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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:

Infants

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

*Adequate intake (AI)

Children

  • 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 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/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.

Review Date:2/2/2015
Reviewed By:Emily Wax, RD, The Brooklyn Hospital Center, Brooklyn, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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