The vitamin B-complex constitutes a set of 8 water-soluble vitamins that are essential to the human body for various metabolic functions, specifically cell metabolism. Each member of the vitamin B complex is denoted by a unique number and name. Vitamin B6 is known as pyridoxine and is an important component for several enzymatic reactions and in the production of amino acids and vitamin B3 (from tryptophan).
The nutrient is also vital to maintaining a healthy brain and nervous system, for blood flow circulation, and in the production of certain antibodies, thus helping with immune function. Vitamin B6 is used in the treatment of numerous conditions including carpal tunnel syndrome, epilepsy, anemia, seborrheic dermatitis, asthma, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In women, the vitamin can help relieve premenstrual syndrome symptoms, morning sickness during pregnancy, and treat fibrocystic breast disease.
The small intestine (jejunum) absorbs most of the vitamin B6 in the body. Infrequently, an excess amount of the nutrient in the body can result in toxicities with associated symptoms such as tingling sensation and numbness, walking difficulties, and even nerve damage with chronic high body levels of the vitamin. Vitamin B6 deficiencies are generally associated with inadequate levels of other B-complex vitamins in the body, such as vitamins B9 and B12.
Other contributory conditions for pyridoxine deficiency include kidney disorders (such as chronic renal insufficiency and end-stage kidney disease) and certain gastrointestinal tract disorders (such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease). Deficient levels are also observed in individuals who are alcohol dependent and individuals with certain autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
There is a wide range of foods that are sufficient natural sources of vitamin B6. Conventional cooking and refrigeration is not known to severely affect the vitamin, but prolonged food storage may degrade it. Following is a list of foods that are high in vitamin B6 or pyridoxine:
- Beef, chicken, and turkey
- Nuts such as pistachios
- Fish that includes mackerel, salmon, tuna, cod, etc.
- Shellfish such as shrimp
- Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, Bok Choy, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and turnip greens
- Bell peppers, chili peppers
- Bananas, pineapples
- Potatoes including sweet potatoes
- Certain types of mushrooms (such as shitake and crimini)
- Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds
- Green peas
- Pinto beans, Lima beans
- Onions, beet
- Eggplant (or brinjal)
- Other fruits such as watermelon, strawberries, and figs
The Food and Nutrition Board at the National Academy of Sciences outlines the following recommendations for vitamin B6 intake. The recommended dietary allowances (RDA), or the average daily intake, to meet the body’s nutritional needs are as follows:
- 6 months and younger - 0.1 milligrams/day (based on adequate intake or AI)
- Between 7-12 months - 0.3 milligrams/day (based on adequate intake or AI)
- 12 months to 3 years - 0.5 milligrams/day
- From 4 to 8 years - 0.6 milligrams/day
- From 9 to 13 years - 1.0 milligrams/day
- Adolescents and adults:
- Between 14-18 years - 1.3 and 1.2 milligrams/day for males and females respectively
- From 19-50 years - 1.3 milligrams/day
- Over 50 years - 1.7 and 1.5 milligrams/day for males and females respectively
- Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers - 1.9 and 2.0 milligrams/day respectively
It is evident from the list of various natural food sources of vitamin B6 that incorporating them into one’s daily diet is simple and beneficial. However, it is always recommended to take the advice of a suitable healthcare professional before bringing about any alteration to your regular food habits, such as incorporating more foods high in vitamin B6 and/or prior to taking any multivitamin supplements. Besides, vitamin B6 supplements is known to interact with many prescription medications such as those used in treating certain types of cancers, tuberculosis, neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, including a few antidepressants and antibiotics.