Benefits of vitamin B-6
Originally Published: February 21, 2003
What are the benefits of taking vitamin B6?
Vitamin B-6 is primarily involved in protein metabolism, but also functions, to a lesser degree, in carbohydrate and fat metabolism. This vitamin, also called pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, and pyridoxal, is necessary for the functioning of numerous enzymes inside our bodies. Since it is a co-factor to many enzymes, it is necessary for many of them to work. Because of this, Vitamin B-6 plays a role in a wide variety of metabolic reactions, it is recommended (although not always accurately) for a diverse spectrum of conditions, such as improved mood and nervous system functioning, increased immunity, decreased inflammation, arthritis relief, among others.
Because pyridoxine is involved in so many reactions in the body, claims have been made for it to help alleviate a wide variety of conditions. One of its functions involves the synthesis of neurotransmitters (chemicals involved in the transmission of nerve impulses between nerve cells) in the brain. It seems to make sense that vitamin B-6 could be useful in alleviating depression and other symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). However, a review of all of the studies done on the symptoms of PMS finds this claim unproven. For example, some studies show that pyridoxine helps with symptoms of PMS, while others show no effect. Many of the studies were poorly conducted, so reliable conclusions can't be drawn from them. We do know that oral contraceptives and other estrogens can interfere with Vitamin B-6's metabolism, reducing its levels in the blood. No one knows exactly how much this decrease would raise one's need for the vitamin.
Another area with conflicting research is for the treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Usually this condition is caused by repetitive hand and/or wrist motions, causing inflammation in a certain region of the wrist. The results of the studies show inconsistent results. The subjects also were administered large doses, in excess of the Tolerable Upper Level of 100 milligrams of vitamin B-6 a day.
Homocysteine is an amino acid that, when levels are elevated, may lead to increased risk for heart disease. Vitamin B-6, along with folic acid and vitamin B-12, can help lower homocysteine levels in the blood. It isn't known yet if this actually decreases development of heart disease and/or protects against heart attacks.
Vitamin B-6 may be effective in treating kidney stones, but only in people who have a certain heredity disorder type 1 primary hyperoxaluria, which is a genetic disorder that causes affected people to have excessive levels of oxalates or kidney stones. It doesn't help people with kidney stones who do not have this condition. It also may be effective in treating children who have low serotonin levels and have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). It doesn't help kids with ADHD who do not have low serotonin levels.
Some conditions Vitamin B-6 does not help, but claims have been erroneously made for, include treating high cholesterol, diabetic neuropathy, or children with autism.
Vitamin B-6 is widely available through foods, with deficiencies being rare. It's found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, whole grains, legumes (bean and peas), potatoes, yeast, bananas, corn, cabbage, yams, prunes, watermelon, and avocado. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is:
- 1.3 milligrams per day for adults 19 - 50 years
- 1.5 mg/day for women over 50 years
- 1.7 mg a day for men older than 50 years
Even though this is a water-soluble vitamin, avoid amounts above the upper limit, which can cause reversible nerve damage, even at this level.
Eating well-balanced healthy food, including plenty of pyridoxine-rich foods, is recommended. You can easily obtain your daily needs of Vitamin B-6 through food, including these vitamin B-6 rich food sources:
|Banana, medium size||0.6 mg|
|Chicken breast, 3 oz., roasted||0.5|
|Pork loin, 3 oz., roasted||0.4|
|Baked potato with skin, 3 oz.||0.35|
|Watermelon, 1 cup||0.23|
|Black beans, boiled, 1 cup||0.12|