Vitamin B6 is one of the many B vitamins and one of the best studied B vitamins. Vitamin B6 was discovered in the 1930ies and is a water-soluble vitamin that exists in many different forms, including pyridoxal, pyridoxine, pyridoxine phosphate, pyridoxamine, pyridoxal phosphate, and pyridoxamine phosphate. The active form of vitamin B6 is pyridoxal phosphate.
Vitamin B6 plays a major role in hundreds of enzymatic reactions in the body, including the synthesis of amino acids, nucleic acids (DNA/RNA), phospholipids (which are part of cell membranes), histamine, certain neurotransmitters (such as serotonin, norepinephrin, GABA), heme (the center part of hemoglobin) and the processing of carbohydrates.
Vitamin B6 is believed to have a major impact on the skin as when vitamin B6 levels are insufficient, inflammation of the skin can develop, in particular seborrheic dermatitis. Vitamin B6 used to be called anti-dermatitis factor and is also one of the main ingredients in topical treatments for seborrheic dermatitis.
Vitamin B6 deficiency
Since vitamin B6 is involved in the production of the “building blocks” for every tissue in the body, tissues that regenerate frequently such as blood and skin, are affected most when vitamin B6 is deficient. Symptoms of a vitamin B6 deficiency include anemia, fatigue and skin conditions such as eczema and (seborrheic) dermatitis.
Vitamin B6 is absorbed from our food in the intestines via passive diffusion. The absorption of B6 vitamins pyridoxal phosphate and pyridoxamine phosphate involves the dephosphorylation catalyzed by intestinal alkaline phosphatase, which is a a membrane-bound enzyme.
Vitamin B6 deficiencies are relatively rare, but people with inflammatory bowel conditions (such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease), people who drink large quantities of alcohol and people taking certain drugs (corticosteroids, anticonvulsants) are at risk for developing a vitamin B6 deficiency.
Because vitamin B6 plays a major role in the healthy functioning of our nervous system and skin, a severe deficiency of B6 can result in seizures, convulsions and inflammatory skin conditions.
Vitamin B6 is also important for the synthesis of vitamin B3 and for the absorption of vitamin B12. Foods that contain high amounts of vitamin B6 are meats, fish (tuna) and vegetables such as spinach, broccolli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and more.
Cooked and processed food however, have lost most of the active vitamin B6 and for that reason, supplementation with vitamin B6 may be beneficial to your health if you suspect a B6 deficiency. In addition, several studies have reported that vitamin B6 supplementation can be helpful for managing symptoms of autism.
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