Vitamin B6 - Pyridoxine

Apr 28, 2022

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

What do chickpeas and beef liver have in common besides maybe not being on my kid's favorite food list? The answer is they are both decent sources of Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine. Other good sources include tuna, salmon, poultry, and dark leafy greens. It is also supplemented in many fortified foods because of its importance. If you have been reading up on the articles in the past few weeks you already know that as a B vitamin, B6 is water soluble, which also means it needs to be obtained from your diet on a regular basis, because it is not stored by the body in high amounts.

We measure B6 in the body by its active coenzyme form, pyridoxal 5' phosphate. As a coenzyme, it assists over 100 enzymes to help the body get energy. Think of a coenzyme like oil in a car. Your car does not burn oil to move, however it does require oil in the engine to ensure the combustion can safely move the pistons which in eventually turns the wheels. Vitamin B6 assists in the breakdown of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Like its other B vitamin cousins, it also works to maintain normal levels of homocysteine, because a high level can cause problems such as heart trouble. Pyridoxine also supports brain health and our immune function.

Vitamin B6 has been studied extensively for its health benefits, which is not always the cause for supplements. Mothers who experienced nausea early in their pregnancies will likely know a medication called Diclectin. Diclectin is a prescription medication containing a histamine blocker and 10mg of good old Vitamin B6, which can effectively treat nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. A consistent level of B6 in our blood may lower our risk of certain cancers and increase cognitive function. However, research has not shown that everyone needs to continuously supplement with B6, especially if we have a well-balanced diet.

Usually if there is a B6 deficiency, there is a deficiency of other B vitamins, especially B12 and folate (folic acid/B9). Mild deficiencies may have no symptoms at all. Severe deficiencies can lead to anemias, skin conditions, depression, confusion, and lowered immunity. With COVID-19 still spreading in the community, you do not want to have insufficient amounts of B vitamins in your body. People with kidney disease, autoimmune disorders of the digestive system (Ex: Crohn's, celiac) and those who have battled alcoholism are at increased risk of developing a deficiency.

The recommended dietary allowance or the minimum Vitamin B6 you should be consuming in a day is about 1.5mg. For pregnancy and lactation, the allowance increases to approximately 2mg, which is not that much if you are supplementing it. The upper limit for adults per day is about 100mg. Vitamin B6 supplements usually come in combination products. A B50 or B100 complex has 50 and 100mg respectively. It is also sold as a combination of 50mg Vitamin B6 and 125 mcg of Vitamin B12. B vitamins on their own or in a complex are usually quite inexpensive however the cost does increase for chewable or other specialty formulations. For comparison 100g of beef liver would have 0.6mg of vitamin B6, while chickpeas have 0.5mg per 100g. Salmon has about the same content. Kale, a high B6 leafy green has about 0.3mg per 100g of the vegetable. Remember that boiling foods does reduce the amount of b vitamins you obtain from the food because it goes out with the water.

Usually, there is a very small risk of B6 toxicity. Supplementing with over 1000mg per day could lead to nervous system issues, however this would require consuming ten times the recommended supplement dose and you would have to eat a whole herd of cow liver to get that much from your diet. As always aim for quality food from a quality source, which is unprocessed.

If you have questions on the B vitamins or any others, trust your clinic pharmacist for useful advice.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional.


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