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Vitamin B6 is also called pyridoxine. It is involved in the process of making serotonin and norepinephrine, which are chemicals that transmit signals in the brain. Vitamin B6 is also involved in the formation of myelin, a protein layer that forms around nerve cells.
Vitamin B6 deficiency in adults may cause health problems affecting the nerves, skin, mucous membranes, and circulatory system. In children, the central nervous system is also affected. Deficiency can occur in people with kidney failure complications, alcoholism, liver scarring, overactive thyroid, problems with absorbing nutrients, and heart failure, as well as those taking certain medications. Mild deficiency of vitamin B6 is common.
Major sources of vitamin B6 include cereal grains, legumes, vegetables (carrots, spinach, peas, and potatoes), milk, cheese, eggs, fish, liver, meat, and flour. Vitamin B6 is often used with other B vitamins in vitamin B complex formulas.
High blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine may be a risk factor for heart disease. Taking vitamin B6 supplements with other B vitamins (folic acid and vitamin B12) has been shown to be effective for lowering homocysteine levels.
Vitamin B6 has been studied for the treatment of many conditions, including anemia (low amounts of healthy red blood cells), vitamin B6 deficiency, certain seizures in newborns, and side effects of the drug cycloserine. Evidence in support of other uses is lacking.