconeogenesis and glycogenolysis.

How Does Vitamin B6 Work?

Vitamin B6 works in versatile ways to bring about the proper metabolism of sugars, fats, and proteins. It also takes part in the growth and development of the brain and skin as well as other body parts. Vitamin B6 also works as a coenzyme to carry out different metabolic reactions.

Health Benefits of Vitamin B6

Ever since the discovery of Vitamin B6, scientists have been looking into its role and benefits. Several health benefits have been linked to the adequate intake of vitamin B6.

  • Vitamin B6 helps in mood regulation as it produces neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, which are associated with the regulation of emotions. A decrease in the amount of homocysteine reduces depression.
  • Improving the functionality of the brain is a key benefit as it prevents the onset of Alzheimer’s or memory impairment diseases.
  • Hemoglobin is manufactured at an increased rate. As a result, more oxygen is transported around the body which prevents anemia. Vitamin B6 has been often prescribed to individuals suffering from anemia such as pregnant women.
  • It has been suggested that vitamin B6 may prevent the formation of clogs inside blood vessels thus minimizing the risk of cardiac infarction.
  • Some studies link adequate intake of vitamin B6 with the prevention of certain types of cancers.

Vitamin B6 Deficiency

Vitamin B6 deficiency is closely associated with the levels of other B vitamins especially vitamin B12 and folic acid. A mild deficiency may not show any symptoms but if it is not detected and prolonged than it can prove to be detrimental. Symptoms of severe and prolonged deficiency include microcytic anemia, depression, skin problems, and a weak immune system. People at high risk of developing the deficiency include the ones with kidney disease, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and alcoholism.

Sources of Vitamin B6

Most foods contain small amounts of vitamin B6 in them. Anyone who is consuming a well-balanced diet will be able to fulfill his vitamin B6 needs is unlikely to develop a deficiency. The most common and high B6 food sources include chickpeas, beef liver, banana, and tofu. Apart from these avocados, brown rice, fish, milk, potato, seeds, whole grains, and vegetable juice contain substantial amounts of vitamin B6. If needs are not being met as in the case of absorption malfunction, dietary supplements can be consumed.

Supplements of Vitamin B6

Supplements of Vitamin B6 are easily available in the market in various forms. These are available as multivitamins and stand-alone supplements as well. These supplements can be taken in oral capsules or liquids. The supplements are absorbed exactly like food sources in the small intestine. The recommended amount of vitamin B6 that can be consumed by adults is 1.3 milligrams per day. Any excess amount of the vitamin is excreted in the urine.

Side Effects of Vitamin B6

When used in recommended doses, vitamin B6 does not show any side effects. If consumed in large doses over a long time duration the body is unable to excrete the excess. The most common side effects that are observed include headache, nausea, weariness, lethargy, and tingling sensation in arms and legs. Other side effects include drowsiness, upset stomach, loss of appetite, and sensitivity to sunlight. Any severe allergic reaction is very rare. If high doses are consumed over prolonged periods, then it can lead to severe neurological disorders. If any of these symptoms are seen upon usage than it is advised to see a physician.   

The Bottom-Line

Vitamin B6 is a very beneficial nutrient confers many favorable health benefits. Getting adequate amounts of vitamin B6 is crucial for the proper functioning of the body and for leading a healthy life.