Vitamin B6 – brain, blood, energy and DNA

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Vitamin B6 in a nutshell:
Vitamin B6 is essential for brain and blood functioning, but also in a number of key chemical reactions in the body that release energy from stores of glycogen in the liver and muscles.  It’s also important in turning excess protein into useable energy. B6 is also essential for proper manufacture of DNA – the building blocks of life.

Best source of Vitamin B6 for Juicers
Vitamin B6 can be obtained from green vegetables such as kale, spinach and turnip greens plus bell peppers and prunes.

What Is Vitamin B6?

Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that is vital for the proper functioning of the brain, blood, and over 100 enzymatic processes in the human body. Fortunately, most of us are not deficient in it.

Alternate names: Vitamin B6; pyridoxine (PN); pyridoxal (PL), pyridoxamine (PM); pyridoxal 5′-phosphate (PLP or P-5-P).

kaleThe metabolically active form of vitamin B6 known as P-5-P performs an astonishing variety of functions in both both plants and animals. Plants and animals use this form of vitamin B6 to transform the amino acids glutamate and lysine into forms that can be used to make proteins. Animals and humans need vitamin B6 for the production of hemoglobin, for the production of the brain chemicals dopamine and GABA, and for the creation and recycling of the antidepressant and anti-inflammatory SAM-e.

What Does Vitamin B6 Do in the Human Body?

One of the most basic functions of vitamin B6 in the human body is acting as a cofactor for over 100 enzymes involved in energy production. The P-5-P form of vitamin B6 acts as a cofactor for glycogen phosphorylase, which releases glucose from glycogen in the liver and in muscles, releasing stored energy. P-5-P is also essential for chemical reactions that transform the amino acids from excess protein in the diet into glucose, making it possible to “burn” protein for the body's fuel.

Vitamin B6 is also essential for the creation of the mood regulating brain chemical serotonin from the amino acid tryptophan. It binds to the DNA in cells all over the body and makes them less sensitive to testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone, preventing some of the worst effects of PMS in women and possibly protecting both sexes from certain forms of cancer. It helps the liver make niacin (vitamin B3) and it is essential for the formation of the A, G, C, and T building blocks of DNA.

What Happens When We Don't Get Enough Vitamin B6?

True vitamin B6 deficiencies are rare. They most often occur in people who consume very poor diets due to alcoholism, drug abuse, or dementia. Vitamin B6 deficiency can also occur when people use the following medications:

    • Cycloserine and isoniazid for tuberculosis,
    • L-dopa (Artane) for Parkinson's disease.

These drugs form a chelated complex with vitamin B6 that keeps it from entering cells where it is needed. People who take these medications may need to take supplemental vitamin B6. On the other hand, taking high doses (more than 5 mg per day) of B6 may interfere with valproic acid (Depakote and Depakene) taken for seizure disorders.

The early signs of vitamin B6 deprivation mimic the early signs of vitamin B2 and vitamin B3 deficiency. There may be redness and swelling of the tongue, and dryness and irritation on the lips and at the corners of the mouth. Later symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency include confusion and irritability, which may exist before the deficiency occurs.

How Can You Be Sure You Are Getting Enough Vitamin B6?

The Institute of Medicine has set standards for vitamin B6.

  • Infants aged 0 to 6 months need 0.1 mg per day.
  • Infants aged 7 to 12 months need 0.2 mg per day.
  • Toddlers aged 1 to 3 years need 0.5 mg per day.
  • Children aged 4 to 8 years need 0.6 mg per day.
  • Children aged 9 to 13 years need 1.0 mg per day
  • Teenaged girls aged 14 to 18 years need 1.2 mg per day.
  • Teenaged boys aged 14 to 18 years need 1.3 mg per day.
  • Adults of both sexes aged 19 to 50 years need 1.3 per day.
  • Women over the age of 50 need 1.5 mg per day.
  • Men over the age of 50 need 1.7 mg per day.
  • Pregnant women of all ages need 1.9 mg per day.
  • spinachBreastfeeding women of all ages need 2.0 mg per day.

