Vitamin B6 is one of the B vitamins that benefits the central nervous system. It is involved in producing the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, and in forming myelin.

Also known as pyridoxine, vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it dissolves in water. It is not stored by the body, and it is excreted in the urine, so people need to take in Vitamin B6 every day. It is part of the family of B-complex vitamins.

Other functions of pyridoxine include protein and glucose metabolism, and the manufacture of hemoglobin.

Hemoglobin is a component of red blood cells. It carries oxygen. Vitamin B6 is also involved in keeping the lymph nodes, thymus and spleen healthy.

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Vitamin B6 is vital for several bodily functions and can be found in many foods.

Vitamin B6 has many functions in the body, and it plays a role in over 100 enzyme reactions.

Brain function

Vitamin B6 may help boost brain performance. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people with high concentrations of vitamin B-6 tested better on two measures of memory function.

Vitamin B6 is needed for neuron transmission in the brain.

Researchers from Oxford University in England noted that taking high doses of B vitamins each day was beneficial for older people with mild cognitive impairment. The rate at which their brains shrank fell by 50 percent, potentially lowering their risk of dementia.

Nausea during pregnancy

Research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology concluded that pyridoxine can reduce the severity of nausea in early pregnancy.

However, more high-quality studies are necessary to confirm this. Do not use more than the recommended dosage if taking a supplement.

Protection from air pollution

A study published in PNAS in 2017 indicated that vitamin B6 may help to protect against 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 air pollution.

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Vitamin B6 can help to protect the body against air pollution.

With 92 percent of the world's population estimated to be living in places where pollution limits are higher than the World Health Organization's upper limit of 10 μg/m3, this could be an important finding when it comes to controlling environmentally triggered disease.

Vitamin B6 is important for many reasons. One is to ensure the normal functioning of digestive enzymes that break down food, keep the skin healthy and produce blood products such as red blood cells.

This important vitamin has many other uses, and a deficiency can lead to permanent nerve damage.

A number of factors will affect a person's daily requirement for vitamin B6, because it impacts several aspects of metabolism. The effect on protein intake has been widely studied.

People who are on high-protein diets may need to take more vitamin B6. They should speak to their doctor.

According to the U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements, the recommended daily requirement for vitamin B6 is:

AgeMaleFemale
0 to 6 months0.1 mg0.1 mg
7 to 12 months0.3 mg0.3 mg
1 to 3 years0.5 mg0.5 mg
4 to 8 years0.6 mg0.6 mg
9 to 13 years1.0 mg1.0 mg
14 to 18 years1.3 mg1.3 mg
19 to 50 years1.3 mg1.3 mg
51+ years1.7 mg1.5 mg
During pregnancy-1.9 mg
During lactation-2.0 mg

Most foods have some vitamin B6. A person with a well-balanced diet should not have a deficiency, unless they have a physical problem, or they are taking certain medications.

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Yellowfin tuna is just one of many sources of Vitamin B6.

The following are good sources of B6:

  • Chick peas: one cup contains 1.1 milligrams or 55 percent of the recommended daily value (DV)
  • Beef liver: 3 ounces contains 0.9 mg, or 45 percent of the DV
  • Yellowfin tuna: 3 ounces contains 0.9 mg, or 45 percent of the DV
  • Roasted chicken breast: 3 ounces contains 0.5 mg or 25 percent of DV
  • One medium banana: contains 0.4 mg or 20 percent of DV
  • Tofu: half a cup contains 0.1 mg or 5 percent of DV

Other sources include:

  • Avocados
  • Brown rice
  • Carrots
  • Fish
  • Fortified cereal
  • Hazelnuts
  • Milk
  • Pork
  • Potato
  • Seeds
  • Soybeans
  • Spinach
  • Turkey
  • Vegetable juice cocktail
  • Whole grains

Most foods contain some vitamin B6.

Deficiencies are rare, but they may occur if the individual has poor intestinal absorption or is taking estrogens, corticosteroids, anticonvulsants, and some other medications.

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:

  • Peripheral neuropathy with tingling, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet
  • Anemia
  • Seizures
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Weakened immune system

It can lead to a pellagra-like syndrome, with seborrheic dermatitis, inflammation of the tongue, or glossitis, and inflammation and cracking of the lips, known as cheilosis.

In infants, seizures may persist even after treatment with anticonvulsants. Other deficiencies, like peripheral neuropathy, can be permanent.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), between 28 and 35 percent of the population in the United States take vitamin supplements containing vitamin B6.

Supplements are available in capsule or tablet form.

The NIH also notes that most people of all ages in the U.S. consume sufficient B6. Those who are most likely to have low levels of B6 are those who drink excessive amounts of alcohol, people who are obese, and pregnant and breastfeeding women.

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

However, taking between 1 and 6 grams of oral pyridoxine a day for 12 to 40 months has been shown to cause 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.