The family of B vitamins has eight different members. Vitamin B6 is one of them.
B vitamins are crucial to the human body in order for cells to function properly. Vitamin B6 is also called pyridoxine.
Health Benefits of Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 and the B-vitamin family are responsible for many different roles within the human body. Many of them relate to functionality and health at the cellular level. B6, in particular, is known to have these benefits:
- Air Pollution Protection: This vitamin might protect the epigenome of individuals living in places where air quality levels are below recommended guidelines.
- Alleviation of Depression: Healthline reports that vitamin B6 may improve mood and alleviate symptoms of depression. However, the research is somewhat mixed. Deficiency is linked to higher rates of depression, but supplementation alone might not be enough to address the issue. However, the vitamin is a potential source of decreasing high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid, in the blood; that’s known to correlate with psychiatric issues, including depression.
- Cancer Prevention: Why B6 helps prevent cancer isn’t quite known yet, but researchers think it might be due to its power of fighting inflammation that results in chronic conditions.
- Cardiovascular Benefits: Scientific studies suggest that vitamin B6 deficiency results in twice as much chance of heart disease. A combination of B6 with folic acid seems to work best.
- Enzyme Reactions: Vitamin B6 is a major contributor in more than a hundred different enzyme reactions. It helps your body metabolize carbs, fat, and protein for energy.
- Immune System Functions: These help you stay healthy and avoid illnesses, such as the cold and flu.
- Improved Memory: Research indicates that older adults who have higher vitamin B6 levels enjoy better memory, lower risk of dementia, and less cognitive decline.
- Kidney Stones: One research study tracked 85,000 women who had never had kidney stones before for more than a decade. Females who took an average of 40 mg or higher of vitamin B6 developed fewer kidney stones than women taking 3 mg or lower. The results did not duplicate with men, however, and more research is necessary.
- Less Nausea When Pregnant: B6 vitamins can help some pregnant women with milder cases of vomiting and nausea during their pregnancy.
- Making Hemoglobin: This is the portion of your red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen molecules to all your cells.
- Neurotransmitter Creation: Dopamine and serotonin, which help you feel good, are both created inside the body with the help of this vitamin.
- Occular Health: Eye disease might be prevented using this vitamin, in particular age-related macular degeneration. This might be due to improved blood flow directly to the retina.
- PMS Treatment: Three months of research in premenopausal women showed that 50 mg of daily B6 lessened symptoms of PMS, including exhaustion, irritability, and depression, by over two-thirds. Neurotransmitter production is likely the cause behind this.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis might benefit from vitamin B6, given its anti-inflammatory advantages.
Vitamin B6 Dosage
The Harvard School of Public Health has good information about how much vitamin B6 most people need each day.
RDA stands for Recommended Dietary Allowance. It breaks down as follows:
- Males 14 to 50: 1.3 mg per day
- Males 51+: 1.7 mg per day
- Females 14 to 18: 1.2 mg per day
- Females 19 to 50: 1.3 mg per day
- Females 51+: 1.5 mg per day
- Pregnant females should increase their daily allotment by 1.9 mg per day
- Lactating females should increase their daily allotment by 2.0 mg per day
UL stands for Tolerable Upper Intake Level. It is the maximum daily dose that probably won’t create adverse issues in most people. This can only happen with supplement use.
Most people 19 and older can take 100 mg each day safely. Kids and teens have slightly lower levels.
On occasion, vitamin B6 levels higher than this are prescribed for several medical reasons. However, this is always done under physician supervision and care. Excessive vitamin B6 use can result in toxicity.
Food Sources for Vitamin B6
If you’re worried about getting enough vitamin B6, then you can rest easy. It’s already in plenty of foods, including some you likely eat on a regular basis.
Several foods have vitamin B6 plus other health benefits:
- Bananas: This fruit is also a potent source of magnesium and potassium. It’s also a rare fruit in that it’s a complete protein as it has all nine essential amino acids present that the human body can’t make on its own.
- Breakfast cereals that are fortified: Many breakfast cereals are fortified with many different vitamins and minerals. Depending on which one you get, it might taste a lot better than a multivitamin.
- Certain fish: Many fish are excellent sources of very lean protein. Some also have fatty acids that are especially helpful for heart and brain health.
- Milk: This vitamin is nearly always present in cow milk. Many alternative forms of milk might be fortified with it, such as soy or almond milk. Check the product label to be sure.
- Oats: Oats are a source of this vitamin, and they’re also a great source of fiber that keeps you full and cleans out your digestive system.
- Poultry: Turkey and chicken are two of the most common kinds of poultry you might encounter on a regular basis. They’re also lean proteins that help you maintain muscle mass without packing on a lot of calories.
Other foods that have vitamin B6, according to the UK NHS include:
- Soya beans
Vitamin B6 Deficiency
Deficiency in vitamin B6 can result when under certain conditions:
- Kidney disease
- Malabsorption syndromes
- Alcohol dependence
- Some autoimmune disorders
- Certain epilepsy medications
Mayo Clinic also notes that vitamin B6 deficiency often happens in conjunction with other B-vitamin deficiencies. Vitamin B12 and folic acid stand out, in particular.
Vitamin B6 deficiency can happen easily, given its nature as a water-soluble vitamin. The human body uses what it needs before discarding the excess through urine output. This happens on a daily basis, as the body does not store it for later use.
