Nutrition Market

Vitamin B6 Supplements in Australia

Introduction

What is Vitamin B6?

Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a key role in many aspects of health. It is involved in over 100 enzyme reactions in the body, primarily related to metabolism of nutrients for energy production, immune function, neurotransmitter synthesis, and red blood cell formation.

There are three main forms of vitamin B6: pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine. The active form that is utilised in the body is called pyridoxal 5'-phosphate (PLP). Foods contain a mixture of vitamin B6 compounds, which are converted into PLP in the body.

The Importance of Vitamin B6

Benefits of vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 has many important functions that make it an essential nutrient for health:

  • Protein metabolism - PLP is needed to metabolise and synthesise amino acids and generate glucose from glycogen stores. This helps maintain normal protein levels in the body.
  • Immune function - Vitamin B6 plays a role in the production of antibodies, white blood cells and other immune components that protect against disease.
  • Red blood cell formation - PLP is required for haemoglobin synthesis and production of red blood cells which transport oxygen around the body.
  • Brain development and function - Vitamin B6 helps in the production of neurotransmitters including serotonin, melatonin, epinephrine and GABA. It supports brain development and cognition.
  • Cardiovascular health - Vitamin B6 may help lower homocysteine levels, reducing the risk of heart disease. It’s also used to treat high blood pressure.

Getting enough vitamin B6

Given the wide range of vital functions that vitamin B6 performs in maintaining health, it’s important to ensure you get adequate amounts from your diet or supplements. Deficiency can lead to anaemia, high blood pressure, brain disorders, weakened immunity and more.

Sources of Vitamin B6

Supplements containing vitamin B6

While vitamin B6 is found naturally in many foods, supplements can provide concentrated amounts in an easy dosage form. Some supplements that contain vitamin B6 include:

  • Vitamin B complex - Contains B6 along with other B vitamins like B12, B9 (folic acid), B1 and B2.
  • Multivitamins - Provide vitamin B6 in addition to other essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Individual B6 supplements - Come in tablet, capsule or liquid forms with just pyridoxine or pyridoxal 5’-phosphate.
  • Prenatal vitamins - Have higher levels of vitamin B6 and other nutrients to support maternal health.

Vitamin B6 Deficiency and Neuropathy

Understanding vitamin B6 deficiency

Vitamin B6 deficiency is not very common, but it can occur in certain populations and lead to neurological disorders. Risk factors for B6 deficiency include:

  • Inadequate dietary intake - Eating a very limited diet that lacks sources of vitamin B6 for an extended time can deplete stores. This is rare in Australia though.
  • Alcohol dependence - Chronic heavy drinking interferes with vitamin B6 absorption and metabolism, increasing needs. Around half of alcoholics are deficient in vitamin B6.
  • Certain medications - Drugs like isoniazid, penicillamine, cycloserine and oral contraceptives can impair vitamin B6 status long-term.
  • Kidney dialysis - The dialysis process causes losses of water-soluble vitamin B6.

Mild deficiency may have no obvious symptoms initially. More prolonged or severe deficiency can result in skin rashes, cracks at mouth corners, swollen tongue, weakened immunity, anaemia, depression and more.

Neuropathy and Vitamin B6

One of the serious complications of vitamin B6 deficiency is peripheral neuropathy. This refers to damage of the peripheral nervous system, which transmits information between the brain and spinal cord and the rest of the body.

Initial signs are tingling, numbness, pain or weakness in the extremities like hands and feet. This can progressively worsen to loss of reflexes, impaired motor skills and disability if untreated.

Studies show vitamin B6 supplementation can help prevent and improve neuropathy in those deficient. Getting blood levels of vitamin B6 is important for those at risk.

How Much Vitamin B6 Do You Need?

The recommended dietary intake (RDI) for vitamin B6 in Australia is:

Age RDI
Infants 0-6 months 0.1 mg/day
Infants 7-12 months 0.3 mg/day
Children 1-3 years 0.5 mg/day
Children 4-8 years 0.6 mg/day
Children 9-13 years 1 mg/day
Adolescents 14-18 years 1.3 mg/day
Adults 19-50 years 1.3 mg/day
Adults >50 years 1.7 mg/day
Pregnancy 1.9 mg/day
Breastfeeding 2 mg/day

The RDI is the amount that meets the needs of about 97% of healthy individuals in each demographic. Higher doses within the tolerable upper intake level (UL) of 100mg/day for adults are not considered more beneficial.

Reference: Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand

Choosing the Right Vitamin B6 Supplements

Factors to consider

When selecting a vitamin B6 supplement in Australia, here are some factors to consider:

  • Form - Pyridoxine hydrochloride is the commonly used form. Pyridoxal 5’-phosphate is the active form already converted and may be better absorbed.
  • Dosage - The RDI is 1.3-1.7mg for adults. Doses between 25-100mg are typically used for specific health conditions. Follow label directions.
  • Quality - Look for supplements that have been independently tested to confirm purity and accuracy of ingredients listed.
  • Additives - Some contain unnecessary fillers, binders and preservatives. Opt for a simple supplement.
  • Cost - Generic brands tend to be more affordable. Shop from reputable suppliers for best value.
  • Purpose - Choose appropriate type like prenatal, B-complex or multivitamin formulations to suit your needs.

Taking Vitamin B6 Supplements Safely

Possible side effects of excessive vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is water-soluble so any excess is generally excreted in urine without toxicity. However, extremely high doses over 100-200mg per day taken long-term can potentially cause nerve damage known as peripheral sensory neuropathy.

Signs include loss of coordination and balance, pins and needles sensations, numbness or pain in the legs and arms. Discontinuing the supplements leads to improvement in most cases.

Some other side effects that may occur with excessive vitamin B6 supplementation include nausea, abdominal pain, sleeplessness and skin lesions. To avoid adverse effects, do not exceed the UL of 100mg for adults.

Consulting with a healthcare professional

It's advisable to consult a doctor or pharmacist before taking vitamin B6 supplements, especially in high doses. They can help determine the appropriate amount based on your individual nutritional needs and health conditions.

Blood tests may sometimes be required to check vitamin B6 levels and rule out toxicity. Monitoring and medical guidance is important when taking supplements long-term or combining with other medicines.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should only take vitamin B6 supplements on the advice of their antenatal care provider to ensure safe levels.

FAQ

Does vitamin B6 help with morning sickness in pregnancy?

Yes, taking vitamin B6 supplements has been found effective for treating nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. Doses of 10-25mg per day are commonly used under medical supervision.

Can vitamin B6 help treat PMS symptoms?

Some studies indicate vitamin B6 supplements may help relieve premenstrual syndrome symptoms like mood swings, irritability, bloating and cramps when taken regularly during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. A dose between 50-100mg per day is typically used.

Is vitamin B6 good for anxiety and depression?

Research shows vitamin B6 may have a positive effect on anxiety, depression and overall mood due to its role in neurotransmitter production. Doses up to 100mg per day are sometimes used as an adjunct treatment under medical guidance.

Can I take vitamin B6 for leg cramps?

Yes, vitamin B6 supplements have been found beneficial in relieving night leg cramps. Taking 100mg twice per day is the typical recommended dosage, but check with your doctor.

Does vitamin B6 help reduce hair loss?

In some cases, vitamin B6 supplements can help reduce hair loss that’s associated with vitamin deficiency or anemia. Doses of 50–100 mg per day may provide some benefit for hair growth.

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