Vitamin B6 is one of the most vital nutrients of all. It is involved in more than one hundred enzymatic reactions in the human body, meaning it helps many other chemical reactions take place. Amino acids and nucleic acids both need vitamin B6 for synthesis, so it arguably contributes to the development of all cells. Vitamin B6 also helps the body metabolize carbohydrates, especially in the muscles, hence its importance for people who engage in heavy exercise. It is also indirectly crucial in the synthesis of neurotransmitters like melatonin, epinephrine, serotonin, and GABA.Vitamin B6 also helps maintain the body’s chemical balance of sulfur, aids in methyl metabolism, and helps regulate the immune systems.
Vitamin B6 Deficiency
Most people who eat a full, balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables should get sufficient levels of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 supplements are usually unnecessary or superfluous. Anyone who suspects they have a deficiency of vitamin B6 should consult their physicians or dieticians, and refrain from taking supplements without a proper diagnosis. B vitamins are water soluble, and thus vitamin toxicity is rare. However, intakes of vitamin B6 over two grams per day can result in irregularities in nervous system activity.
People at risk for vitamin B6 deficiency include smokers, alcoholics, and people who rely on prescriptions drugs. Deficiency symptoms include dry skin, tiredness, malaise, anemia, and in the worst cases, convulsions and seizures. The recommended daily intake of vitamin B6 varies with age. For adults aged 14-50, 1.2-1.3 milligrams a day should be sufficient. Older adults need less than half a milligram more, and men need slightly more than women.
The best natural sources of vitamin B6 include spinach, turnip greens, fresh darker-colored bell peppers, shiitake mushrooms, and summer squash. Anyone who eats any full serving of any of these foods will get a large percentage of their daily value of vitamin B6. Very good sources include garlic, broccoli, winter squash, tomatoes, tuna, cabbage, collard greens, cod, chard, calf’s liver, turkey, salmon, leeks, mustard greens, kale, green beans, asparagus, and cauliflower. Even chicken, sweet potatoes, onions, halibut, green peas, basil, turmeric, romaine lettuce, sunflower seeds, cantaloupe, beef, pineapple, yams, carrots, eggplant, and potatoes can still provide some vitamin B6. Anyone who regularly eats a wide range of these foods should be getting plenty of vitamin B6, and should not have to resort to excessive supplementation.