Ultimate Guide To Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

Jul 21, 2022 Vitamins & Supplements

Ultimate Guide To Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

Quick Health Scoop

  • Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin found in a variety of animal and plant-based foods.
  • This key B vitamin serves a variety of functions in the body, from maintaining a healthy nervous system to converting food into cellular energy to forming red blood cells.
  • Most adults need between 1.3-1.7 mg of Vitamin B6 every day, with pregnant and breastfeeding women and teens needing a bit more.

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is part of the B vitamin group of water soluble nutrients, and it plays a vital role in the proteins in the body. Interestingly, the more protein, you eat the more Vitamin B6 your body needs. [1]

But what is Vitamin B6 and how much should take every day? And what are the symptoms of Vitamin B6 deficiency?

Learn more about Vitamin B6 and how you can incorporate this important nutrient into their diet.

What Is Vitamin B6?

As a water-soluble nutrient, Vitamin B6 is found naturally in a variety of foods from both plant and animal sources. Because your body cannot manufacture Vitamin B6, you need to get it either from dietary sources or vitamin supplements. In fact, ensuring you have adequate Vitamin B6 intake is critical for optimal health.

This key nutrient helps more than 100 enzymes in performing various jobs throughout the body, such as breaking down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats; playing a role in cognitive development and function; maintaining normal homocysteine levels (an amino acid in the blood important for heart and brain health) and supporting immune function and brain and nervous system health. [2,3]

When Should I Take Vitamin B6?

As mentioned, Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin. Your body stores water-soluble vitamins in limited amounts to use what’s needed when its needed, and excretes any excess through the urine. [1]

You should make sure you have an adequate intake of Vitamin B6 every day. While the daily dosage of Vitamin B6 depends on your age, sex, and life stage, health experts recommend that most adults get between 1.3-1.7 mg/day, with pregnant and breastfeeding women and teens needing a bit more (between 1.9-2.0 mg/day, respectively.  [4]

As always, the best source of important vitamins and minerals comes from eating a balanced diet of nutrient-dense foods. If a food contains B6, it likely contains other B Vitamins, too, as they’re often found together in varying quantities in the same foods. Dietary sources of Vitamin B6 include both animal- and plant-based options, including fish (tuna), meat (beef, pork, turkey), leafy greens, starchy vegetables (potatoes), non-citrus fruit (avocados, bananas), legumes (chickpeas), and fortified breakfast cereal. [3,5]

You can incorporate Vitamin B-rich foods into your diet in a variety of ways. Need some ideas? Make a tuna sandwich or grill some salmon. Pan-fry beef liver (if you’re a fan) or make a meatloaf or burgers out of lean ground beef. Cook pork tacos or roast a turkey. Need some plant-based options? Toss chickpeas onto a salad, stir them, or add them to a soup. Eat a bowl of fortified cereal for breakfast or a snack, with a plant-based milk alternative (like oat milk or almond milk). Mash avocado and spread it on whole-grain bread or blend it into a healthy smoothie. Eat a baked potato topped with chopped broccoli or toss potato chunks into soups and stews. Spread some nut butter on a banana to eat as a healthy snack or throw banana slices into your avocado smoothie.

What Functions Does Vitamin B6 Serve For The Body?

Among other health benefits, Vitamin B6 plays in important role in a variety of bodily functions, including the following. [3,4,6]

  • Is necessary for normal function of the nervous system
  • Helps convert food into cellular energy.
  • Is necessary for healthy red blood cell formation
  • Helps regulate homocysteine metabolism (a byproduct created during protein digestion)
  • Plays a critical role in the proper development of the baby’s nervous system
  • Supports the production of Sam-e (important to neurotransmitter function and mood health)

Most people obtain enough Vitamin B6 through their diet, so a deficiency in this specific nutrient is rare. However, if you’re deficient in other B Vitamins (such as Folate and Vitamin B12 and Folate), you face a greater likelihood to also be deficient in Vitamin B6. [7]

However, though rare, a B6 deficiency can happen with certain groups of people who face a higher risk of being deficient. Those at greater risk of Vitamin B deficiency include excessive alcohol consumption, pregnant women, obese people, smokers, and people with certain conditions. [8] These people may benefit from taking Vitamin B6 supplements.

