Zinc and B6 deficiency

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A basic understanding of zinc and B6 deficiency

Also known as pyroluria, pyrrole disorder, high mauve.

The science

Hydroxyhemopyrrolin-2-one (HPL) is a by-product of haemoglobin synthesis. When it leaves the body it attaches itself to zinc and B6. Some people produce an excess of HPL, or pyrrole, causing zinc and B6 to be leached out of the system leading to deficiency. Zinc and B6 are required for brain functioning and balancing the nervous system. Disturbance of these processes lead to an extremely wide range of symptoms. Symptoms can differ widely between those who have excess pyrrole, and not all are experienced in each case. Different symptoms also vary widely within the individual when sometimes they are non-existent, sometimes mild, sometimes extreme – changing within a day or over prolonged periods. This makes the condition very difficult to pin down.

Potential effects of zinc and B6 deficiency include:

  • Hidden anxiety
  • Depression
  • Explosive anger
  • Low motivation
  • Schizophrenia
  • Poor memory
  • Oppositional defiance disorder (ODD)
  • (In children) hyperactivity, ADHD

Other signs

  • Poor dream recall
  • Dislike of eating protein
  • Easily upset by criticism
  • Low appetite in the morning
  • Focus internally rather than on the external world
  • Tendency to become dependent on one person who life is built around
  • White marks on finger nails
  • It runs in families

Body of evidence

The strength of evidence on this is weak. Books written by practitioners have some really interesting insight but facts are not well referenced. Statements like “pyrroles are abnormally high in about 11% of the population” (Larson, 2001, p146) are plausible but cannot be pushed without a clear source. Assertions such as this need to be traced back to a sound research methodology for credibility.

Some other statements (Larson, 2001) which prompt further research:

Dr Carl Pfeiffer comments that in his clinical experience, he has found “the greatest factor in teenage suicide is Pyroluria, the stress induced deficiency in B6 and zinc.”

Pyrroles are abnormally high in about:

  • 30% of schizophrenics
  • 40% of people with psychiatric problems
  • 11% population
  • 25% of children with psychiatric problems
  • 40% of alcoholics


There are problems with past academic research particularly confusion with biomarkers. Early research identified the compound of interest as kryptopyrrole, more recent research (McGinnis et al, 2008a,b) finds it to be  hydroxyhemopyrrolin-2-one (HPL). Other studies use methodologies which limit sound inference. Studies tend to be from journals with a low impact factor.

Moving forward

Difficulties in increasing understanding:

  • Wide range of symptoms
  • Condition affects different individuals differently
  • Each symptom may have many other causes
  • Symptoms come and go over different time periods
  • Pyrrole is a technically challenging compound to study

The fact that this is difficult to pin down can’t be a reason to not try.  VAMFEW is  the beginning of a large-scale long-term research project.

Broad research aims:

  • Establish that this is occurring for people. Symptom commonalities among sufferers.
  • Investigate prevalence and causality.
  • How to treat. Holistic approaches.