Your doctor can ascertain vitamin B6 deficiency through bloodwork. However, there are certain signs that might indicate it:
- Compromised Immune System: Illnesses, especially cancer, can sap your B6. In turn, you’ll have a harder time fighting off diseases and infections.
- Cracked, Dry Lips: Scaly lips with cracked corners might indicate insufficient B6. Tongue swelling is another possibility.
- Cranky Children: Babies that cry too much might not be getting enough of the vitamin, which infants and toddlers are best getting through breastmilk and food.
- Foggy Thinking: Low levels of vitamin B6 boost your risks of anything from stroke fractured hips as you get older.
- Low Energy: Anemia happens when you don’t have enough red blood cells. That leaves you exhausted. This might also be from a lack of iron, folate, and B12, as well.
- Morning Sickness: It might seem like an unavoidable part of pregnancy, but the severity is potentially manageable.
- Numbness: This would happen in your feet and hands, especially if there is tingling that signals peripheral neuropathy.
- Rashes: Seborrheic dermatitis is an itchy, scaly rash that gets more obvious given enough time. A mild deficiency can take a long time to manifest this.
- Vegan/Vegetarian Diet: B6 is not an animal-only drug, as seen by the list of food sources above. However, meats are often the most potent sources. If you don’t eat animal products, you might be at some risk.
Medication Interactions With Vitamin B6
The National Institutes of Health reports that vitamin B6 is able to interact with some medications. Several of them negatively impact levels of this vitamin. Anyone taking medications on the below list should talk to their doctor about their individual B6 status:
- Altretamine: This is a chemotherapy drug that can reduce the effectiveness of B6, particularly in conjunction with cisplatin, another chemotherapy drug.
- Antiepiletpic Medicinces: Carbamazepine, phenytoin, and valproic acid are available under many different brand names. They all boost the catabolism rate that consumes B6 so blood levels of this and associated vitamins are lower. Chronic vascular toxicity is possible with patients of these drugs as they are usually on them for years. High levels of B6 supplementation might offset dangerous side effects, but the levels involved require physician supervision.
- Barbiturates: These drugs depress the central nervous system, and vitamin B6 can lower the intensity and duration of the drug, reducing its impact.
- Cycloserine: Also known as Serymycin, this broad-spectrum antibiotic is useful in treatment of tuberculosis. In conjunction with pyridoxal phosphate, it can boost the urinary output of vitamin B6. This can result in more neurotoxicity and seizures already known to be risks of this particular medication. B6 supplementation can help.
- Levodopa This is a drug used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. B6 can reduce its effectiveness.
- Theophylline: Under the brand names of Truxophyllin, Theolair, Elixophyllin, and Aquaphyllin, this class of medication treats breathing problems in specific patients. Those suffering from lung diseases, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and asthma, might have to deal with wheezing and shortness of breath. These drugs treat or prevent such issues, but they might lower vitamin B6 levels to the point of nervous system side effects. Seizures are one such possibility.
Meet the Extended Family
Vitamin B6 deficiencies frequently happen with shortages in other vitamins of the same family. Australia’s Better Health Channel lists the ‘close relatives’ of B6 as:
- B1: Thiamin helps the human body turn glucose into usable energy. It also participates in nerve functions.
- B2: Riboflavin also helps with the production of energy in addition to helping skina nd vision health.
- B3: Niacin is useful in the conversion of alcohol, carbs, and fats into energy. It’s also useful in supporting skin health, as well as the digestive and nervous systems.
- B5: Pantothenic acid helps metabolize protein, carbs, fats, and alcohol into useful energy. It also plays a significant role in the production of steroid hormones and red blood cells.
- B7: Biotin helps synythesize fats and glycogen. It also plays a role in metabolism of amino acids.
- B9: In nature, this is known as folate. In supplements, it’s known as folic acid. In either case, it’s crucial for red blood cells in all people, but pregnant women really need it for cell growth and DNA synthesis in fetal development.
- B12: Cyanocobalamin plays a role in metabolism, cognitive function, and supporting myelin surrounding many nerve cells. Folate relies on B12 for its work.
Vitamin B6 Supplements
The majority of Americans of all ages get enough B6 through their diet to require supplementation. However, certain groups have higher risks of low B6 levels, including:
- Pregnant women
- Breastfeeding women
- Obese individuals
- Those who consume alcohol excessively
There doesn’t appear to be adverse side effects from getting excessive B6 via food. However, supplementing from 1 to 6 grams per day for a period of one to three years does run risks, such as:
- Loss of motor control over bodily movement
- Progressive and even severe sensory neuropathy
The typical recommendation for nutrients is that they come from foods as part of a balanced diet with lots of fiber. However, you should always check with your own doctor to see what is right for you.
There is obviously a lot of information available about vitamin B6. What you need to know in a nutshell is this:
- Your body’s cells need it for health and functionality.
- The human body doesn’t store it, so daily intake is necessary for optimal health.
- Supplementation is possible, but intake via food is best to avoid toxicity.
- Your doctor can tell you best if you are deficient and if you need more.
Make sure your body is exposed to nutrient-dense foods through your normal diet on a regular basis to get enough B6 and all other vitamins and minerals you need.