Symptoms of having very low Vitamin B6 levels can include scaly skin on the lips, cracks at the corners of the mouth, itchy rashes, and a swollen tongue. [9]

How Is It Different From Other B Vitamins?

As part of the B complex vitamins, Vitamin B6 is included, along with  seven other B Vitamins. They often work together performing different but important functions in the body. While you can read more in-depth details in our complete guide to the B Vitamins, here’s a quick recap of how the other B vitamins work.

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): Thiamin (Vitamin B1) is needed to help produce cellular energy from the foods you eat, and also supports normal nervous system function.
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Also known as Vitamin B2, riboflavin supports cellular energy production.
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin): Niacinis also known as Vitamin B3 and supports cellular energy production.
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid): Pantothenic acid, also known as Vitamin B5, is widely available in plant and animal food sources and helps support cellular energy production in the body.
  • Vitamin B7 (Biotin): Biotin, or Vitamin B7, supports carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism and support healthy hair, skin and nails.
  • Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid): Folic Acid(Vitamin B9) is most commonly known for its role in fetal health and development as it plays a critical role in the proper development of the baby’s nervous system.
  • Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, plays an important role in the pathways of the body that produce cellular energy. It is also needed for proper red blood cell formation and for normal nervous system function.

Bottom Line

What is Vitamin B6? As a water-soluble vitamin found in a variety of foods, Vitamin B6 (a.k.a. pyridoxine) provides a variety of health benefits. Vitamin B6 helps promote healthy nervous system function, converts food into cellular energy, and is necessary to form healthy red blood cells. This vital nutrient is found naturally in fish, meat, starchy vegetables, fortified breakfast cereals, legumes, non-citrus fruit. While the recommended daily dosage depends on your age, sex, and life stage, most adults need between 1.3-1.7 mg/day, with pregnant and breastfeeding women and teens needing a bit more. Though low Vitamin B6 is rare, symptoms range from scaly skin on the lips, cracks at the corners of the mouth, itchy rashes, and a swollen tongue Certain people are more likely to develop low Vitamin B6, including pregnant women, excessive alcohol consumption, and obese people. Talk to your health professional if you’re concerned about your Vitamin B6 levels and ask about  Vitamin B supplements, if needed.

Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.

† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

References 

  1. “Vitamins.” 2022. Accessed on: June 27, 2022. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002399.htm
  2. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Vitamin B6.” 2022. Accessed on: June 27, 2022. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-b6/
  3. National Institutes of Health. “Fact Sheet for Health professionals: Vitamin B6.” June 2, 2022. Accessed on: June 27, 2022. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional/#h3
  4. Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute. “Vitamin B6.” June 2024. Accessed on: June 27, 2022. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-B6#RDA
  5. S. Department of Agriculture. “Food Data Central.” 2022. Accessed on: June 24, 2022. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov
  6. “Vitamin B6.” 2022. Accessed on: June 28, 2022. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002402.htm
  7. S. Department of Agriculture. “Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.” 2015. Accessed on: June 28, 2022. https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Scientific-Report-of-the-2015-Dietary-Guidelines-Advisory-Committee.pdf
  8. “9 Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin B6 deficiency.” June 22, 2018. Accessed on: June 28, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-b6-deficiency-symptoms#TOC_TITLE_HDR_10
  9. National Institutes of Health. “Fact Sheet for Consumers: Vitamin B6.” January 15, 2021. Accessed on: June 28, 2022. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-Consumer/#h5

Authors

Lisa Beach

NatureMade Contributor

Lisa Beach is a seasoned journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Eating Well, Parents, AARP’s Disrupt Aging, Optimum Wellness, and dozens more. She also writes for a variety of health/wellness-focused brands. Check out her writer’s website at www.LisaBeachWrites.com.

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