Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that is crucial for many bodily functions as well as the overall maintenance of good health. For example, many enzymes need vitamin B6 for breaking down protein and converting it for the body's use. B6 is also used for the creation of hemoglobin, which is a blood protein responsible for carrying oxygen. The immune system and the nervous system both rely on this vitamin to ensure good function. It even helps a person get the niacin he needs, assisting the body in converting an amino acid called tryptophan to niacin.
There are three main types of vitamin B6. They are called pyridoxal, pyridoxamine, and pyridoxine. Vitamin B6 is found in a wide variety of foods, including vegetables, fruits, meats, and fish. Turnip greens, spinach, and cauliflower are sources of B6, as are strawberries, pineapple, and grapes. Meat, fish, and poultry sources of the vitamin include chicken, beef, venison, salmon, and tuna. People can consume more B6 by eating flaxseeds and vitamin-fortified foods. While most people can get enough of this vitamin by eating a well-balanced diet, some take vitamin B6 supplements to make sure they are getting enough.
Researchers have associated B6 with the prevention or treatment of many medical problems. For example, it may help prevent or treat high blood pressure and the dangerous build up of plaque in a person’s arteries. It may help relieve or prevent depression, epilepsy, and carpal tunnel syndrome. It may even play a role in the treatment of such conditions as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), asthma, kidney stones, and alcoholism. Interestingly, those with adequate intakes of this vitamin may even have fewer skin conditions, such as acne and dermatitis.
While vitamin B6 deficiency is rare in developed countries, it can affect anyone who lacks a healthy diet. Some of the possible symptoms of a deficiency include acne and other types of skin conditions, fatigue, and anemia. Seizures are a serious sign of vitamin B6 deficiency. A person who becomes deficient in B6 may also suffer from convulsions.
Most adults need between 1 and 2 milligrams of B6 daily. The average adult needs about 1.2 milligrams. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers need about 1.9 to 2.0 milligrams daily, while women over 50 need about 1.5 milligrams. Toxicity may occur when people take too much vitamin B6. At levels above 2 grams, nervous system imbalances may result.