Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin and one of the vitamin B’s that make up the complex. It is found in one of three naturally occurring forms – pyridoxine, pyridoxal, pyridoxamine, and three respective 5′-phosphate esters. Pyridoxal 5′ phosphate (PLP) and pyridoxamine 5′ phosphate (PMP) are the active coenzyme forms of B6 that participate in amino acids metabolism.
Inside the body, the naturally occurring glycosylated forms of B6 in fruits and vegetables have to be converted by the liver to the active form the body needs. People with impaired liver function, celiac disease, older adults, and children with autism and/or ADHD have decreased ability in converting vitamin B6 into its active forms. Therefore, supplementing B6 in its active form is more appropriate and readily available for use by the body.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
PLP is necessary for the conversion of DOPA into dopamine, a neurotransmitter, and conversion of glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter, to GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It is also involved in the decarboxylation of SAM to propylamine.
ADHD is believed to be the result of decreased dopamine activity. Low dopamine level in the frontal lobes is associated with decline in cognitive functions, such as memory, attention and problem-solving skills, while deficient of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex is associated with attention deficit disorder.
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Dopamine plays a major role in the brain system that is responsible for reward-driven learning, and inhibition control. Every type of reward that has been studied increases the level of dopamine transmission in the brain, and a variety of highly addictive drugs, including stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine, act directly on the dopamine system. This is the same mechanism that caffeine works.
The other mechanism that B6 helps with ADHD symptoms is its use in combination with magnesium. Magnesium and vitamin B6 has a co-dependent relationship. While B6 boosts absorption of magnesium into the cells, magnesium is needed for the proper functioning of alkaline phosphatase, which helps the absorption of B6 into body tissues.
Signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency includes sensitivity to loud noises, insomnia, anxiety, hyperactivity, restlessness, panic attacks, salt craving, and both carbohydrate craving and carbohydrate intolerance. Children with ADHD are believed to have lower levels of magnesium inside their blood cells. Since B6 helps improve blood cell level of magnesium, supplementing magnesium along with B6 will help with ADHD symptoms.
A study of young children with average age 6-7 years old showed improvement in behaviors, such as inattention, aggressiveness and hyperactivity with treatment with magnesium and B6. The amounts used were 6 mg/kg/day magnesium and 0.6mg/kg/day B6 – roughly 100-200 mg of magnesium and around 10-20 mg of B6.
Children with ADHD and/or autism have lower conversion rates to PLP, the active form of vitamin B6. Therefore, supplementing with PLP is more appropriate and readily available for use by the body.