The reason people who have passed the age of 50 need more vitamin B6 is to prevent the accumulation of an inflammatory protein known as homocysteine. A small amount of homocysteine in the bloodstream is normal. Homocysteine is an intermediary product made when the body uses the amino acid methionine. The body can turn homocysteine back into methionine with the help of folic acid and vitamin B12, or it can turn homocysteine into cysteine with two enzymes that require the P-5-P form of vitamin B6.

It's necessary to get all three forms of vitamin B, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folic acid, to lower homocysteine levels and prevent cardiovascular disease. Vitamin B6, however, is especially important for lowering homocysteine production after high-protein meals.

How Can You Be Sure You Are Getting Enough Vitamin B6?

Many foods contain generous amounts of vitamin B6. Here are some examples.

  • A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of Kellogg's All-Bran contains 12 mg of vitamin B6.
  • A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of Malt-o-Meal bran flakes contains 10 mg of vitamin B6.
  • A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of dried green peppers or rice bran contains 4 mg of vitamin B6.
  • A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of cooked Atlantic salmon, mackerel, octopus, or rainbow trout contains 1 mg of vitamin B6.
  • A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of dried apricots or pitted prunes contains 1 mg of vitamin B6.
  • A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of baked potato with skin contains 1 mg of vitamin B6.
  • A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of cooked chicken (white meat) contains 0.5 mg of vitamin B6.
  • A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of banana contains 0.5 mg of vitamin B6.
  • A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of cooked turkey breast contains 0.4 mg of vitamin B6.
  • A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of boiled spinach contains 0.4 mg of vitamin B6.
  • A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of hazelnuts contains 0.2 mg of vitamin B6.

People who eat a variety of vegetables and some fish or meat every day usually do not become deficient in vitamin B6. Because the vitamin B6 in vegetables and fruits is not completely absorbed through the digestive tract, it may be a good idea for strict vegans to take a supplement.

How Much Vitamin B6 Is Too Much?

There are reports of people who took 500 to 1000 mg of vitamin B6 per day over a period several months who developed sensory neuropathy, a loss of sensation in the hands and feet. Since no clinical trial has ever found a benefit in taking more than 100 mg of vitamin B6 per day, no one should ever have take a potentially toxic dose.

To be on the safe side, recommended upper limits of daily consumption are:

  • 30 mg per day for toddlers aged 1 to 3.
  • 40 mg per day for children aged 4 to 8.
  • 50 mg per day for children aged 9 to 13.
  • 80 mg per day for teens aged 14 to 18.
  • 100 mg per day for adults over the age of 19.

Using Vitamin B6 to Support Immune Function

People who have passed the age of 60 sometimes develop low white blood cell counts. One study found that women who take 1.9 mg of B6 per day and men who take 2.7 mg of B6 per day reversed immune deficiencies. Since these low doses of vitamin B6 are very inexpensive and do not cause side effects, some nutritionists are calling for a revision in the RDA upward for people over 60.

sweet-green-pepperUsing Vitamin B6 in Alzheimer's and Dementia

There are theoretical reasons to believe that treatment with vitamin B6 might reverse some of the worst symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of age-related dementia. The results of clinical trials are inconclusive. Even if vitamin B6 repairs some brain tissue damage in these diseases, however, the net result may not be an improved quality of life, since minor improvements in mobility and coordination may only bring more opportunities for accidents to occur.

Using Vitamin B6 to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Many people who have carpal tunnel syndrome report that taking 100 to 200 mg of vitamin B6 per day (more than the recommended upper limit) reduces pain, tingling, and interruptions of sleep. Clinical studies, however, have reported mixed results.

Using Vitamin B6 to Treat Morning Sickness

Clinical studies have found that using 25 mg of vitamin B6 every eight hours for three days or 10 mg of vitamin B6 every eight hours for five days reduces, although it does not eliminate, nausea and vomiting caused by morning sickness. There is no danger to the baby from these dosages of vitamin B6.

Using Vitamin B6 for PMS

Some nutritional advisers suggest taking up to 100 mg of vitamin B6 per day to relieve the symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome), but there have been no clinical studies that confirm the treatment actually works.

About Andy Williams

In a processed food culture, simply eating may not be enough. Dr. Andy Williams is a scientist with a strong interest in Juicing and how it can supply the body with the nutrients it needs to thrive in modern society. You can subscribe to his free daily paper called Juicing The Rainbow and follow him on Facebook orTwitter.

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