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.
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
Age Group (in years)
Recommended Dietary Allowance
0.5 milligrams (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:
The tolerable upper intake level (UL) for vitamin B6 from dietary sources and supplements combined is 100mg per day. Symptoms of vitamin B6 toxicity include:
Numbness of the hands and feet
Abnormal plasma amino acid levels
Major Food Sources
Vitamin B6 Content
Fortified breakfast cereal
(check Nutrition Facts label)
Potato, baked with skin
Chicken breast, roasted, no skin
Garbanzo beans, canned
Tomato juice, canned
Pork loin, lean
Roast beef, lean
Rainbow trout, cooked
Sunflower seeds, dry roasted
Tuna, canned in water
Lima beans, cooked
Populations at Risk for Vitamin B6 Deficiency
The following populations may be at risk for vitamin B6 deficiency and may require a supplement:
The Elderly—Many older adults have low blood levels of vitamin B6, which may occur from low intake of the vitamin or accelerated hydrolysis and oxidation of the vitamin.
People Who Consume Excessive Amounts of Alcohol—Alcohol impairs the conversion and enhances the hydrolysis of the vitamin.
Vitamin B6, Homocysteine, and Heart Disease
Homocysteine is an amino acid normally found in the blood. However, 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.
Areas of Research That Have Not Been Supported by Clinical Data
Headache and Depression—Vitamin B6 is needed for the synthesis of neurotransmitters, including serotonin. Low levels of serotonin have been found in individuals suffering from depression and
migraine headaches. This led researchers to look at the relationship between vitamin B6, headaches, and depression. So far, vitamin B6 supplements have not proved effective in relieving either.
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.
Morning Sickness—There has been some evidence that high levels of B6 can help allieviate the symptoms, such as nausea, of morning sickness during pregnancy.
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
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