Vitamin B6

  • Definition
    • Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin. Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water so the body cannot store them. Leftover amounts of the vitamin leave the body through the urine. That means you need a regular supply of these vitamins in your diet.

  • Alternative Names
    • Pyridoxal; Pyridoxine; Pyridoxamine

  • Function
    • Vitamin B6 helps the body to:

      • Make antibodies. Antibodies are needed to fight many diseases.
      • Maintain normal nerve function.
      • Make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen in the red blood cells to the tissues. A vitamin B6 deficiency can cause a form of anemia.
      • Break down proteins. The more protein you eat, the more vitamin B6 you need.
      • Keep blood sugar (glucose) in normal ranges.
  • Food Sources
    • Vitamin B6 is found in:

      • Avocado
      • Banana
      • Legumes (dried beans)
      • Beef and pork
      • Nuts
      • Poultry
      • Whole grains and fortified cereals
      • Corn

      Fortified breads and cereals may also contain vitamin B6. Fortified means that a vitamin or mineral has been added to the food.

  • Side Effects
    • Large doses of vitamin B6 can cause:

      • Difficulty coordinating movement
      • Numbness
      • Sensory changes

      Deficiency of this vitamin can cause:

      • Confusion
      • Depression
      • Irritability
      • Mouth and tongue sores also known as glossitis
      • Peripheral neuropathy

      (Vitamin B6 deficiency is not common in the United States.)

  • Recommendations
    • The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamins reflects how much of each vitamin people should receive on a daily basis. The RDA for vitamins may be used to help create goals for each person.

      How much of each vitamin is needed depends on a person's age and gender. Other factors, such as pregnancy and illnesses, are also important. Ask your health care provider which amount is best for you.

      Dietary Reference Intakes for vitamin B6:


      • 0 to 6 months: 0.1* milligrams per day (mg/day)
      • 7 to 12 months: 0.3* mg/day

      *Adequate intake (AI)


      • 1 to 3 years: 0.5 mg/day
      • 4 to 8 years: 0.6 mg/day
      • 9 to 13 years: 1.0 mg/day

      Adolescents and Adults

      • Males age 14 to 50 years: 1.3 mg/day
      • Males over 50 years: 1.7 mg/day
      • Females age 14 to 18 years: 1.2 mg/day
      • Females age 19 to 50 years: 1.3 mg/day
      • Females over 50 years: 1.5 mg/day
      • Females of all ages 1.9 mg/day during pregnancy and 2.0 mg/day during lactation

      The best way to get the daily requirement of essential vitamins is to eat a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods.

  • References
    • Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 1998. PMID: 23193625

      Mason JB. Vitamins, trace minerals, and other micronutrients. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 225.

      Salwen MJ. Vitamins and trace elements. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 26.