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Vitamin B6

Definition

Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin. Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water. The body cannot store them. Leftover amounts of the vitamin leave the body through the urine. That means you need a continuous supply of such 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)
  • Meat
  • Nuts
  • Poultry
  • Whole grains

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

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

*Adequate intake (AI)

Children

  • 1 - 3 years: 0.5 mg/day
  • 4 - 8 years: 0.6 mg/day
  • 9 - 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

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

References

Escott-Stump S, ed. Nutrition and Diagnosis-Related Care. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2008.

Sarubin Fragaakis A, Thomson C. The Health Professionals' Guide to Popular Dietary Supplements. 3rd ed. Chicago, Il: American Dietetic Association; 2007.

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

Hamrick I, Counts SH. Vitamin and mineral supplements. Wellness and Prevention. December 2008:35(4);729-747.

Review Date:2/18/2013

Reviewed by:Alison Evert, MS, RD, CDE, Nutritionist, University of Washington Medical Center Diabetes Care Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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