Vitamin B6: Foods & Benefits

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Vitamin B6 is one of the B vitamins that benefits the central nervous system. It is involved in producing the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, and informing myelin.

Also known as pyridoxine, vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it dissolves in water. It is not stored by the body, and it is excreted in the urine, so people need to take in Vitamin B6 every day. It is part of the family of B-complex vitamins.

Other functions of pyridoxine include protein and glucose metabolism, and the manufacture of hemoglobin.

Hemoglobin is a component of red blood cells. It carries oxygen. Vitamin B6 is also involved in keeping the lymph nodes, thymus and spleen healthy.

Potential health benefits of vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 has many functions in the body, and it plays a role in over 100 enzyme reactions.

Brain function

Vitamin B6 may help boost brain performance. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people with high concentrations of vitamin B-6 tested better on two measures of memory function.

Vitamin B6 is needed for neuron transmission in the brain.

Nausea during pregnancy

Research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology concluded that pyridoxine can reduce the severity of nausea in early pregnancy.

However, more high-quality studies are necessary to confirm this. Do not use more than the recommended dosage if taking a supplement.

Protection from air pollution

A study published in PNAS in 2017 indicated that vitamin B6 may help to protect against air pollution, by reducing the impact of pollution on the epigenome.

The researchers hope their findings may lead to new measures to prevent epigenetic changes that can result from exposure to air pollution.

Food sources of vitamin B6

Most foods have some vitamin B6. A person with a well-balanced diet should not have a deficiency, unless they have a physical problem, or they are taking certain medications.

The following are good sources of B6:

Chickpeas: one cup contains 1.1 milligrams or 55 percent of the recommended daily value (DV)
Beef liver: 3 ounces contains 0.9 mg or 45 percent of the DV
Yellowfin tuna: 3 ounces contains 0.9 mg or 45 percent of the DV
Roasted chicken breast: 3 ounces contains 0.5 mg or 25 percent of DV
One medium banana: contains 0.4 mg or 20 percent of DV
Tofu: half a cup contains 0.1 mg or 5 percent of DV

Other sources include:

Avocados
Brown rice
Carrots
Fish
Fortified cereal
Hazelnuts
Milk
Pork
Potato
Seeds
Soybeans
Spinach
Turkey
Vegetable juice cocktail
Whole grains

B6 deficiency
Deficiencies are rare, but they may occur if the individual has poor intestinal absorption or is taking estrogens, corticosteroids, anticonvulsants, and some other medications.

Long-term, excessive alcohol consumption may eventually result in a B6 deficiency, as can hypothyroidism and diabetes.

Signs and symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency include:

Peripheral neuropathy with tingling, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet
Anemia
Seizures
Depression
Confusion
Weakened immune system

It can lead to a pellagra-like syndrome, with seborrheic dermatitis, inflammation of the tongue, or glossitis, and inflammation and cracking of the lips, known as cheilosis.

B6 Supplements
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), between 28 and 35 percent of the population in the United States take vitamin supplements containing vitamin B6.

Supplements are available in capsule or tablet form.

The NIH also notes that most people of all ages in the U.S. consume sufficient B6. Those who are most likely to have low levels of B6 are those who drink excessive amounts of alcohol, people who are obese, and pregnant and breastfeeding women.

There is no evidence of any adverse effect from consuming too much vitamin B6 in food.

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