Vitamins B6 and B12 belong to B-vitamin complex group, which are chemically distinct substances that help the body transform food into energy. They’re also responsible for other bodily processes, including the formation of blood cells, transmitting signals through the nervous system, and balancing blood sugar levels. But if you’re buying a B vitamin and you see ones marked B6 and B12, what’s the difference?
B6, or pyridoxine, is essential for the production of neurotransmitters — chemicals that carry signals between nerve cells. It also plays important role in normal brain development and function; furthermore, B6 is responsible for the producing “mood hormones” serotonin and norepinephrine, as well as melatonin, which regulates body natural rhythm. Tuna, spinach, cabbage, bell peppers, garlic, turkey, beef, chicken, sweet potatoes, bananas, collard greens, and salmon are some of the best sources of B6.
B12 is naturally found in animal products such as fish, meat, eggs, poultry; it’s also found in dairy. You can also find it non-citrus fruits, potatoes, and other starchy vegetables. B12 plays a role in brain and nervous system function, as well as metabolism of amino acids. Additionally, it is crucial in the formation of red blood cells. It is especially important for DNA synthesis and metabolism of fatty and amino acids.
Lacking vitamin B6 is rare since it’s widely available in more foods than B12, but if you’re deficient the symptoms usually include nervousness, irritability, muscle weakness, poor memory, and depression.
B12 deficiency is more common because it’s more challenging for your body to absorb. Particularly vulnerable to the lack of B12 are older people, those with pernicious anemia, vegans, and vegetarians who fail to take enough animal protein, such as dairy and eggs. Mild B12 deficiency usually goes without symptoms, but severe cases can lead to anemia.
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