Vitamin B6 (also known as pyridoxine) is a water soluble vitamin and part of the B complex group (a group of eight vitamins which were first thought to be the singular vitamin B). It was first discovered when scientists were looking for a vitamin that would cure acrodynia (a skin inflammation) in rats. The acrodynia in the rats appeared to resemble pellagra (a disease where the skin becomes red and rough). Since scientists already knew that pellagra was caused by a lack of vitamin B3 and could be used to treat the condition, they assumed that B3 could also be used to treat acrodynia. In 1934 the Hungarian physician Paul Gyorgy disproved this assumption when he discovered that vitamin B3 was not an effective treatment for acrodynia and neither were vitamins B1 or B2. However, he was sure that a cure for acrodynia existed and came up with the name vitamin B6 should this cure be found. In 1938 Gyorgy and a number of other researchers managed to isolate a substance from rice bran which could both prevent and cure acrodynia and it was duly given the label vitamin B6.
The main role of vitamin B6 is to help the body’s cells break down proteins into a form that can be used. However, it has a number of other important roles which include:
– Assisting with the production of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers).
– Assisting with the production of red blood cells.
– Assisting with the regulation of hormones (chemicals released by cells which influence other cells in the body) and prostaglandins (compounds that come from fatty acids and have important functions in the body).
– Prevention of heart disease by reducing the buildup of homocysteine which can damage the linings of blood vessels.
– Possible reduction in the severity of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Men are advised to consume 1.4mg of vitamin B6 whilst women are advised to consume 1.2mg. Like vitamin B5, vitamin B6 is found in all foods to some degree. However, certain foods contain more of this vitamin than others. In particular meats, salmon, nuts, peas and beans contain high levels of vitamin B6.
Not getting enough vitamin B6 can have a number of adverse effects and according to this article the majority of people do not get enough. They symptoms of deficiency include a sore mouth, cracked lips, weakness, tingling in the hands, feet and legs and in the worst cases seizures.
Overdosing on vitamin B6 can also be dangerous. Even though it is water soluble, high doses can prove toxic. In particular it can lead to numbness in the arms and legs which in the worst cases can lead to permanent nerve damage.
Vitamin B6 has a number of important functions in the body. Despite this it is believed that most people are not getting enough. If you sound like one of those people then take another look at this article, choose a food that is rich in vitamin B6 and make it part of your diet.