Vitamin B6 is one of the B vitamins, and thus an essential nutrient. The term refers to a group of six chemically similar compounds, i.e., "vitamers", which can be interconverted in biological systems. Its active form, pyridoxal 5′-phosphate, serves as a coenzyme in more than 140 enzyme reactions in amino acid, glucose, and lipid metabolism.
|Use||Vitamin B6 deficiency|
|Biological target||enzyme cofactor|
|Drugs.com||International Drug Names|
Plants synthesize pyridoxine as a means of protection from the ultraviolet-B radiation of sunlight and to participate in synthesis of chlorophyll. Animals cannot synthesize any of the various forms of the vitamin, and hence must obtain it via diet, either of plants, or of other animals. There is some absorption of the vitamin produced by intestinal bacteria, but this is not sufficient to meet needs. For adult humans, recommendations from various country's food regulatory agencies are in the range of 1.0 to 2.0 milligrams (mg) per day. These same agencies also recognize ill effects from intakes that are too high, and so set safe upper limits, ranging from as low as 25 mg/day to as high as 100 mg/day depending on the country. Beef, pork, fowl and fish are generally good sources; dairy, eggs, mollusks and crustaceans also contain vitamin B6, but at lower levels. There is enough in a wide variety of plant foods so that a vegetarian or vegan diet does not put consumers at risk for deficiency.
Dietary deficiency is rare. Classic clinical symptoms include rash and inflammation around the mouth and eyes, plus neurological effects that include drowsiness and peripheral neuropathy affecting sensory and motor nerves in the hands and feet. In addition to dietary shortfall, deficiency can be the result of anti-vitamin drugs. There are also rare genetic defects that can trigger vitamin B6 deficiency-dependent epileptic seizures in infants. These are responsive to pyridoxal 5'-phosphate therapy. There is research exploring whether low vitamin status increases risks for cancer, heart disease and other diseases, also whether supplementation reduces those and other disease risks in people who are not deficient or marginally deficient.