Vitamin B6



The active form of B6 (pyridoxal-5-phosphate/P-5-P) is an essential coenzyme (non-protein portion of an enzyme) in many bodily processes including: metabolism of amino acids, fatty acids, carbohydrates, hormones and cholesterol; synthesis of neurotransmitters, haemoglobin and fatty acids; various methylation and transport reactions; and many others. Due to its wide-ranging roles, a B6 deficiency can adversely impact on countless aspects of health, producing numerous signs and symptoms (see below). Conversion of B6 into pyridoxal-5-phosphate requires adequate levels of vitamin B2 and magnesium, thus warranting the use of a multivitamin/mineral supplement when B6 is being taken separately.


B6 is needed to maintain hormone balance, with female reproductive hormones (e.g. oestrogen) being particularly studied in this respect. For example, B6 has been shown to reduce blood levels of oestrogen and enhances the detoxification of reproductive hormones such as oestrogen within the liver. Because o the fact that 70-75% of women suffering with premenstrual tension (PMT) have excessive oestrogen levels during the premenstrual phase, the above-mentioned actions of B6 are considered particularly significant with regard to its success in the treatment of PMT. In clinical trials designed to assess the effect of B6 on PMT, the vast majority of women experienced improvement in symptoms (particularly irritability, depression, bloating, breast discomfort and acne). Supplementation may also be useful in reducing the side effects of oral contraceptives, which are known to deplete B6 levels.


When B6 intake is inadequate, homocysteine, a by-product of methionine metabolism, becomes elevate in the blood. Homocysteine has been shown to accelerate free radical damage to the blood vessel walls This damage would significantly increasing the risk of heart disease due to the development of atherosclerosis. This is backed up by studies which confirm that elevated homocysteine is one of the major risk factors in heart disease. Furthermore, studies show that those with lower blood levels of the active form of B6 are at 5 times greater risk of heart attack than those with higher levels. Supplementation of B6 not only reduces homocysteine levels, but also reduces platelet aggregation. B6 is also needed for the proper integrity and elasticity of vascular tissues.


B6 is required for many brain functions, including the manufacture of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. Among other things, inadequate neurotransmitter activity can lead to emotional disturbances (e.g. depression, anxiety), behavioural disorders (e.g. hyperactivity, autism), lack of mental clarity and alertness and general reduction in cognitive performance. B6 also reduces elevated blood levels of homocysteine, a compound known to trigger damage associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.


The peripheral nervous system also relies on B6 for its proper function. In addition to preventing certain nervous conditions by avoiding deficiency, research shows that supplementation can be used therapeutically to relieve symptoms of certain nerve disorders such as diabetic neuropathy and Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (often linked to repetitive strain injury [RSI]).

Please note: In spite of the potential neurological benefits of B 6 supplementation, it is important to note that long-term daily intake (several months to years) of 500mg or more, or shorter-term daily intake (more than a few months) of 2000mg or more have been shown to cause nerve toxicity (nerve degeneration, tingling or numbness in the extremities, lack of muscle coordination) in some people. Although there are reports suggesting that this can occur with long-term use as low as 150- 200mg, these results have been questioned by many experts for their lack of scientific reliability and!or consistency with the research at large. In fact, after a review of B 6 research, the leading toxicologists in the US have set the LOAEL (lowest observed adverse effect level) at SOOmg. Some experts suggest that in mega-dose therapy this risk of toxicity might be reduced by using the co-enzyme form (P-S-P) instead of standard pyridoxine (see contraindications below).

Potential Applications

•         Premenstrual tension (PMT)

•         Cardiovascular disease (i.e. atherosclerosis, hypertension)

•         Fluid retention

•         Pregnancy-related sickness (nausea, vomiting) [see contraindications below]

•         Carpal Tunnel Syndrome/repetitive strain injury (RSI)

•         Autism

•         Hyperactivity

•         Depression

•         Diabetic neuropathy

•         Asthma

•         Hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid)

•         MSG (monosodium glutamate) sensitivity

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