All About Pyridoxine: Vitamin B6 Facts You Should Know

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  • Pyridoxine, also known as vitamin B6, is another example of a B vitamin that’s crucial to your well-being
  • Also known as vitamin B6, pyridoxine plays many crucial roles in your body, from making neurotransmitters to producing hormones that affect your mood

The fact that B vitamins are essential to your well-being, especially for your cognition and mental health, cannot be overstated. While the majority of research today focuses on folate or vitamin B9 and cobalamin or vitamin B12, there's one particularly important B vitamin that's often overlooked: pyridoxine.

Also known as vitamin B6, pyridoxine plays many crucial roles in your body, including maintaining the health of your nerves, skin and red blood cells.1 The good news is it's available in many food sources, making severe deficiency rare in healthy individuals.2 Get to know more about this important B vitamin by reading this article.

What Is Pyridoxine?

Pyridoxine is a water-soluble vitamin (meaning it cannot be stored in the body) that is essential in different body processes.3 The term pyridoxine is actually an umbrella term for different vitamers, or compounds, with B6 activity, namely:4

  • Pyridoxine (an alcohol)
  • Pyridoxamine (contains an amino group)
  • Pyridoxal (an aldehyde)
  • Pyridoxamine 5' phosphate (PMP)
  • Pyridoxal 5' phosphate (PLP)
  • 5' phosphate esters

In coenzyme form, vitamin B6 is involved in over 100 enzyme reactions, mainly involving amino acid metabolism.5

Benefits and Uses of Pyridoxine

According to the University of Michigan Health System, all eight B vitamins, pyridoxine included, are essential in helping the body transform food into glucose to be used as energy.6 B-complex vitamins are crucial for proper brain and nervous system function, as well as for metabolizing fat and protein. They also help maintain the health of your skin, eyes, hair and liver.7

One specific benefit that vitamin B6 is being studied for is its ability to improve cardiovascular health. Along with folate and cobalamin, pyridoxine is said to help curb high levels of homocysteine in the heart. Having elevated homocysteine levels has been linked to an increased risk of heart and blood vessel problems.

However, the findings on whether taking this combination of supplements may help reduce stroke and cardiovascular disease risk is still inconclusive.8

Another benefit linked to pyridoxine is its potential to slow brain shrinkage. Aside from heart ailments, having elevated homocysteine levels is also linked to brain degeneration. A study published in 20139 further supports this, saying that B vitamins also specifically slow down shrinkage in areas of the brain that are severely impacted by Alzheimer's disease.

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Studies Show How Pyridoxine (and Other B Vitamins) May Help Improve Cognitive Health

Pyridoxine and other B vitamins are said to have an effect on different mood disorders and neurological and psychiatric ailments. This is because they impact the methylation cycle directly. B vitamins are necessary for producing neurotransmitters and maintaining myelin — the fatty sheath that surrounds the nerve cells. If myelin is not present, nerve signals become slow and sporadic, prompting motor function problems, mood changes and cognitive loss.

One 2017 meta-analysis published in the journal Psychology Medicine, supports this effect. It found that high doses of pyridoxine, inositol (vitamin B8) and cobalamin, taken in combination, helped improve schizophrenic symptoms. Low doses were found to have no effect.10

Another study, conducted by Korean researchers, also found that B vitamins may have an effect against depression. Forty-eight elderly participants, 65 years old and older were given multivitamin supplements containing folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12. The researchers noted that supplementation helped improved cognitive function and reduced depression among the participants.11

What Are the Best Pyridoxine Food Sources?

As mentioned above, pyridoxine is available in various foods, which is why there's less risk of being deficient in it, compared to other vitamins. Some of the best sources of vitamin B6 are:12,13

  • Poultry, such as turkey and chicken
  • Fish, including wild-caught salmon
  • Beef liver and other organ meats
  • Bell peppers
  • Starchy vegetables like baked potatoes (skin included) and yams
  • Nuts like cashews and hazelnuts, as well as sunflower seeds
  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Turnip green
  • Green peas and chickpeas

If you consume a balanced diet rich in these foods, then you may be at low risk of pyridoxine deficiency. However, there are certain groups of people who suffer certain health conditions that prevent them from absorbing sufficient nutrients from their foods, called malabsorption syndrome, making them at risk of deficiency.

Kidney diseases, genetic diseases and some drugs for epilepsy may also lead to deficiency. Hence, taking a vitamin B6 supplement like pyridoxine hydrochloride (HCl) may be necessary. Vitamin B6 supplements are available in tablet, capsule or liquid form.14

What's the Recommended Pyridoxine Dosage?

The ideal dose for pyridoxine supplementation depends on the condition you're using it for, so it's best to consult your physician to confirm the right dose for you. However, if you're simply addressing vitamin B6 deficiency, the typical adult dosage is 2.5 to 25 milligrams (mg) daily. After three weeks of supplementation, the dose should be lowered to just 1.5 to 2.5 mg per day.15

While pyridoxine is said to help alleviate nausea during pregnancy, expectant moms are advised to get this nutrient from their diet instead of a supplement.  The recommended vitamin B6 amount for pregnant women is 1.9 milligrams (mg) per day, while breastfeeding moms should get 2 mg per day of this vitamin from food.16

Are There Side Effects Linked to Pyridoxine?

There's no toxicity or side effects attributed to this supplement, if taken in the recommended dose. However, if taken in dosages that are beyond the prescribed amount, unpleasant symptoms may manifest, which include:17

  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Numbness or tingling of the arms and legs

Taking pyridoxine supplements in excessive amounts for over a year or longer can also lead to severe nerve damage, causing people to lose control of their body movements. Unsightly skin patches, heartburn, nausea and sensitivity to sunlight are other side effects of too much pyridoxine.18

Rashes, itching or swelling (in the tongue, face or throat), extreme dizziness and breathing difficulties are potential signs of an allergic reaction to pyridoxine, although this is rare. Nevertheless, consult a physician immediately if you feel these symptoms.19

Before Considering Pyridoxine Supplementation, Moderate Your Dietary Intake First

Pyridoxine is widely available from different food sources, so as long as you consume a balanced diet, you may not become severely deficient in this nutrient. Should you be one of the rare people who suffer from severe pyridoxine deficiency, though, you can consider supplementation. Just make sure to moderate the dosage to avoid any toxicity or side effect.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Pyridoxine

Q: What is pyridoxine used for?

A: Pyridoxine and other B vitamins are essential for the health of your skin, brain, hair, eyes and liver. They're also crucial for maintaining nervous system function, metabolizing fat and protein, and helping the body transform food into glucose to be used as energy.

Q: How much pyridoxine should you take?

A: The proper dosage for pyridoxine supplementation depends on the condition you're using it for. The typical adult dosage for addressing deficiency 2.5 to 25 milligrams (mg) daily. Make sure to consult your physician to confirm the right dose for you.

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