Vitamin B6 is also called pyridoxine and like vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin. It occurs in a variety of forms most of which are active within the body.
Vitamin B6 is essential for the breakdown and use of protein molecules (amino acids) and also in the synthesis of glucose within the body. It also helps break down fats as well.
It also is essential for red blood cell metabolism.
The nervous and immune systems need vitamin B6 to function efficiently, and it also is needed for the conversion of tryptophan (an amino acid) to niacin (a vitamin).
Hemoglobin within red blood cells carries oxygen to tissues.
Your body needs vitamin B6 to make hemoglobin. Vitamin B6 also helps increase the amount of oxygen carried by hemoglobin.
A vitamin B6 deficiency can result in a form of anemia that is similar to iron deficiency anemia.
An immune response is a broad term that describes a variety of biochemical changes that occur in an effort to fight off infections.
Calories, protein, vitamins and minerals are important to your immune defenses because they promote the growth of white blood cells that directly fight infections.
Vitamin B6, through its involvement in protein metabolism and cellular growth, is important to the immune system.
It helps maintain the health of lymphoid organs (thymus, spleen and lymph nodes) that make your white blood cells.
Animal studies show that vitamin B6 deficiency can decrease your antibody production and suppress your immune response.
Vitamin B6 also helps maintain your blood glucose (sugar) within a normal range.
When caloric intake is low, your body needs vitamin B6 to help convert stored carbohydrate or other nutrients to glucose to maintain normal blood sugar levels.
While a shortage of vitamin B6 will limit these functions, supplements of this vitamin do not enhance them in well-nourished individuals.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is the average daily dietary intake level that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97 percent to 98 percent) healthy individuals in each life-stage and gender group.
The 1998 RDAs for vitamin B6 for adults, in milligrams, are 1.3 mg for men and women ages 9-50 and 1.7 mg and 1.5 mg for men and women over the age of 51, respectively.
Vitamin B6 is also available in a variety of foods such as whole grain, nuts, vegetables and meat. Low consumption of vitamin B6 and consequently low levels in the blood can cause skin disease and inflammation of the tongue and cheeks.
Clinical signs of vitamin B6 deficiency are rarely seen in the United States.
Many older Americans, however, have low blood levels of vitamin B6, which may suggest a marginal or sub-optimal vitamin B6 nutritional status.
Vitamin B6 deficiency can occur in individuals with poor-quality diets that are deficient in many nutrients.
Symptoms occur during later stages of deficiency, when intake has been very low for an extended time.
Signs of vitamin B6 deficiency include dermatitis (skin inflammation), glossitis (a sore tongue), depression, confusion and convulsions.
Vitamin B6 deficiency also can cause anemia. Some of these symptoms also can result from a variety of medical conditions other than vitamin B6 deficiency.
It is important to have a physician evaluate these symptoms so that appropriate medical care can be given.