The health and athletic benefits of vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 plays a vital role in the maintenance of health. It is essential for over 160 critical processes that happen within the body. Maintaining adequate levels is therefore more than important! Read on to find out about it and its role in health and performance.
Vitamin B6, chemical name pyridoxine, refers to a group of chemically similar substances that can be converted to one another. The metabolically active form of vitamin B6 that is utilised for all the reactions that place in the body is called pyridoxal 5’-phosphate (P5P).
P5P is necessary for over 160 different vital reactions that take place within the body. It is utilised in the metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, the synthesis of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters), the synthesis and function of part of the red blood cells (haemoglobin), maintaining a healthy immune system and transporting certain minerals, such as magnesium into cells.
P-5-P vs Pyridoxine hydrochloride
Supplementation of vitamin B6 is either in the form of P5P (the active form) or a pyridoxine compound (usually pyridoxine hydrochloride). When taking a supplement in the form of pyridoxine, the body has to convert it to P5P in the liver first before it can be utilised, which would indicate that P5P would be the preferred option since it can immediately be utilised upon ingestion. This process of absorption and transportation required for pyridoxine to become P5P, may result in P5P being a superior supplementation and why it is our preferred choice (1).
Vitamin B6 may play a role in:
Adequate levels of P5P are necessary to unlock the energy in food and utilise nutrients efficiently. P5P is necessary to generate energy from the stores of carbohydrate in the body known as glycogen and is also necessary to utilise the functions of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) (2).
Brain function and mood support
P5P is necessary for the production of important neurotransmitters such as: serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, melatonin and GABA. These neurotransmitters influence mood, motivation, the stress response, the body’s sleep cycle and levels of alertness and fatigue (3).
Healthy immune system
P5P is necessary for the production of certain proteins (called lymphocytes and antibodies) that facilitate a healthy immune system and supplementation with P5P may further support the immune system when in an unwell state (4,5).
Higher levels of P5P may be associated with reduced levels of inflammatory markers (6).
Healthy blood cells
P5P is necessary for the production of the protein that transports oxygen within red blood cells called haemoglobin. Adequate levels are necessary to avoid health issues such as anaemia (2).
Supporting heart health
High levels of an amino acid called homocysteine is associated with cardiovascular disease (6). P5P is necessary for the conversion of homocysteine into another amino acid called cysteine and therefore adequate levels of P5P are required to prevent homocysteine levels becoming elevated and support a healthy heart.
Increased magnesium absorption
P5P may assist with the transport of magnesium into the cells. Supplementation with P5P increases intracellular levels of magnesium (7). As well as being a critical mineral for overall health, magnesium levels may be particularly important for athletic performance and recovery.
Take home points
P5P is the active form of vitamin B6: vitamin B6 consists of a group of chemical compounds and P5P is the active form which is utilised by the body for all of the reactions and processes that take place.
P5P may be more beneficial than pyridoxine form for supplementation: since it can be utilised immediately as the active form.
P5P may enhance the benefits of magnesium supplementation: by facilitating the transport of magnesium into cells and optimising absorption of magnesium levels.
- Wang et al. (2005). Pyridoxal phosphate is better than pyridoxine for controlling idiopathic intractable epilepsy.
- Kennedy et al. (2016). B vitamins and the brain: mechanisms, dose and efficacy – a review
- Qian et al. (2017). Effects of vitamin B6 deficiency on the composition and functional potential of T cell populations
- Cheng et al. (2006). Vitamin B6 supplementation increases immune response in critically ill patients
- Ganguly et al. (2015). Role of homocysteine in the development of cardiovascular disease
- Yidqing Song (2018) Superiority of magnesium and vitamin B6 over magnesium alone on severe stress in healthy adults with low magnesemia: A randomized, single-blind clinical trial