Takeaway: Vitamin B6 is an essential vitamin for countless bodily functions and treatments, including mood regulation, brain health, hemoglobin production, nausea relief, heart health, eye health, and inflammation reduction. With a healthy balanced diet, you should be getting the right amount of vitamin B6; however, some may be experiencing B6 deficiencies that need to be treated in order to alleviate the variety of detrimental symptoms. Be aware that there is such a thing as too much vitamin B6, so manage your intake and stray away from too high a dosage when taking supplements. As always, talk to your doctor if you suspect that you may be seriously deficient in vitamin B6 to find out what treatments they recommend.
There’s no way to do justice to just how vital vitamin B6 is to the body and its functions. Vitamin B6 is essential to key processes all over the body, from the brain to the blood. But, precisely what is vitamin B6? Keep reading to find out exactly what B6 is used for, and the benefits it can have.
Vitamin B6 Overview
Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that your body needs for a plethora of essential processes. It’s essential to protein, carbohydrate, and fat metabolism, as well as the creation of red blood cells and neurotransmitters. Our bodies cannot produce vitamin B6 on their own, so it must be obtained through either diet or supplements.
Vitamin B6’s chemical name is pyridoxine hydrochloride which chemically refers to the hydrochloride salt form of pyridoxine, or water-soluble vitamin B. Pyridoxine hydrochloride can be converted into pyridoxal 5-phosphate, or PLP, which is essential to the synthesis of amino acids, neurotransmitters, and more. This chemical plays a major role in the red blood cell, immune system, and nervous system functions, as well as helping to maintain normal blood glucose levels.
Vitamin B6 Benefits
It may be a little hard to wrap your head around all of the chemical jargon when talking about vitamin B6. You are probably asking “what is B6 good for?” Well, research has shown that there’s a long list of tangible benefits from it.
Vitamin B6 may have the ability to improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression because it plays an important role in creating neurotransmitters that regulate emotion, such as serotonin and dopamine. Research has shown a link between depression and high blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that B6 has been known to decrease. One study of 250 older adults even found that deficient blood levels of B6 actually doubled those individual’s chances of depression.
Promote Brain Health
Although research is conflicting, it suggests that vitamin B6 may promote brain health and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This is because B6 can decrease high homocysteine blood levels, which have been shown in research to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. One trial of 400 adults with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease concluded that B6, along with B12 and folate, were able to decrease homocysteine levels; however, they didn’t seem to slow the decline in brain function. More research needs to be done, but B6’s potential in improving brain health seems promising.
Prevent and Treat Anemia
Vitamin B6 may have the ability to prevent and treat anemia because it helps with hemoglobin production in the blood. Hemoglobin is a protein that delivers oxygen to your cells; if you have a low hemoglobin level, you’re not getting enough oxygen and can develop anemia. Studies have linked low levels of B6 to anemia, especially in pregnant women, so it has been tested as a treatment for the condition. One study found that taking 75mg of vitamin B6 daily during pregnancy resulted in decreased symptoms of anemia, showing promise for it to be an anemia treatment when iron supplements aren’t working.
Treat PMS Symptoms
Research suggests that vitamin B6 may be able to help treat the emotional symptoms of PMS, or premenstrual syndrome (associated with women’s periods). This is because B6 helps to create neurotransmitters that regulate mood. One study, lasting three months, found that individuals who took 50mg of vitamin B6 everyday saw improved PMS symptoms by as much as 69%. Another study found that combining 50mg of B6 with 200mg of magnesium every day was able to reduce emotional PMS symptoms as well.
Treat Nausea During Pregnancy
Vitamin B6 has been historically used to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, but research is only now beginning to understand why it has that effect. It may be because maintaining a good level of vitamin B6 in the body plays several vital roles in ensuring a healthy pregnancy, according to research. A study of women in their first 17 weeks of pregnancy found that taking 30mg of B6 daily showed a significant reduction in feelings of nausea after a five-day treatment. A different study found that taking 75mg of B6 daily was able to decrease nausea and vomiting symptoms in pregnant women by as much as 31% during a four-day treatment.
Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
Vitamin B6 may be able to prevent clogged arteries and reduce the risk of heart disease. Research has shown that individuals with low blood levels of B6 have almost double the risk of getting heart disease, possibly because B6 is able to decrease high levels of homocysteine in the blood, which is associated with many diseases including heart disease. One clinical trial of healthy adults who had siblings with heart disease gave participants 250 mg of B6 and 5 mg of folic acid every day for two years. At the end of the trial, those who took the supplements had lower homocysteine levels and less abnormal heart tests during exercise than the placebo group, meaning they had a lower risk of heart disease.
Prevent Eye Diseases
New research suggests that vitamin B6 may play a role in preventing several eye diseases, but primarily age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Studies have linked high blood levels of homocysteine with an increased risk of AMD, so B6’s ability to decrease those levels can potentially lower your risk of that disease. A seven-year study found that taking a daily supplement of vitamin B6, along with B12 and folic acid, significantly reduced the risk of AMD. Some research also has linked low blood levels of vitamin B6 to eye conditions that block veins which connect to the retina.
Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis Inflammation
Research has shown that high levels of inflammation in the body, specifically resulting from rheumatoid arthritis, may lead to lower levels of the vitamin. For this reason, researchers began investigating whether or not higher B6 levels can relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. One study of 43 adults with rheumatoid arthritis, who took 100 mg of vitamin B6 and 5 mg of folic acid daily, showed significantly lower levels of pro-inflammatory molecules after 12 weeks of treatment. The group in the study who only took folic acid over the 12 week period did not show the same levels.
Vitamin B6 Foods
If you’re eating a balanced diet, then you should be getting the right amount of vitamins that your body needs to function properly. Vitamin B6 is found in a wide variety of foods, so it’s hard not to get your required amount. The richest sources of vitamin B6 include:
- Fish (especially yellowfin tuna and sockeye salmon)
- Chicken Breast
- Organ Meats (especially beef liver)
- Starchy Vegetables (especially potatoes)
- Fruits (especially bananas, excluding citrus)
- Fortified Cereals
Vitamin B6 Deficiency
When it comes to vitamin deficiencies, there are two varieties: dietary deficiency and secondary deficiency. If you think you may have a pyridoxine deficiency, read through the descriptions and list of symptoms below.
This type of deficiency is very rare because vitamin B6 is found in substantial qualities in most foods. However, you can develop a dietary deficiency due to extensive processing of the food you eat. This processing takes out most of the vitamin B6 found naturally in the food, meaning you won’t be getting as much in your diet as you should be.
Having a secondary deficiency is much more common, but only typically results from certain health conditions:
- Protein-Energy Undernutrition
- Use of Pyridoxine Inactivation Drugs: These include anticonvulsants, isoniazid, penicillamine, hydralazine, corticosteroids, and cycloserine.
- Excessive Loss during Hemodialysis
Vitamin B6 deficiency symptoms of the secondary variety can vary, but they will typically manifest as the following:
This refers to a red itchy rash that can be caused by a secondary deficiency. Seborrheic dermatitis can manifest on your face, neck, scalp and upper chest, appearing flaky and oily with swelling or white patches.
This refers to sore, swollen red lips with cracked mouth corners, often resulting from vitamin B6 deficiency. Cracked areas caused by cheilosis may become very painful, bleed, and lead to infection.
This refers to having a swollen, smooth, sore, reddened or inflamed tongue. This symptom of vitamin deficiency occurs due to the loss of papillae, which are the bumps on your tongue.
With a lack of vitamin B6, you may experience bouts of depression, anxiety, irritability, or increased sensitivity to pain. This happens because of B6’s important role in creating neurotransmitters that regulate your mood.
Weakened Immune System:
If you’re deficient in vitamin B6, that may result in the decreased production of antibodies that are needed to fight infections. A lack of vitamin B6 may also reduce white blood cell count, which also regulate a properly functioning immune system. This can lead to an increase in infections and illnesses.
Because vitamin B6 plays a vital role in the creation of hemoglobin, which is the protein in your blood that carries oxygen, you may develop a condition called anemia. This condition can lead you to become tired and sluggish since your body isn’t getting enough oxygen to perform daily tasks.
This refers to nerve damage, which can be caused by a vitamin B6 deficiency. Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy often include burning, tingling and shooting pain in your hands, feet, arms, and legs.
One reason that seizures occur is vitamin B6 deficiency. This is due to B6’s ability to make the proper amounts of GABA, which is a calming neurotransmitter; without enough GABA, your brain may become overstimulated and be prone to seizure. This symptom is especially prevalent in newborn infants, but is being seen more in adults who are pregnant, suffer from alcoholism, have medication interactions or liver disease.
Vitamin B6 Side Effects
There can definitely be too much of a good thing when it comes to vitamin B6. If you take too much B6, you may experience the following side effects:
- Stomach Pain
- Appetite Loss
- Tingling Sensations
- Sleepiness or Drowsiness
Vitamin B6 Overdose
Currently, the recommended daily amount for B6 intake is 1.3 to 1.7 mg for adults over 19 years old. You won’t have to worry about toxicity, which happens when you take too much, when you get your B6 from dietary sources. This is because food sources will never have enough B6 to cause any damage to your body.
Typically, taking more than 1,000 mg of supplemental vitamin B6 per day may lead to nerve damage and pain or numbness in the hands and feet. However, research has shown that sometimes these side effects can occur after taking just 100 to 300 mg of supplemental vitamin B6 per day. As a general rule, remember the tolerable safe upper limit of supplemental vitamin B6 per day is 100mg for adults; do not exceed that amount or risk detrimental side effects.
Vitamin B6 Supplements
If you’re looking into adding more B6 into your daily routine through supplements, there are a few options depending on how much you’d like to take.
If you’d like to limit your intake of vitamin B6 to the lower side, we recommend Pure Encapsulations P5P 50 mg Activated Vitamin B6 capsules.
Now, if you’d prefer to take a little more vitamin B6 in combination with the rest of the B vitamins, we recommend Divine Bounty’s Super B Complex Vitamins.
Finally, if you’d like to take the tolerable safe upper limit of supplemental vitamin B6 per day, we recommend Now Supplements Vitamin B6 100 mg capsules.