Vitamin B6 is a member of the B-complex family of water-soluble vitamins. This B-vitamin exists in three major forms: pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine. Your body can not store B6 and any excess is excreted through the urine. As a result, you need a continuous supply of this vitamin in your diet.
Vitamin B6 is needed for more than 100 enzymes involved in protein metabolism. Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, require B6 for their synthesis. DNA, the hereditary material in our cells, requires adequate supplies of this vitamin for synthesis. Due to its role in cell replication, vitamin B6 is important to a healthy pregnancy and proper functioning immune system, mucous membrane, skin and red blood cells.
Vitamin B6 is also involved in carbohydrate metabolism as this vitamin is required to help convert stored carbohydrates (glycogen) into glucose to maintain normal blood sugar levels.
Vitamin B6 supports nervous system activity. The vitamin is required for the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, melatonin, epinephrine, GABA and dopamine. These chemicals are required for normal nerve cell communication. Because low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, vitamin B6 supplementation might help reduce the symptoms of depression. Vitamin B6 is also required for myelin formation, the sheath the surrounds the nerves.
Vitamin B6 is essential for red blood cell metabolism as it is required to make hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying pigment in red blood cells that transports oxygen to the body’s tissues. A deficiency of this vitamin can result in symptoms of anemia, malaise and fatigue.
This B-vitamin helps the immune system function efficiently by maintaining the health of lymphoid organs (thymus, spleen and lymph nodes) which are responsible for making white blood cells.
Vitamin B6 supports cardiovascular health by helping lower homocysteine levels, inhibiting platelet aggregation and lowering blood pressure. The combination of B6, B12 and folic acid is used to lower homocysteine levels in the blood. Homocysteine is an amino acid that is a byproduct of the metabolism of methionine. Elevated homocysteine levels or hyperhomocysteinemia is an independent risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Research indicates that high levels of homocysteine damage arterial walls and promote the development of dangerous clots. While studies have demonstrated that these B-vitamins lower homocysteine levels, it is not clear whether they reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.
Low levels of B6 may contribute to osteoporosis as a result of an increase in homocysteine levels. Elevated homocysteine levels is thought to play a role in osteoporosis by interring with collagen cross-linking leading to a defective bone matrix.
Numerous studies indicate that this vitamin is required to minimize risk of unwanted inflammation in the body. Low levels of this vitamin are associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Decreased pyridoxine concentrations are also associated with elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an indicator of silent inflammation in the body.
Several studies indicate that a daily dose of vitamin B6 helps to reduce the symptoms associated with morning sickness (nausea and vomiting) during pregnancy. Other studies indicate that this vitamin is beneficial in improving PMS symptoms.
Although a deficiency in vitamin B6 is rare in this country, a sign of deficiency includes dermatitis, depression and confusion. Topical creams that contain B6 are used to treat inflammatory skin conditions like acne, eczema and seborrheic dermatitis.
Helps with digestion of fats and protein
Promotes red blood cell formation
Needed for synthesis of nucleic acids of RNA and DNA
Aids in prevention of arteriosclerosis
Vitamin B6 is found in meat, poultry, eggs, fish nuts and whole grains. Fortified breads and cereals also contain vitamin B6.
Plant sources include asparagus, avocado, bananas, beans, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, collard greens, kale, peas, spinach, and turnip greens.
Large amounts of vitamin B6 are lost during cooking and processing of food.
Recommended Dietary Allowance
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for folic acid is 1.5 mg for adult women and 1.7 mg for adult men. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level for vitamin B6 is 100 mg for adults.
If you look on a nutritional supplement facts panel, you’ll notice the Amount Per Serving for vitamin B6 and the % Daily Values is at located at the top of the panel. The Amount Per Serving is based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for this nutrient which is considered to be sufficient to meet the requirements of nearly all (97–98%) healthy individuals in each life-stage and sex group. The Reference Daily Intake for vitamin B6 is 2.0 mgs which represents 100% of the Daily Values.
Older adults, alcoholics and smokers are more likely to have inadequate intake of vitamin B6. The use of many prescription drugs can lead to a B6 deficiency including oral contraceptives, diuretics and asthma-related drugs. Food colorings especially FD&C yellow #5 is antagonistic to vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6 is one of the few water-soluble vitamins that if taken in large doses can cause adverse effects. Doses greater than 2,000 mg per day can produce symptoms of nerve toxicity (tingling sensations in feet, loss of muscle coordination) in some individuals. Doses in the range of 500 mg a day taken over many months or years can be also be toxic.
Given its role in protein and carbohydrate metabolism, nerve and immune system function, red blood cell metabolism and cardiovascular health, vitamin B6 is incorporated in several of our Recovery and Wellness product formulations. Clinical Support Program and Recovery Support Program are formulated with 75 mg of vitamin B-6.
Vitamin B6 is included in Energy Support (52.5 mg) and Bone Support (22.5 mg). Our Multi-Vitamin & Mineral, which combines both products, is formulated with 75 mg of vitamin B6. Anti-Aging Formula is formulated with 50 mg of this B-vitamin.
Last updated July 1, 2018
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.