Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 - what you should know!

Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine, is a powerful member of the B-complex vitamin family and has a number of functions, including reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke.

It is one of a family of vitamins that helps to metabolize fats, proteins and carbohydrates. In addition, several studies have shown that taking vitamin B6 along with other B vitamins contributes to the production of serotonin. Vitamin B6 also helps to make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to tissues throughout the body, and maintains a healthy nervous system.

Which functions has vitamin B6:

  • Utilising serotonin and norepinephrine
  • Improving immune system
  • Providing provide energy from the food that we eat
  • Balancing blood sugar levels
  • Supports the metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrates
  • Essential for the production of red blood cells

Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin, and your body flushes out through the urine any vitamin B6 not immediately used. Because your body constantly gets rid of vitamin B6, having a slight deficiency is not uncommon. However, other health problems may cause a more serious deficiency.

Before vitamin B6 is used by the body, it is converted into pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P5P). This process takes place in the liver. Anyone having difficulty converting vitamin B6 into P5P is at risk of having a vitamin B6 deficiency.

Vitamin B6 deficiency in adults may cause health problems affecting the nerves, skin, mucous membranes, and circulatory system. In children, the central nervous system is also affected. A deficiency can be caused for a number of reasons including:

  • Kidney failure complications
  • Alcoholism
  • Liver scarring
  • Overactive thyroid
  • Problems with absorbing nutrients
  • Heart failure

There are many foods that are good, natural sources of vitamin B6 including cereal, carrots, peas, spinach, bananas, avocados, potatoes, milk, eggs, cheese, liver, pork and other meats.

Vitamin B6 and the Vitamin B complex family

Vitamin B6 is just one of the members of the vitamin B complex family. In total there are 8 B vitamins including: B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), B9 (folate) and B12 (cobalamin). All of the B vitamins are water-soluble and not stored in the body for any length of time. Any amount of any of these vitamins that are not used are flushed out by the body each day.

Each of the members of the vitamin B complex family has its own structure, purpose and function in the human body. While some of them work together to perform certain functions or provide health benefits, there is no evidence that all of the B vitamins work together at any time to perform any specific function.

However, a few of them are more effective and perform better when taken together. For example, when taken together, vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid provide many additional health benefits over what they offer when individually. Taken as a trio, these vitamins have been shown to improve heart health and reduce the risk of stroke by lowering levels of homocysteine.

Also, there are research studies that show that taking this trio of vitamins can help prevent age-related macular degeneration. Other research is ongoing to determine whether taking these vitamins together can prevent other age-related problems such as cognition problems and dementia. Seniors may not always eat enough food or eat enough of the right foods daily to reap the benefits of these vitamins and to replenish their body’s supply of these water-soluble vitamins.

Vitamin B6 health benefits

  • Aids heart health
  • Improves mood
  • Treats anemia
  • May reduce vomiting and nausea due to morning sickness
  • Stabilizes blood sugar

Vitamin B6 may reduce risk of heart attacks and strokes

Vitamin B6 may be effective in lowering your risk for heart disease. Having high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid, contributes to your risk of coronary heart disease. Taking vitamin B, along with folic acid and vitamin B12, can reduce the levels of homocysteine.

It can also reduce the risk of stroke. One study that included 4,642 patients found that taking vitamins B6, folate and B12 can significantly reduce the risk of stroke in patients with cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin B6 may improve mood

Vitamin B6 is one of the vitamins involved in the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that contributes to mood stabilization. Low serotonin levels are associated with depression, increased anxiety and insomnia. Taking vitamin B6, along with the other B-complex vitamins, can increase your body’s ability to produce serotonin and improve your mood and sleep quality.

Vitamin B6 treats anemia

Low numbers of red blood cells can lead to anemia. Anemia can cause low energy, fatigue, aches and pains. Vitamin B 6 is vital in mobilizing iron and the production of hemoglobin which help to transport red blood cells filled with oxygen throughout the body. Taking vitamin B6 can increase the production of hemoglobin and return the amount of oxygen-filled red blood cells to normal, relieving the symptoms of anemia.

