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VITAMIN B6
Also known as:  
Pyridoxine

What does it do? Vitamin B6 is the master vitamin in the processing of amino acids—the building blocks of all proteins and some hormones. Vitamin B6 helps to make and take apart many amino acids and is also needed to make serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine. Vitamin B6 also aids in the formation of several neurotransmitters and is therefore an essential nutrient in the regulation of mental processes and possibly mood. To some extent, vitamin B6 lowers homocysteine levels—a substance that has been linked to heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

A link between vitamin B6 deficiency and carpal tunnel syndrome has been reported in some, but not all, research.

Where is it found? Potatoes, bananas, raisin bran cereal, lentils, liver, turkey, and tuna are all good sources of vitamin B6.

Who is likely to be deficient? Vitamin B6 deficiencies, although very rare, cause impaired immunity, skin lesions, and mental confusion. A marginal deficiency sometimes occurs in alcoholics, patients with kidney failure, and women using oral contraceptives. Many nutritionally oriented doctors believe that most diets do not provide optimal amounts of this vitamin.

How much is usually taken? The most common supplemental intake is 10–25 mg per day; however, higher amounts (200–500 mg per day) may be recommended for certain conditions.

Are there any side effects or interactions? Although side effects from vitamin B6 supplements are rare, at very high levels (200 mg or more per day) this vitamin can eventually damage sensory nerves, leading to numbness in the hands and feet as well as difficulty walking. Vitamin B6 supplementation should be stopped if any of these symptoms begin to develop.

Pregnant and lactating women should not take more than 100 mg of vitamin B6. For other adults, vitamin B6 is usually safe in amounts of 200–300 mg per day, although occasional problems have been reported in this range. Any adult taking more than 100–200 mg of vitamin B6 for more than a few months should consult a nutritionally oriented doctor. Side effects from vitamin B6 are dependent on the level of intake. No one should ever take more than 500 mg per day, even with clinical supervision.

Since vitamin B6 increases the bioavailability of magnesium, these nutrients are sometimes taken together.

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