Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) – Benefits, Sources, Deficiency Symptoms and Side Effects

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is also known as pyridoxine, is one of the vitamins included in the vitamin B complex family. All B vitamins, including vitamin B6, play an important role in a range of physical and psychological functions.


·         Maintains Healthy Blood Vessels

Pyridoxine is needed to regulate levels of a compound called homocysteine within the blood. Homocysteine is a type of amino acid acquired from eating protein sources, especially meat. High levels of homocysteine in the blood is linked to inflammation and the development of heart disease and blood vessel disease, which may contribute to a heart attack.

Without enough vitamin B6, homocysteine builds up in the body and damages blood vessel linings. This can set the stage for dangerous plaque buildup, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Studies have shown that when patients take vitamin B6 along with folate, total homocysteine concentrations are significantly reduced. Pyridoxine helps to treat high homocysteine levels so the body can heal the damage done to blood vessels.

Pyridoxine also plays a role in managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which are two other important factors for preventing heart disease.

·         Supports Brain Function

The B6 vitamin benefits include helping proper brain development and brain function. Studies have shown that a vitamin B6 deficiency could influence memory function and contribute to cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s and dementia as someone ages. Other studies also link a vitamin B6 deficiency to possibly contributing to Alzheimer’s disease.

One way vitamin B6 impacts brain function is by controlling homocysteine levels, which are not only a risk factor in heart disease but also damage to neurons of the central nervous system, too.

Vitamin B6 also plays an important role in making the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine, two hormones known as “happy hormones” that help to control mood, energy and concentration. Researchers believe that certain behavior disorders in children, including ADHD, are caused by low serotonin levels and, therefore, that taking vitamin B6 might have a beneficial effect on children with a these learning and behavior disorders.

·         Can Improve Your Mood 

Some prescription antidepressant medications work the same way that vitamin B6 does … by raising levels of serotonin in the brain. Research has shown that vitamin B6 has a significant impact on the central production of both serotonin and GABA neurotransmitters in the brain. These are important hormones that control mood and are needed to prevent depression, pain, fatigue and anxiety, so vitamin B6 has been associated with increasing mood and preventing mood disorders.

Because vitamin B6 is involved in hormone production in the brain, it’s believed to be effective in treating mood disorders and certain brain diseases that can develop as a result of deficiencies in neurotransmitter function. Research suggests that patients taking vitamin B6 supplements can help to lift their mood, to experience less pain, and to avoid having a lack of energy and concentration, too.

·         Helps Treat Anemia 

Vitamin B6 is needed to create hemoglobin in the blood, which is transported by red blood cells throughout the body to help bring oxygen to cells and to mobilize iron. Anemia results when someone doesn’t make enough red blood cells, resulting in symptoms like fatigue, aches and pains, and more. Studies show that consuming plenty of vitamin B6 can help lower symptoms of anemia and prevent it from occurring in some instances.

·         Protects Eye Health 

In many instances, a poor diet or nutrient deficiencies are the underlying causes of many eye diseases. Studies have shown that that taking vitamin B6 along with other vitamins, including folate, can help with the prevention of eye disorders and loss of vision.

Vitamin B6 is believed to help slow the onset of certain eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration.

·         Can Help Prevent or Reduce Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis 

Low levels of vitamin B6 have been associated with increased symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), including more severe pain. Certain early studies are finding that people with RA may need more vitamin B6 than healthy people because they experience ongoing muscle aches and joint pain due to chronic inflammation. Vitamin B6 benefits include curbing pain and can be useful in supplement form for controlling aches in the muscles and joints due to arthritis.

  • Helps Treat High Blood Pressure 

Some earlier studies suggest that taking vitamin B6 supplements may be able to help lower blood pressure in people with existing high blood pressure levels. Vitamin B6 increases blood flow, lowers build up in the arteries and helps prevent common factors of heart disease.

  • Helps Relieve Symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome

Consuming plenty of vitamin B6 or taking B complex vitamins can help prevent or treat PMS symptoms. Studies have shown that vitamin B6 helps combat breast pain, nausea, cramps, fatigue, headaches and even acne that occurs before a woman’s menstrual cycle.

It’s believed vitamin B6 helps with PMS because of its positive effects on neurotransmitters that are responsible for pain management in the brain, as well as its role in increasing blood flow and managing hormones. It’s recommended for women who experience frequent PMS symptoms to take B complex vitamins regularly, especially the 10 days before menstruating.

  • Helps Decrease Nausea During Pregnancy 

Studies have found that taking vitamin B6 is effective in relieving the severity of nausea and “morning sickness” that occur during pregnancy. One study showed that after patients tracked the severity of their nausea over 24 hours before treatment with vitamin B6 and again afterwards, the group who took vitamin B6 experienced a significant decrease in nausea compared with the placebo group that did not.

  • Can Help Treat Asthma 

Some studies have shown that vitamin B6 benefits including decreasing the occurrence of asthma attacks. The nutrient has helped those with asthma to reduce symptoms of wheezing that are associated with asthma attacks, as well as to lower the severity and frequency of the attacks occurring.

  • Helps Regulate Sleep Cycles 

Vitamin B6 helps the body to make melatonin, which is an important hormone that helps us to fall asleep. Melatonin is responsible for allowing us to regulate our own internal clock, so we know when it’s time to wake up and have energy, and also when it’s time to wind down and fall asleep for the night.

  • Prevents Kidney Stones 

Some evidence shows that taking vitamin B6 along with other minerals, including magnesium, may be able to prevent or treat kidney stones. Vitamin B6 is usually helpful in doing this in patients who are at an increased risk for kidney stones due to other illnesses.


