Vitamin B6 Facts and Health Benefits
Vitamin B6 is required for the following key biologic functions:
Glucose Creation - Our Body's Primary Source of Fuel. Vitamin B6 is essential to the creation of Glucose, our body's primary source of fuel. Vitamin B6 is needed for Gluconeogenesis which is the metabolic pathway that results in the generation of glucose from non-carbohydrate carbon substrates such as lactate. Gluconeogenesis helps keep blood glucose levels from dropping too low. Gluconeogenesis takes place mainly in the liver and is important to fuel periods of intense exercise.
Lipid Metabolism. Nearly all of the energy needed by the human body is provided by either the oxidation of carbohydrates and lipids. Whereas carbohydrates provide a readily available source of energy, lipids function primarily as an energy reserve. The amount of lipids stored as an energy reserve far exceeds the energy stored as glycogen since the human body is simply not capable of storing as much glycogen compared to lipids. Lipids yield 9 kcal of energy per gram while carbohydrates and proteins yield only 4 kcal of energy per gram. Vitamin B6 is needed for Lipid metabolism.
Neurotransmitter Formation. Vitamin B6 is needed in Neurotransmitter formation. Neurotransmitters are responsible for (i) stimulating muscles by activating the motor neurons that control the skeletal muscles, (ii) regulating sleep, wakefulness and eating, (iii) mental focus and attention, (iv) learning and memory, (v) brain processing speed and (vi) personality.
Hemoglobin Formation and Function. Hemoglobin is the primary component of red blood cells. It is the Hemoglobin in red bloods cells that carry oxygen to our cells. Vitamin B6 is necessary in the formation of Hemoglobin and enhances the oxygen binding capability of Hemoglobin.
Protein Metabolism. Vitamin B6 plays a key role in amino acid metabolism.
Athletes Need More Vitamin B6. For optimum performance, athletes, especially endurance athletes, need more Vitamin B6 to insure sufficient production and function of oxygen carrying red blood cells to sustain endurance training and encourage optimum training recovery. See also Kidney Health, Red Blood Cell Production, and Peak Performance for Athletes. Vitamin B6 also is necessary to convert Glycogen to Glucose, our body's primary source of fuel. See Natural Food Sources of Glucose
Women of child bearing age, women athletes, pregnant and breast feeding mothers also have greater needs for Vitamin B6.
Natural Food Sources of Vitamin B6
Good sources of Vitamin B6 include fish, poultry, meats, egss, whole grain products, vegetables, nuts and bananas.
*DV = Daily Value. DVs were developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help consumers determine the level of various nutrients in a standard serving of food in relation to their approximate requirement for it. The DV for vitamin B6 is 2 mg for adults and children age 4 and older.
Vitamin B6 Deficiency and Supplement Toxicity
Deficiency. Severe vitamin B6 deficiency results in dermatologic and neurologic damage. Certain medications can interfere with Vitamin B6 availability. It's prudent to ask your health care provider whether prescribed medications can interfere with vitamin availability. Alcoholics have an increased risk of vitamin B6 deficiency,
Supplement Toxicity. Adverse effects have only been documented from Vitamin B6 supplements and never from food sources. High doses of Vitamin B6 supplements over long periods of time can result in painful and irreversible neurological problems. Primary symptoms are pain and numbness of the extremities<-- back to top
Article on Vitamin B6
Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B6, National Institute of Health
Dietary reference intakes (DRIs): Recommended dietary allowances and adequate intakes, elements, Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (2011)
Overview of Lipid Function, Elmhurst College
Side Effects of Vitaming B12 and B6 Supplements, Livestrong
Vitamin B6 Health Benefits, Megan Ashton, Livestrong