Vitamin B6 is a vitamin that benefits the central nervous system and metabolism. Its roles include turning food into energy and helping to create neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine.

Vitamin B6 is one of eight B vitamins. This group of vitamins is important for proper cell function. They help with metabolism, creating blood cells, and keeping cells healthy.

Also known as pyridoxine, vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it dissolves in water. The body does not store vitamin B6 and releases any excess in urine, so people need to get enough vitamin B6 every day.

This article looks at the health benefits and food sources of vitamin B6, along with a person’s daily needs of the vitamin. It also discusses deficiency and supplements.

Two bowls of chickpea stew served in tasteful gray bowls. Chickpeas are rich in vitamin B6.Share on Pinterest
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Vitamin B6 has many functions in the body, and it plays a role in over 100 enzyme reactions. One of its main roles is in helping the body metabolize proteins, fats, and carbohydrates for energy.

This vitamin is also involved in:

  • immune system function
  • brain development during pregnancy and infancy
  • creating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine
  • creating hemoglobin, which is the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen.

Vitamin B6 deficiency is uncommon in the United States. Most people get enough from their diets.

The following sections look at some effects of vitamin B6 in human health.

Brain function

Vitamin B6 helps to create neurotransmitters, which are important chemical messengers in the brain. It also helps regulate energy use in the brain.

Some research suggests that vitamin B6 deficiency may be linked withcognitive decline and dementia.

According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, studies have suggested that that older adults with higher blood levels of vitamin B6 have better memory.

However, there is little evidence to suggest that taking vitamin B6 supplements improves cognition or mood in people with or without dementia.

Nausea during pregnancy

A review study from 2016 reports that taking pyridoxine may help with mild symptoms of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, compared with a placebo.

It also reports that taking a combination of pyridoxine and doxylamine could help with moderate symptoms.

Based on the research, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend vitamin B6 supplements as a safe, over-the-counter treatment for nausea during pregnancy.

Protection from air pollution

A study published in 2017 indicated that vitamin B6 may help to protect people against the harmful effects of air pollution by reducing the impact of pollution on the epigenome.

The researchers hope their findings may lead to new measures to prevent epigenetic changes that can result from exposure to air pollution.

The World Health Organization reported that, in 2016, 91% of the world’s population was living in places where official air quality guidelines levels were not met.

A number of factors will affect a person’s daily requirement for vitamin B6, because it impacts several aspects of a person’s metabolism.

According to the ODS, the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for vitamin B6 are:

AgeMaleFemale
0–6 months0.1 mg0.1 mg
7–12 months0.3 mg0.3 mg
1–3 years0.5 mg0.5 mg
4–8 years0.6 mg0.6 mg
9–13 years1.0 mg1.0 mg
14–18 years1.3 mg1.2 mg
19–50 years1.3 mg1.3 mg
51+ years1.7 mg1.5 mg
During pregnancy1.9 mg
During lactation2.0 mg

Most foods have some vitamin B6. People with a well-balanced diet do not tend to develop a deficiency. Medical conditions and certain medications can lead to a deficiency.

The following are good sources of vitamin B6:

  • chickpeas (1 cup) provide 1.1 milligrams (mg) or 65% of the daily value (DV)
  • beef liver (3 ounces) provides 0.9 mg or 53% DV
  • yellowfin tuna (3 oz) provides 0.9 mg or 53% DV
  • roasted chicken breast (3 oz) provides 0.5 mg or 29% DV
  • potatoes (1 cup) provides 0.4 mg or 25% DV
  • banana (medium) provides 0.4 mg or 25% DV
  • tofu (half a cup) provides 0.1 mg or 6% DV
  • nuts (1 oz) provide 0.1 mg or 6% DV

Other sources of B6 include:

  • fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals
  • salmon
  • turkey
  • marinara sauce
  • ground beef
  • waffles
  • bulgur
  • cottage cheese
  • squash
  • rice
  • raisins
  • onion
  • spinach
  • watermelon

Deficiencies are uncommon in the U.S., but they may develop if a person has poor intestinal absorption or is taking estrogens, corticosteroids, anticonvulsants, or some other medications.

Many deficiencies in vitamin B6 are associated with low levels of other B vitamins, such as vitamin B12 and folate.

Long-term, excessive alcohol consumption may eventually result in a B6 deficiency, as can hypothyroidism and diabetes.

Signs and symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency include:

In rare cases, vitamin B6 deficiency may lead to a pellagra-like syndrome, such as:

  • seborrheic dermatitis
  • inflammation of the tongue, or glossitis
  • inflammation and cracking of the lips, known as cheilosis

In infants, seizures may persist even after treatment with anticonvulsants.

Some deficiencies, like peripheral neuropathy, can be lifelong.

Between 28 and 36% of people in the United States take vitamin supplements containing vitamin B6. Supplements are available in capsule or tablet form.

Most people of all ages in the U.S. consume sufficient B6 and do not require supplements.

Those who are more likely to have low levels of B6 include:

  • people who drink excess alcohol
  • people with obesity
  • people who are pregnant or breastfeeding

There is no evidence of any adverse effect from consuming too much vitamin B6 in food.

However, evidence has shown that taking between 1 and 6 grams of oral pyridoxine a day for 12 to 40 months may be linked with severe, progressive sensory neuropathy and a loss of control of body movement.

The 2015 to 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that most nutrients should come from foods. They encourage consumption of a balanced diet with nutrient-dense foods and plenty of dietary fiber.

Vitamin B6 is an important vitamin for many processes in the body, including the nervous system and metabolism. The body does not store this vitamin, so people need to get some from their diets each day.

Most Americans get sufficient vitamin B6 from their diets. If not, a doctor may recommend dietary changes or taking vitamin B6 supplements.