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6 Science-backed Benefits of Vitamin B6 and How Much You Need Each Day

6 Science-backed Benefits of Vitamin B6 and How Much You Need Each Day

Sarah Fielding •

This article was medically reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, a nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice based in New York City.

Medically Reviewed

Vitamin B6 is critical in maintaining proper body functions. Its benefits include improving heart health and fostering a healthy immune system. Spinach is a good source of vitamin B6. 
  • Vitamin B6 is a key nutrient that benefits your immune system, brain, and heart health.
  • It's also essential for your body's metabolism, helping convert food into energy.
  • Experts recommend adults get around 1.3 mg of vitamin B6 daily from sources like oats and spinach.

Here are some health benefits of vitamin B6 and how to get enough of it in your diet.

Along with other B vitamins, B6 assists the body in converting food into energy. It helps metabolize carbohydrates and works with enzymes to break down proteins into amino acids — compounds that help our body grow and function properly. 

2. Vitamin B6 supports heart health 

"Vitamin B6 works with two other B vitamins — B12 and folic acid — to reduce levels of homocysteine," says Megan Wong, a registered dietitian.

Hyperhomocysteinemia occurs when there are high levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood. High amounts of homocysteine can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, strokes, and atherosclerosis, a disease that causes plaque to build up in the arteries. 

According to a 2015 report published in the Nutrition Journal, hyperhomocysteinemia can occur when someone is deficient in vitamin B6. But, with the right levels of B6 in combination with B12 and folic acid (B9), homocysteine levels can lower by up to a third. It's important to note that despite lowered homocysteine levels, patients do not see an effect on vascular outcomes. Therefore, B-vitamins may play a more preventative role in heart health. 

An increase in homocysteine levels can also speed up cognitive decline, says Wong. This uptick can lead to an increased risk of neurological conditions such as dementia.

In addition to regulating homocysteine levels, B6 plays a role in the synthesis of important neurotransmitters — chemical messengers used by the brain and nervous system. Some of the neurotransmitters B6 helps synthesize include: 

  • Dopamine: responsible for reward-seeking, motivation, and movement 
  • Serotonin: stabilizes mood, causes feelings of well-being and happiness. 
  • Melatonin: plays a role in regulating our circadian rhythm and ability to fall asleep 
  • Noradrenaline: produces the 'fight or flight' response in our body when we perceive danger

During pregnancy, anyone experiencing morning sickness is often prescribed a combination tablet of doxylamine — an antihistamine — and vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 has been shown to help with nausea while the doxylamine may reduce vomiting. A typical dose of the combination tablet is 10 mg to 25 mg, three times a day.

The body requires vitamin B6 to maintain a healthy immune system

"B6 improves communication from 'messenger' cells called chemokines, which direct white blood cells to areas of infection or damage," says Wong. "Not having enough vitamin B6 can reduce the growth and production of key immune players: lymphocytes and antibodies."

There are two forms of lymphocytes, both of which are altered by a B6 deficiency: 

  • T cells which fights off foreign invaders in the body
  • B cells which create antibodies that then attach to foreign invaders, like bacteria or viruses, and destroy them

A 2006 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that vitamin B6 improved the immune response in critically ill patients. The study divided 51 participants into three groups: one received an injection of 50 mg of B6 a day, another 100 mg, and a control group. After 14 days of supplementation, those who received 50 to 100 mg of B6 saw an improvement in important markers of immune response like total T-cell count. 

"Vitamin B6 is involved in the production of hemoglobin — a protein that supplies the cells with oxygen," says Lina Velikova, MD, PhD, a clinical immunologist.

Lower than normal hemoglobin levels is one of the causes of anemia, a condition characterized by low levels of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body, so without adequate red blood cells, one can feel weak and fatigued.

Maintaining an adequate intake of vitamin B6 can help prevent anemia. 

The amount of B6 you should be consuming on a daily basis depends on age and gender. For each demographic, the daily recommended dose of vitamin B6 is:

graphic
Shayanne Gal/Insider

 

Vitamin B6 is readily available in food and supplements. "The best way to ensure we have enough of this vitamin is through a vitamin B6-rich diet," says Velikova. 

Foods high in B6 include: 

Vitamins 09

If someone is unable to consume enough vitamin B6 through their diet, they can consider taking B6 supplements. 

Wong recommends supplements for older adults, especially if they have a reduced appetite that may mean they are not eating enough B6 rich foods. 

Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, as they can help you determine the right dosage. 

 

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Recommended intakes of vitamins and trace elements vary by age and gender and are described as Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs), Adequate Intakes (AIs), and Daily Values (DVs).

The Daily Value (DV) is determined by the FDA and is used on product labels to inform consumers what percentage of each nutrient they are getting in relation to their approximate requirement for it.

There are 13 essential vitamins and 8 trace elements we cannot synthesize and must consume in sufficient amounts to maintain normal health and immunity. 

 

Which of these supplements gives you 100% of the Daily Value of all 13 essential vitamins and 8 trace elements? 

 

       

 

                               

                            

Answer: NONE

 

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I Feel Just Fine. I Can’t Possibly Be Vitamin Deficient, Right?

I Feel Just Fine. I Can’t Possibly Be Vitamin Deficient, Right?

Scott W. Tunis MD FACS • 

Before answering that question, it is necessary to define the term “vitamin deficient”.

Vitamin deficiencies can be absolute, wherein there is a complete lack of an essential vitamin in the diet, or partial, wherein there is a relative lack of of an essential vitamin in the diet.

An absolute deficiency of any one of the 13 essential vitamins causes clinical disease with an identifiable syndrome of symptoms and signs. Absolute vitamin deficiencies are lethal in 90-120 days. That’s why they are called essential vitamins.

As recently as between 1900 and 1940 in the United States there were approximately 300,000 cases and 100,000 deaths from Vitamin B3 (Niacin) deficiency. The disease is called pellagra.

Fortunately, absolute vitamin deficiencies are a thing of the past in developed countries. In Western society, however, an abundance of foods that are high in simple carbohydrates and lipids has led to other problems. Diabetes, hypertension, arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease, obesity etc. Let’s face it… our highways, shopping centers and neighborhoods are not exactly teeming with fresh fruit, vegetable, and whole grain stands offering high nutrition value meals.

Even if we are highly motivated to eat healthy and nutritious diets, too often our unyielding schedules, our commitments to family, faith and work, and our frequently limited dietary options can cause our diet to be low in essential vitamins.

Which brings us to the definition of “partially vitamin deficient”.

The human body cannot store most essential vitamins. What you ate yesterday is gone today. You need to consume 100% of the Daily Value (DV) every day. That’s why it’s called a Daily Value.

A partial vitamin deficiency means your level is below normal. This type of deficiency is actually quite common in the United States.

Approximately 35-40% of the US population is partially Vitamin D deficient. That number is higher in the elderly and in the African American community. Iron deficiency anemia has been estimated to be present in approximately 30% of young adults and 50% of reproductive age women. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey performed by the CDC found that the prevalence of mild deficiencies in vitamin B6 and and B12 in the US population were 10% and 4% respectively.

These are trying times. There is a New Normal. Do you really want to face possible exposure to infection without knowing that you have all the essential vitamins, in sufficient quantities, in order for your body and your immune system to function normally?

You may be surprised to discover that neither of the top two selling vitamin formulas (in domestic 2019 US sales) contains 100% of the Daily Value of all 13 essential vitamins.

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