Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine, is one of 8 B vitamins. All B vitamins help the body convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which is used to produce energy. These B vitamins, often referred to as B-complex vitamins, also help the body metabolize fats and protein. B-complex vitamins are needed for healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver. They also help the nervous system function properly.
All B vitamins are water soluble, meaning the body does not store them.Vitamin B6 helps the body make several neurotransmitters, chemicals that carry signals from one nerve cell to another. It is needed for normal brain development and function, and helps the body make the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine, which influence mood, and melatonin, which helps regulate the body clock.
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is required for the synthesis of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, and for myelin formation in the brain. People who are B6 deficient are more likely to be depressed than people who are not. Vitamin B6 is best utilized in conjunction with other vitamins, particularly B12 and folic acid.
Clinical depression occurs nearly twice as often in women as in men, with prevalence rates for major depressive disorders at 6.4% in women compared with 3.2% for men. This gender disparity begins in adolescence and is most pronounced in 25- to 45-year-old women who are married with children.
The use of oral contraceptives increases the likelihood of a woman becoming depressed because they deplete the body of vitamin B6, necessary for the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin. One double-blind study learned that vitamin B6 deficient women with depression who were taking oral contraceptives felt significantly better with vitamin B6 supplementation.
Other research has indicated that vitamin B6 supplementation helps alleviate depression associated with premenstrual syndrome. A review of several controlled studies confirmed that vitamin B6 is more than twice as likely to reduce depressive symptoms of PMS than placebo.