Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin. Water-soluble vitamins are stored in the body in limited amounts. Because they are excreted through the urine, it is a good idea to have them in your daily diet.
Vitamin B6's functions include:
Helping with amino acid and protein metabolismEnabling red blood cell metabolismHelping the nervous system function efficientlyHelping the immune system function efficientlyConverting tryptophan (an amino acid) to niacin (a vitamin)Enabling the breakdown of glycogen to glucoseAiding in the metabolism, transportation, and distribution of seleniumAssisting in the metabolism of calcium and magnesium
|Age Group (in years)||Recommended Dietary Allowance|
|1-3||0.5 milligrams (mg)||0.5 mg|
|4-8||0.6 mg||0.6 mg|
|9-13||1.0 mg||1.0 mg|
|14-18||1.2 mg||1.3 mg|
|19-50||1.3 mg||1.3 mg|
|51 +||1.5 mg||1.7 mg|
Primary deficiency of vitamin B6 is rare—most foods contain the vitamin. Secondary deficiency may result in certain situations, including malabsorption, alcoholism, some medications, and cigarette smoking. Symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency include:
Skin inflammation and irritationGlossitis—sore or inflamed tongueConfusionDepressionIrritability and nervousnessCheilosis—cracking and scaling of the lipsConvulsions—especially in newbornsAnemia
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:
Poor coordinationNauseaSkin soresSensitivity to sunlight
Vitamin B6 Content
|Breakfast cereal, fortified 25%||¾ cup||
(check Nutrition Facts label)
|Beef liver, pan fried||3 ounces||0.9|
|Potato, boiled||1 cup||0.4|
|Banana||1 medium|| 0.4|
|Chicken breast, roasted, no skin||3 ounces||0.5|
|Chickpeas, canned ||1 cup||1.1|
|Turkey, meat only, roasted||3 ounces||0.4|
|Ground beef, 85% lean||3.0 ounces||0.3|
|Spaghetti sauce||1 cup||0.4|
|Waffles, ready to heat||1 waffle||0.3|
|Mixed nuts, dry roasted||1 ounce||0.1|
|Rice, white, enriched||1 cup||0.1|
|Tuna, fresh||3 ounces||0.9|
|Raisins, seedless||½ cup||0.1|
|Spinach, frozen, boiled||½ cup||0.1|
|Tofu, raw||½ cup||0.1|
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 functionPeople with autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and ulcerative colitis
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. Studies have failed to show that taking these vitamins as supplements in people with normal levels offers protection from heart disease.
There is evidence that high levels of B6 can help alleviate the symptoms of morning sickness during pregnancy.
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.
To help increase your intake of vitamin B6:
Sprinkle kidney beans or garbanzo beans on a saladOpt for a fortified breakfast cereal—one that is high in fiber—in the morningSlice a banana into your oatmeal or cerealIf you take a vitamin supplement, make sure it contains vitamin B6
Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B6. National Institutes of Health website. Available at:
Updated September 15, 2011. Accessed May 20, 2014.
Homocysteine and cardiovascular disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 4, 2013. Accessed May 20, 2014.
Pyridoxine. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 18, 2013. Accessed May 20, 2014.
Vitamin B6. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/thisTopic.php?marketID=15&topicID=114. Updated August 2013. Accessed May 20, 2014.
Last reviewed May 2014 by Michael Woods, 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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