El Vitamin B

Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that exists in three major chemical forms:

pyridoxine, pyridoxal, and pyridoxamine.

  1. Vitamin B6 has many roles.
  2. Vitamin B6 is part of a coenzyme involved in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism. In its coenzyme form, it is particularly crucial to protein metabolism.
  3. Hemoglobin within red blood cells carries oxygen to the tissues. Your body needs vitamin B6 to make hemoglobin. A vitamin B6 deficiency can result in a form of anemia that is similar to iron-deficiency anemia.
  4. Vitamin B6 is used to break down glycogen to glucose, keeping your blood sugar level steady.
  5. To convert the amino acid tryptophan to niacin, vitamin B6 must be present.
  6. Vitamin B6 is needed for the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are required for normal nerve cell communication.
  7. Vitamin B6, through its involvement in protein metabolism and cellular growth, is important to the immune system. It helps maintain the health of the organs that make white blood cells. White blood cells help destroy viruses, bacteria, and fungi that cause infection.

Food sources. Good sources for vitamin B6 include meat, poultry, fish, and fortified ready-to-eat cereals. Vitamin B6 also appears in plant foods; however, it is not as well absorbed from these sources. Good plant sources include potatoes, some fruits (such as bananas and watermelon), and some leafy green vegetables (such as broccoli and spinach). Figure 6-8 gives the amount of vitamin B6 in many foods.

Deficiency and toxicity. Deficiency of vitamin B6, which may occur in some women and older adults, can cause symptoms such as fatigue, depression, and skin inflammation. The symptoms can become much more serious if the deficiency continues.

Excessive use of vitamin B6 can cause irreversible nerve damage to the arms and legs, with symptoms such as numbness in the hands and feet and difficulty walking. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level for B6 is 100 milligrams. The problem with B6 is that, unlike other water-soluble vitamins, it is stored in the muscles.

Vitamin B6 supplementation became popular when it appeared that the vitamin may relieve some of the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition in which a compressed nerve in the wrist causes much pain. No scientific research has shown that vitamin B6 helps either condition.

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