Vitamin B6 relieves symptoms of morning sickness

Symptoms of morning sickness can include:
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach
  • Sweaty, clammy skin

Randomized trials indicate that taking vitamin B6, along with doxylamine, an antihistamine) can greatly reduce these symptoms.

The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends taking 10-25 mg of vitamin B6 three or four times a day to treat these symptoms of morning sickness.

Vitamin B6 helps maintain blood sugar

Vitamin B6 has a role in helping to maintain blood sugar (glucose) levels. It converts stored carbohydrates into glucose when your caloric intake is too low to maintain normal blood sugar levels.

Who may benefit from taking a Vitamin B6 supplement?

  • Adults at risk of heart disease or stroke
  • Pregnant women
  • Anemic adults
  • Adults with some depression
  • Adults with a vitamin B6 deficiency

Does Vitamin B6 have any side effects?

No known common side effects are associated with taking the recommended dosages of vitamin B6. However, taking large dosages of vitamin B6 over a long period of time may cause some health problems, including patches of irritated skin, sensitivity to sunlight, heartburn and nausea.

In severe cases it can lead to nerve damage that causes loss of control over bodily movements. These symptoms disappear when you reduce or discontinue taking the large dosage of vitamin B6.

Adults over the age of 18 years should take no more than 100 mg of vitamin B6 daily unless recommended by a physician in order to address a particular health problem.

Vitamin B6 interactions and combinations

Vitamin B6 levels can be adversely affected by certain medications. The following medications can lower vitamin B6 levels in the body:

  1. Cycloserine, a medication used to treat tuberculosis
  2. Valproic acid and carbamazepine—both antiepileptic medications
  3. Theophylline—used to treat symptoms associated with asthma

Vitamin B6 can also reduce the effectiveness of certain medications. It may reduce the effects of phenytoin and phenobarbital by increasing how the body metabolizes these drugs.

Why take a Vitamin B6 supplement?

  • To improve mood
  • To reduce symptoms of morning sickness
  • To treat anemia
  • Treat vitamin B6 deficiency

    Even though vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin and needs to be replenished daily through diet or supplements, it is rare for a healthy adult to suffer from a vitamin B6 deficiency. Symptoms of a serious vitamin B6 deficiency can include the following:

    1. Depression
    2. Irritability
    3. Nervousness
    4. Short-term memory loss and difficulty concentrating
    5. Muscle weakness

    People can develop a vitamin B6 deficiency due to poor diet or other health problems. Older people who may not eat enough or may not have a healthy diet may be deficient in vitamin B6. Also, people with certain health conditions may develop vitamin B6 deficiencies. These include people with autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis and inflammatory bowel disease may develop a vitamin B6 deficiency. Impaired renal functions can also lead to a vitamin B6 deficiency.

    Vitamin B6 deficiencies are usually associated with deficiencies of vitamin B12 and folate.

    Vitamin B6 Capsules

    Vitamin B6 capsules are widely available. You can also purchase capsules that include vitamin B6 as part of a multi-vitamin complex. For example, there are capsules available which include vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid.

    Other names of Vitamin B6

    Pyridoxal, Pyridoxine and Pyridoxamine


    Curhan, GC, et al. Intake of vitamins B6 and C and the risk of kidney stones in women. J Am Soc Nephrol. 1999 Apr;10(4):840-5.

    Cheng, CH, et al. Vitamin B6 supplementation increases immune responses in critically ill patients. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2006 Oct;60(10):1207-13. Epub 2006 May 3.

    Park, JH et al. Effect of B-vitamins on stroke risk among individuals with vascular disease who are not on antiplatelets: A meta-analysis. Int J Stroke. 2016 Feb;11(2):206-11. doi: 10.1177/1747493015616512.

    Christen, William, et al. Folic Acid, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12 in Combination and Age-related Macular Degeneration in a Randomized Trial of Women. Arch Intern Med. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2010 Feb 23. Published in final edited form as: Arch Intern Med. 2009 Feb 23; 169(4): 335–341. doi:  10.1001/archinternmed.2008.574.