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Vitamin :: Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6

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Other Terms:

Pyridoxine | Pyridoxal | Pyridoxamine


Water soluble, which means it dissolves in water. The body does not store it.  Any excess is removed in urine, so you need a regular intake of it in your diet.

On this Page: What is Vitamin B6 · Benefits · Deficiency Signs · Foods · Supplements · RDA · Toxicity | Overdose

What is Vitamin B6 ?
Vitamin B6 is one of the B Complex vitamins.  Pyridoxine, pyridoxamine and pyridoxal are three natural forms of it.  Pyridoxine is mostly found in plants and seeds, while pyridoxamine and pyridoxal are mainly from animal foods. Nutritional supplements usually contain pyridoxine.

Although vitamin B6 is considered one of the more stable B vitamins, a large part of it, ranging from 40% to 80%, is lost during processing such as freezing, cooking, and canning of food.

How Vitamin B6 Benefits Health
Pyridoxine, like the other B vitamins, plays an important role in maintaining the nervous and cardiovascular systems as well as the muscle tone of the gastrointestinal tract.  The B vitamins are also vital for energy production.

Vitamin B6 is itself involved in more than 100 enzyme processes that have a wide impact on our health. It is needed for the synthesis of amino acids that the body uses to build proteins that are essential for cell formation, and the growth and repair of practically all body structures.

Due to its role in the production of new cells, it is especially important to tissues that regenerate quickly, such as skin and mucous membranes.

This list summarizes the many ways vitamin B6 benefits our health.

:: Vitamin B6 Benefits & Functions
1. helps the immune system to produce antibodies which are needed to fight off diseases, especially in older people who tend to have impaired immune systems
2. helps the body break down fats and carbohydrates (starch and sugar) to produce energy
3. helps regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels within a normal range
4. needed for the metabolism of protein from food
5. essential for new cell formation and growth
6. promotes healthy skin and mucous membranes that act as an effective barrier against bacteria and viruses
7. needed to make red blood cells and the hemoglobin that carries oxygen to tissues
8. important for nerve and brain function, as it is needed for production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine, and formation of the myelin sheath around nerves
9. preliminary evidence suggests that pyridoxine's role in serotonin production helps it to treat mental depression as well
10. helps the body convert the amino acid tryptophan to vitamin B3 (niacin)
11. has been shown to work with vitamins B12 and B9 (folic acid) to reduce the risk of heart disease by inhibiting formation of homocysteine, a toxic chemical that attacks heart muscles and allows deposition of cholesterol around the heart and arteries and is associated with atherosclerosis
12. some evidence it may reduce PMS (premenstrual syndrome) symptoms like breast tenderness or pain and PMS related anxiety or depression
13. helps prevent kidney stones, as pyridoxine (alone or with magnesium) helps lower urinary oxalate levels that can lead to a type of kidney stone formation in women
14. initial studies suggest that large doses under medical supervision may be useful in treating treat carpal tunnel syndrome


Vitamin B6 Deficiency Symptoms and Causes
Vitamin B6 deficiency may arise from a deficient diet, or due to difficulty absorbing it from food as a result of a stomach or intestinal disorder.

Smoking and alcohol can deplete vitamin B6, as can certain prescription medications.  These include some antibiotics, barbiturates, asthma-related drugs, anti-epileptic drugs, anti-tuberculosis drugs, anti-depressants, birth control pills, oral estrogen, and diuretics.

Full blown deficiency of this vitamin is rare as it is available in many foods. However mild deficiency is common.

Typically, among the first vitamin B6 deficiency symptoms to show up are skin and nerve disorders, due to the key role that this nutrient plays in new cell formation and nerve function.

Details of the main vitamin B6 deficiency symptoms are listed here.

:: Vitamin B6 Deficiency Symptoms
1. skin disorders such as scaling of skin or dermatitis (skin inflammation)
2. cracks or sores on the lips, tongue or mouth
3. inflammation of mucous membranes of the mouth or tongue (glossitis, characterized by a smooth sore inflammed tongue)
4. nerve related problems including convulsions and seizures
5. arm and leg cramps or numbness of hands and feet
6. irritability or other mood abnormalities
7. mental depression or confusion
8. frequent nausea or vomiting or dizziness
9. migraine headaches
10. microcytic (pernicious) anemia / anaemia
11. chronic fatigue or feeling of weakness
12. weak immune system characterized by greater susceptibility to infection
13. children with severe asthma may suffer deficiency as the prescription drug theophylline, for managing asthma, seems to deplete pyridoxine


Vitamin B6 Foods
High vitamin B6 foods · bananas · bell peppers · chick peas · potatoes (baked with skin) · prune juice · raw rice bran · turnip greens · spinach.