Deficiency Symptoms

·         Changes in mood, such as irritability, anxiety and depression

·         Confusion

·         Muscle pains

·         Low energy, or fatigue

·         Worsening of PMS symptoms

·         Worsening symptoms of anemia



Vitamin B6 is found in a wide variety of foods, such as:

  • pork
  • poultry (such as chicken or turkey)
  • fish
  • bread
  • whole cereals – such as oatmeal, wheat germ and brown rice
  • eggs
  • vegetables
  • soya beans
  • peanuts
  • milk
  • potatoes
  • some fortified breakfast cereals


World’s Healthiest Foods ranked as quality sources of vitamin B6

Food Serving
Cals Amount
Tuna 4 oz 147.4 1.18 69 8.5
Spinach 1 cup 41.4 0.44 26 11.3
Cabbage 1 cup 43.5 0.34 20 8.3
Bok Choy 1 cup 20.4 0.28 16 14.5
Bell Peppers 1 cup 28.5 0.27 16 10.0
Turnip Greens 1 cup 28.8 0.26 15 9.6
Garlic 6 cloves 26.8 0.22 13 8.7
Cauliflower 1 cup 28.5 0.21 12 7.8
Turkey 4 oz 166.7 0.92 54 5.8
Beef 4 oz 175.0 0.74 44 4.5
Chicken 4 oz 187.1 0.68 40 3.8
Salmon 4 oz 157.6 0.64 38 4.3
Sweet Potato 1 cup 180.0 0.57 34 3.4
Potatoes 1 cup 160.9 0.54 32 3.6
Banana 1 medium 105.0 0.43 25 4.3
Winter Squash 1 cup 75.8 0.33 19 4.6
Broccoli 1 cup 54.6 0.31 18 6.0
Brussels Sprouts 1 cup 56.2 0.28 16 5.3
Collard Greens 1 cup 62.7 0.24 14 4.1
Beet Greens 1 cup 38.9 0.19 11 5.2
Kale 1 cup 36.4 0.18 11 5.2
Carrots 1 cup 50.0 0.17 10 3.6
Swiss Chard 1 cup 35.0 0.15 9 4.5
Asparagus 1 cup 39.6 0.14 8 3.7
Mustard Greens 1 cup 36.4 0.14 8 4.1
Tomatoes 1 cup 32.4 0.14 8 4.6
Leeks 1 cup 32.2 0.12 7 3.9
Summer Squash 1 cup 36.0 0.12 7 3.5
Chili Peppers 2 tsp 15.2 0.11 6 7.6
Sunflower Seeds 0.25 cup 204.4 0.47 28 2.4
Pinto Beans 1 cup 244.5 0.39 23 1.7
Avocado 1 cup 240.0 0.39 23 1.7
Lentils 1 cup 229.7 0.35 21 1.6
Green Peas 1 cup 115.7 0.30 18 2.7
Lima Beans 1 cup 216.2 0.30 18 1.5
Onions 1 cup 92.4 0.27 16 3.1
Shrimp 4 oz 134.9 0.27 16 2.1
Pineapple 1 cup 82.5 0.18 11 2.3
Cod 4 oz 96.4 0.15 9 1.6
Mushrooms, Shiitake 0.50 cup 40.6 0.12 7 3.1
Cantaloupe 1 cup 54.4 0.12 7 2.3
Corn 1 each 73.9 0.11 6 1.6
Beets 1 cup 74.8 0.11 6 1.6
Eggplant 1 cup 34.6 0.09 5 2.8
Turmeric 2 tsp 15.6 0.08 5 5.4
Mushrooms, Crimini 1 cup 15.8 0.08 5 5.3
Green Beans 1 cup 43.8 0.07 4 1.7
Celery 1 cup 16.2 0.07 4 4.6
Strawberries 1 cup 46.1 0.07 4 1.6
Watermelon 1 cup 45.6 0.07 4 1.6
Romaine Lettuce 2 cups 16.0 0.07 4 4.6
Figs 1 medium 37.0 0.06 4 1.7
Sea Vegetables 1 TBS 10.8 0.05 3 4.9


How much vitamin B6 do I need?

The amount of vitamin B6 you need is about:

·         1.4mg a day for men

·         1.2mg a day for women

You should be able to get all the vitamin B6 you need from your daily diet.

Side Effects

Taking more than 200mg a day of vitamin B6 for a long time can lead to a loss of feeling in the arms and legs, known as peripheral neuropathy.

Generally, the symptoms are reversible, so once you stop taking supplements, the symptoms usually stop.

However, in a few cases, when people have taken large amounts of vitamin B6, especially for more than a few months, the effect has been irreversible.

Taking doses of 10-200mg a day for short periods may not cause any harm. However, there is not enough evidence to say for how long these doses could be taken safely.

 Vitamin B6 can interact with other medications when taken in high amounts. If you’re being treated for any of the following conditions with medications, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, including vitamin B6.

Some medications that interact with vitamin B6 include:

  • Drugs used for treating Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, anemia, seizures or heart disease
  • Any drugs used in chemotherapy
  • Cycloserine (Seromycin) or Isoniazid for treating tuberculosis
  • Hydralazine (Apresoline) for treating high blood pressure
  • Penicillamine used to treat rheumatoid arthritis
  • Theophylline (TheoDur) used to treat asthma
  • Antibiotics including Tetracycline
  • Antidepressant medications including Pamelor, Elavil, desipramine, Norpramin and Tofranil
  • Some antidepressants called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) may also be able to reduce blood levels of vitamin B6


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