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Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin. Pyridoxal phosphate (PLP) is the active form and is a cofactor in many reactions of amino acid metabolism, including transamination, deamination, and decarboxylation. PLP also is necessary for the enzymatic reaction governing the release of glucose from glycogen.
Seven forms of this vitamin are known:
- pyridoxine (PN). PN is the form that is given as vitamin B6 supplement.
- pyridoxine 5'-phosphate (PNP).
- pyridoxal (PL).
- pyridoxal 5'-phosphate (PLP). PLP is the metabolically active form.
- pyridoxamine (PM).
- pyridoxamine 5'-phosphate (PMP).
- 4-pyridoxic acid (PA). PA is the catabolite which is excreted in the urine.
All forms except PA can be interconverted.
Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble compound that was discovered in the 1930s during nutrition studies on rats. The vitamin was named pyridoxine to indicate its structural homology to pyridine. Later it was shown that vitamin B6 could exist in two other, slightly different, chemical forms, termed pyridoxal and pyridoxamine. All three forms of vitamin B6 are precursors of an activated compound known as pyridoxal 5'-phosphate (PLP), which plays a vital role as the cofactor of a large number of essential enzymes in the human body.
Enzymes dependent on PLP focus a wide variety of chemical reactions mainly involving amino acids. The reactions carried out by the PLP-dependent enzymes that act on amino acids include transfer of the amino group, decarboxylation, racemization, and beta- or gamma-elimination or replacement. Such versatility arises from the ability of PLP to covalently bind the substrate, and then to act as an electrophilic catalyst, thereby stabilizing different types of carbanionic reaction intermediates.
Overall, the Enzyme Commission (EC; http://www.chem.qmul.ac.uk/iubmb/enzyme/ ) has catalogued more than 140 PLP-dependent activities, corresponding to ~4% of all classified activities.
The United States RDA suggests 1.3 mg for both men and women of any age, 1.9 mg for women who are pregnant, and 2.0 mg for women who are lactating.
Vitamin B6 is prevalent in both animal and vegetable food sources. Avocados, nuts, liver, chicken, fish, green beans, field salad, wheat germ, nutritional yeast, sea vegetables, and bananas are particularly good food sources.
The classic clinical syndrome for B6 deficiency is a seborrheic dermatitis-like eruption, atrophic glossitis with ulceration, angular cheilitis, conjunctivitis, intertrigo, and neurologic symptoms of somnolence, confusion, and neuropathy.
An overdose of pyridoxine can cause a temporary deadening of certain nerves such as the proprioceptory nerves; causing a feeling of disembodiment common with the loss of proprioception. This condition is reversible when supplementation is stopped.
Because adverse effects have only been documented from vitamin B6 supplements and never from food sources, this article only discusses the safety of the supplemental form of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). Although vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin and is excreted in the urine, very high doses of pyridoxine over long periods of time may result in painful neurological symptoms known as sensory neuropathy. Symptoms include pain and numbness of the extremities, and in severe cases difficulty walking. Sensory neuropathy typically develops at doses of pyridoxine in excess of 1,000 mg per day. However, there have been a few case reports of individuals who developed sensory neuropathies at doses of less than 500 mg daily over a period of months. None of the studies, in which an objective neurological examination was performed, found evidence of sensory nerve damage at intakes of pyridoxine below 200 mg/day. In order to prevent sensory neuropathy in virtually all individuals, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine set the tolerable upper intake level (UL) for pyridoxine at 100 mg/day for adults. Because placebo-controlled studies have generally failed to show therapeutic benefits of high doses of pyridoxine, there is little reason to exceed the UL of 100 mg/day. Studies have shown, however, that in the case of individuals diagnosed with autism, high doses of vitamin B6 given with magnesium have been found to be beneficial.
Preventive roles and therapeutic uses
At least one preliminary study has found that this vitamin may increase dream vividness or the ability to recall dreams. It is thought that this effect may be due to the role this vitamin plays in the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin.
The intake of vitamin B6, from either diet or supplements, could cut the risk of Parkinson’s disease by half according to a prospective study from the Netherlands. "Stratified analyses showed that this association was restricted to smokers," wrote the authors.
Nutritional supplementation with high dose vitamin B6 and magnesium is claimed to alleviate the symptoms of autism and is one of the most popular complimentary and alternative medicine choices for autism. Three small randomized controlled trials have studied this therapy; the smallest one (with 8 individuals) found improved verbal IQ in the treatment group and the other two (with 10 and 15 individuals, respectively) found no significant difference. The short-term side effects seem to be mild, but there may be significant long-term side effects of peripheral neuropathy. Some studies suggest that the B6-magnesium combination can also help attention deficit disorder , citing improvements in hyperactivity, hyperemotivity/aggressiveness and improved school attention. 
It is also suggested that ingestion of vitamin B6 can alleviate some of the many symptoms of an alcoholic hangover and morning sickness from pregnancy. This might be due to B6's mild diuretic effect.
Vitamin B6 is also present in energy drinks such as Red Bull.
- Facts about Vitamin B6 from Office of Dietary Supplements at National Institutes of Health
- The B6 database A database of B6-dependent enzymes at University of Parma
- Vitamin B6 Information Sheet from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University
- Vitamin B6 (and magnesium) in the treatment of autism from the Autism Research Institute
- MeSH Vitamin+B6
- Andrews' Diseases of the Skin, 10th Edition, Elsevier.
- Vitamin and Mineral Supplement Fact Sheets Vitamin B6
- Ebben, M., Lequerica, A., & Spielman A. (2002). Effects of pyridoxine on dreaming: a preliminary study. Perceptual & Motor Skills, 94(1), 135–140.
- Increased intake of vitamin B6Sheet. URL accessed on 2006-08-11.
- Angley M, Semple S, Hewton C, Paterson F, McKinnon R (2007). Children and autism—part 2—management with complimentary medicines and dietary interventions. Aust Fam Physician 36 (10): 827–30.
- "Improvement of neurobehavioral disorders in children supplemented with magnesium-vitamin B6. I. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorders." Magnes Res. 2006 Mar;19(1):46-52. PMID: 16846100
- THE MYSTERIOUS VITAMIN B6. By Dr. Russ Ebbets. Off The Road Column
|All B vitamins | All D vitamins|
|Retinol (A) | Thiamine (B1) | Riboflavin (B2) | Niacin (B3) | Pantothenic acid (B5) | Pyridoxine (B6) | Biotin (B7) | Folic acid (B9) | Cyanocobalamin (B12) | Ascorbic acid (C) | Ergocalciferol (D2) | Cholecalciferol (D3) | Tocopherol (E) | Naphthoquinone (K)|
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