Other vitamin B6 foods · beans (garbanzo, lima, soybeans) · brewer's yeast · eggs · chicken · garlic · fish like cod, halibut, snapper, trout, tuna · lean meat (calf liver, chicken breast, turkey breast, pork loin, beef, venison) · nuts · sunflower seeds · turmeric powder · vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, peas · walnuts · wheat germ · whole grains and whole grain products.


Vitamin B6 Supplements
Taking vitamins and minerals in their correct balance is vital to the proper functioning of all vitamins.  They work synergistically, which means that the effectiveness of any one nutrient requires or is enhanced, sometimes dramatically, by the presence of certain other nutrients.

For this reason, if you are looking to take supplements for maintenance of optimal health, the recommended approach is to take a multi-vitamin that has the proper balance of all the necessary nutrients your body needs.

For a list of reputable top ranked vitamin and mineral supplements chosen in an independent supplement review, see Best Multivitamin Supplements. Many of these are manufactured to pharmaceutical or nutraceutical GMP compliance, which is the highest multivitamin standard possible.

Keep in mind, however, that while vitamin supplements are useful to plug nutritional gaps that are almost inevitable in modern diets, and to ensure we get optimal doses of nutrients, they are no substitute for a good diet. Instead, use them to complement a healthy diet and lifestyle.


Vitamin B6 RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance)
The Food & Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, in their 1997-2001 collaboration between the US and Canada, set the daily Adequate Intake (AI) of Vitamin B6 as follows.

Life Stage | Gender Vitamin B6 Dosage | Day
Infants 0-6 mths 0.1* mg
Infants 7-12 mths 0.3* mg
Children 1-3 yrs 0.5 mg
Children 4-8 yrs 0.6 mg
Girls 9-13 Yrs 1.0 mg
Boys 9-13 Yrs 1.0 mg
Females 14-18 Yrs 1.2 mg
Males 14-18 Yrs 1.3 mg
Females 19-50 Yrs 1.3 mg
Males 19-50 Yrs 1.3 mg
Females older than 50 Yrs 1.5 mg
Males older than 50 Yrs 1.7 mg
Pregnant Women 14-18 Yrs 1.9 mg
Pregnant Women 19-50 Yrs 1.9 mg
Lactating Mothers 14-18 Yrs 2.0 mg
Lactating Mothers 19-50 Yrs 2.0 mg

These dosages are the minimum required per day to ward off deficiency. In therapeutic use of this nutrient, dosage is increased as necessary for the ailment, keeping in mind Vitamin B6 toxicity levels.


1 µg = 1 mcg = 1 microgram = 1/1,000,000 of a gram
1 mg = 1 milligram = 1/1,000 of a gram

* Indicates AI figures based on Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) figures


Vitamin B6 Overdose Symptoms, Toxicity Level & Side Effects
Pyridoxine is considered safe at the recommended dosages. However some people who are particularly sensitive to it can experience problems even at low doses.

High dosages over a prolonged period can cause vitamin B6 overdose, and lead to neurological disorders or imbalances to the nervous system.  Avoid excessive intake.

People on anti-convulsant or anti-Parkinson drugs should consult a doctor before taking vitamin B6 supplements.

In 1998, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine set the Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) for vitamin B6 as listed below.  These are the highest average daily intake levels above which there is risk of vitamin B6 toxicity, especially if taken over a long time.

Life Stage Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) per Day
0 to 12 months *ND
1 to 3 years 30 mg
4 to 8 years 40 mg
9 to 13 years 60 mg
14 to 18 years** 80 mg
19 years & above** 100 mg
*ND : Not determinable.  Intake should be from food/milk only.
**Includes pregnant and breastfeeding women.

The ULs do not apply to the therapeutic use of vitamin B6 for treatment, which should be under the supervision of a healthcare professional.

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1. Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary reference intakes for thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, biotin, and choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1998.

2. U.S. National Libary of Medicine [NLM] & National Institutes of Health [NIH]: MedlinePlus. NLM-NIH home page. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus>. Use the built-in search function to find specific data. Accessed 2009 March – June.

3. National Institutes of Health, NIH Clinical Center: Office of Dietary Supplements [ODS]. ODS home page. <http://ods.od.nih.gov>. Use the built-in search function to find specific data. Accessed 2009 Mar – Jun.

4. The George Mateljan Foundation: The world's healthiest foods [WHFoods]. WHFoods home page. <http://www.whfoods.com>. Accessed 2009 March – June.

5. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Mayo Clinic book of alternative medicine: The new approach to using the best of natural therapies and conventional medicine. New York, NY: Time Inc; 2007. p 67-75.

6. Balch JF, Balch PA. Prescription for nutritional healing: A practical A-Z reference to drug-free remedies using vitamins, minerals, herbs & food supplements. Garden City Park, New York: Avery Publishing; 1990.

7. Ulene A. Dr. Art Ulene's complete guide to vitamins, minerals and herbs. New York, NY: Avery Publishing; 2000.

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