Vitamin B6

Essential Micronutrient

OVERVIEW

Summary

Vitamin B6 plays a key role in converting the proteins you eat into the amino acids that make up your muscles. In addition, it assists in the availability of energy and the formation of important neurotransmitters (like serotonin) and the maintenance of a healthy immune system. It is a powerful precursor to positive physical and mental well-being.

Other names for Vitamin B6

pyridoxine, pyridoxal, pyridosamine, pyridoxal-5-phosphate

Where to find Vitamin B6

Principle food sources include beef, chicken, fish, brewer’s yeast, and eggs. It can also be found in starchy foods such as potatoes, but much of the nutrient is depleted by cooking and processing.

Many cereals and soy meat substitute products have been supplemented with B6.

Popup: Foods highest in Vitamin B6

Daily Value

The Daily Value for Vitamin B6 is 2 mg.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use Vitamin B6

Primarily for its role in protein metabolism, hard-training athletes, especially those seeking to increase muscle by consuming a high-protein diet, would be well served to maintain optimal levels of Vitamin B6.

The impact Vitamin B6 may have on positive levels of neurotransmitters, especially dopamine and epinephrine, should not be overlooked as all performance originates in the mind. Most athletes can benefit from increased focus and intensity.

Ways that Vitamin B6 can enhance Mental Functioning:
  • Aid in the formation of neurotransmitters that control our mood, energy, and ability to focus
Ways that Vitamin B6 can enhance Longevity:
  • Support a strong and healthy immune system

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Vitamin B6 deficiency

Deficiency of Vitamin B6 has been linked to:

  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Depression
  • Anemia
  • Osteoporosis
Potential uses for Vitamin B6

Research indicates that Vitamin B6 may also be useful in the treatment of:

  • Depression
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Skin and hair problems
  • Fatigue/Weakness
  • Epilepsy

DISCUSSION

More about Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is in a tight race with B12 for the number-one spot among the B vitamins due to its influence on the complicated machine called the human body. The key functions of B6 include the formation of neurotransmitters, the metabolization of amino acids, and the support of the immune system. B6 also plays important roles in regulating water and hormone balance, storing energy, nerve functioning, and protein metabolism.

Amino acid metabolism

One of B6’s main roles is in the metabolism of amino acids, which is not to imply that B6 will make your muscles grow like the national debt. B6’s role is rather complicated, but simply stated, it helps break down (metabolize) proteins into amino acids to be used by the body to form new tissue, including muscle.

While it may not directly influence muscle building, Vitamin B6 is important in the formation of muscle proteins. And, athletes, especially those on high-protein diets, likely have a greater need for B6. If the Human Performance version of Trivial Pursuit ever comes out, make note that as much as 80% of the body’s stores of B6 are contained within muscle tissue.

Nurturing levels of neurotransmitters

Vitamin B6 plays a vital role in the formation of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and GABA. These neurotransmitters are instrumental in the regulation of our mental processes, mood, and “mental” energy levels.

A popularized example of the capabilities of B6 can be seen with many of the 5-HTP products — because B6 is a catalyst in the conversion of 5-HTP to serotonin, many 5-HTP products contain B6.

Immune support

Numerous studies have documented the immediate negative impact of Vitamin B6 deficiency on the immune system. Those already at risk for compromised immune functioning, such as the elderly and individuals suffering from HIV, are most at risk. However, intense exercise can also have negative effects on immune functioning, so athletes would be wise to ensure they have adequate B6 levels to avoid such complications.

Energy enhancement

Another positive: Vitamin B6 aids in the formation and use of protein, using the energy that is “stored” in our muscle tissues and livers (called glycogen). So, during intense workouts, our muscles can use this energy to work even harder, which supports increased metabolism and lean mass.
Nerve protection for greater joint health

Joint pain can result from nerve damage, which may be experienced by some hard-training athletes. Fortunately, B6 has also been shown to decrease joint pain and muscle fatigue after intense workouts and even relieve chronic joint complications. It has been reported to even be part of an effective treatment for carpel tunnel syndrome. It may help by improving both joint mobility and nerve impulses, but the jury is still deciding on this.

Reduce water retention

By regulating water balance and the potassium-sodium balance, B6 may help flush excess water out of the body. As a natural diuretic, it may be useful for people who are trying to drop water weight prior to competition. Make note that there are more potent natural diuretics and that loss of water weight can negatively affect performance and is, of course, quite temporary.

PMS relief

For women, B6 may reduce many of the side effects of PMS, such as water retention, hormone imbalances, mood swings, cramping, acne, dry skin, and an overall feeling of physical and emotional fatigue. B6 may produce its greatest impact by acting on the production of serotonin and dopamine. Research has shown significant relief from PMS-related symptoms with the daily dosage of 100 mg (in two 50-mg doses).

Deficiency risks

Though found in many foods, deficiencies are actually on the rise, most likely due to the fact that processing of food depletes nutrients. This increases the need for supplementation, especially during increased levels of stress — physical or emotional.

Interestingly, many foods in the U.S., such as bread, are “fortified” with B6, but when the food is processed, the nutrient is again removed. So when you think you’re getting enough from the foods you eat, you could be mistaken.

In conclusion

Most commonly supplemented as part of a B-complex, B6 appears to be a safe and natural way to enhance amino acid metabolism, energy use, and neurotransmitter production. Plus, it appears to support a strong immune system — making Vitamin B6 a powerful precursor to positive physical and mental well-being.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

Normal daily use is typically between 15 and 50 mg per day. However, for certain conditions, such as relieving depression or reducing water retention, up to 200 mg can be used and is generally well tolerated, though not recommended for extended periods.

Many experts suggest that the amount of Vitamin B6 needed is based on how much protein is consumed and recommend .10 mg per gram of protein. So, for example, if you’re consuming 150 grams of protein, you would need 15 mg of Vitamin B6 per day.

Timing

B vitamins are most often taken with meals.

Synergists of Vitamin B6

Zinc, riboflavin, and magnesium all increase the proper absorption and use of B6.

B6 is needed for the synthesis of carnitine, an essential cofactor in the conversion of fats to energy.

Safety of Vitamin B6

Pregnant women should check with a nutritionally oriented doctor before taking more than 100 mg a day.

Toxicity of Vitamin B6

High levels of B6 may produce a toxic effect known as sensory neuropathy. Although short-term usage of B6 supplements appears to be well tolerated at levels of 300 to 500 mg daily, long-term supplementation should not exceed 200 mg daily.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Folkers, K., and Ellis, J., “Successful Therapy with Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B2 of the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Need for Determination of the RDAs for Vitamins B6 and B2 for Disease States,” Ann N Y Acad Sci 585 (1990) : 295-301.
  • Huang, Y.C., et al., “Vitamin B-6 Requirement and Status Assessment of Young Women Fed a High-Protein Diet with Various Levels of Vitamin B-6,” Am J Clin Nutr 67.2 (1998) : 208-20.
  • Ribaya-Mercado, J.D., et al., “Vitamin B-6 Requirements of Elderly Men and Women,” J Nutr 121.7 (1991) : 1062-74.
  • Schaumburg, H., et al., “Sensory Neuropathy from Pyridoxine Abuse,” N Engl J Med 309.8 (1983) : 445-8.
  • Wyatt, K.M., et al., “Efficacy of Vitamin B-6 in the Treatment of Premenstrual Syndrome: Systematic Review,” BMJ 318 (1999) : 1357-81