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Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin. Water-soluble vitamins are stored in the body in very limited amounts and are excreted through the urine, so it is a good idea to have them in your daily diet.

Functions

Vitamin B6's functions include:

  • Helping amino acid and protein metabolism
  • Enabling red blood cell metabolism
  • Helping the nervous system function efficiently
  • Helping the immune system function efficiently
  • Converting tryptophan (an amino acid) to niacin (a vitamin)
  • Enabling the breakdown of glycogen to glucose
  • Aiding in the metabolism, transportation, and distribution of selenium
  • Assisting in the metabolism of calcium and magnesium

Recommended Intake:
Age Group (in years)Recommended Dietary Allowance
FemalesMales
1-30.5 milligrams (mg)0.5 mg
4-80.6 mg0.6 mg
9-131.0 mg1.0 mg
14-181.2 mg1.3 mg
19-501.3 mg1.3 mg
Pregnancy1.9 mgn/a
Lactation2.0 mgn/a
51 +1.5 mg1.7 mg
Vitamin B6 Deficiency

Primary deficiency of vitamin B6 is rare—most foods contain the vitamin. Secondary deficiency may result in certain situations, including malabsorption, alcoholism, some medicines, and cigarette smoking. Symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency include:

  • Skin inflammation and irritation
  • Glossitis (sore or inflamed tongue)
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Irritability and nervousness
  • Fatigue and sleepiness
  • Cheilosis (cracking and scaling of the lips)
  • Convulsions
  • Anemia

Vitamin B6 Toxicity

The tolerable upper intake level (UL) for vitamin B6 from dietary sources and supplements combined is 100mg per day for adults. Symptoms of vitamin B6 toxicity include:

  • Muscle incoordination
  • Numbness of the hands and feet
  • Nausea
  • Skin sores

Major Food Sources
FoodServing Size Vitamin B6 Content
(mg)
Breakfast cereal, fortified 25%¾ cup 0.5
(check Nutrition Facts label)
Beef liver, pan fried3 ounces0.9
Potato, boiled1 cup0.4
Banana1 medium 0.4
Chicken breast, roasted, no skin3 ounces0.5
Garbanzo beans, canned½ cup1.1
Turkey, meat only, roasted3 oz0.4
Ground beef, 85% lean3.0 ounces0.3
Spagetti sauce1 cup0.4
Waffles, ready to heat1 waffle0.3
Mixed nuts, dry roasted1 ounce0.1
Rice, white, enriched1 cup0.1
Tuna, fresh3 ounces0.9
Raisins, seedless½ cup0.1
Spinach, frozen, boiled½ cup0.1
Tofu, raw½ cup0.1
Health Implications
Populations at Risk for Vitamin B6 Deficiency

The following populations may be at risk for vitamin B6 deficiency and may require a supplement:

  • People Who Consume Excessive Amounts of Alcohol
  • People with poor kidney function
  • People with autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and ulcerative colitis

Vitamin B6, Homocysteine, and Heart Disease

Homocysteine is an amino acid normally found in the blood. Studies have shown that elevated blood levels of homocysteine can be a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Because vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid are required for the metabolism of homocysteine, it is thought that a deficiency of any of the three may increase the level of homocysteine in the blood. One would think that taking these vitamins as supplements may offer protection from heart disease. However, clinical trials do not support this idea.

Morning Sickness

There is evidence that high levels of B6 can help alleviate the symptoms of morning sickness during pregnancy.

Areas of Research That Have Not Been Supported by Clinical Data
  • Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)—There has been much anecdotal evidence that vitamin B6 can help relieve the symptoms of PMS (depression, irritability, bloating, mastalgia). However, clinical trials have failed to support this idea.
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome—There is no evidence to support the idea that B6 can ease carpal tunnel syndrome.
Tips for Increasing Your Vitamin B6 Intake

To help increase your intake of vitamin B6:

  • Sprinkle kidney beans or garbanzo beans on a salad
  • Opt for a fortified breakfast cereal—one that is high in fiber—in the morning
  • Slice a banana into your oatmeal or cereal
  • If you take a vitamin supplement, make sure it contains vitamin B6

RESOURCES:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
http://www.eatright.org

American Society for Nutrition
http://www.nutrition.org/

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Dietitians of Canada
http://www.dietitians.ca/

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/

References:

Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B6. National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional/. Accessed July 21, 2012.

Homocysteine and cardiovascular disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 2, 2011. Accessed July 21, 2012.

Pyridoxine. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 16, 2011. Accessed July 21, 2012.

Vitamin B6. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/thisTopic.php?marketID=15&topicID=114. Updated August 2011. Accessed July 21, 2012.



Last reviewed July 2012 by Brian P. Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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