Vitamin B6


Below we will cover Vitamin B6, one of the hardest-working B-complex vitamins. While only one of the several vitamins that makeup the B-complex, B6 is responsible for a wide array of functions.

What Is It?

Vitamin B6 is an essential B-complex vitamin that is a cofactor for over 100 specific chemical processes in your body [1] that deal with metabolic regularity. Cofactors are compounds that must be present for a given reaction to occur; without them it is simply not possible.

On some supplement and food labels, Vitamin B6 is sometimes referred to as pyridoxine. This vitamin, like all other B-complex vitamins, is water-soluble.

What Is Its Biological Role?

All B-complex vitamins have some role in assisting the body with turning the carbohydrates you eat into glucose, a more useable energy source. Vitamin B6 [2] also assists in maintaining proper adrenal, immune, and metabolic functions.

In developing embryos and infants, it is also crucial for proper brain development. B6 has antioxidant properties that can help reduce your risk for heart disease and can help fight certain types of cancer.

Some studies also show that increasing vitamin B6 consumption can help maintain higher levels of cognitive function in the elderly, ease the severity of nausea and vomiting due to early pregnancy (usually called morning sickness), and ease the emotional symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome(PMS).

How Does It Help Bodybuilders and People Who Work Out?

Vitamin B6 helps your body keep from getting sick, and plays a part in recovering after injury. Even though you may not feel “injured” after working out, your muscles will have tiny tears that your body needs to repair in order to help build muscle. Without B6 this process may take longer than it should.

Additionally, since vitamin B6 is water-soluble it can be depleted more quickly when you are sweating excessively, as is common during an intense workout. This combination makes it important to be mindful of your B6 consumption.

What Foods Contain It?

B6 can be found in poultry and fish, as well as in many organ meats. Potatoes are also a good source of this vitamin. By and large, however, most fruits are going to be a significant source of vitamin B6. The exception to this would be citrus fruits.

As with most other nutrient-dense foods, a lot of the nutritive value is lost the more thoroughly it is cooked. While foods like liver paté can be a good way to get more organ meats, fruits and veggies are usually best consumed as close to raw as possible. Try preparing fresh fruit salads, and roasting starchy veggies rather than boiling them.

How Much Of It Do You Need?

At birth, infants are recommended 0.1mg per day to help ensure proper brain development. This amount changes rapidly with age through childhood, and varies based on gender around the age of puberty. In adults aged 19 years and over, the recommended daily intake for vitamin B6 is 1.3mg.

This increases slightly as you enter your fifties, to 1.7mg for men and 1.5mg for women. Pregnant women are recommended to increase their intake to 1.9mg per day, while breastfeeding women should consume a slightly larger dose of 2.0mg per day.

Again, these increases are recommended based on the benefits to cognitive development and maintenance for infants and the elderly.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Much Of It?

Symptoms of vitamin B6 toxicity are similar to the toxicity symptoms of other B-complex vitamins. These include nausea, skin’s sensitivity to the sun (which may results in dermatitis or similar skin issues), and numbness or tingling that can lead to loss of control of body movement.

Most of these symptoms will stop soon after stopping high dosages of the vitamin, as it is water-soluble and your body can get rid of any unwanted excess fairly quickly. Most people do not need to be concerned with reaching these high levels; your body doesn’t start reacting negatively to vitamin B6 until you’ve consumed over 30 times the recommended daily allowance, which is realistically quite difficult to do.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Little Of It?

Clinically low levels of vitamin B6 [3] can result in overly dry or itchy skin, especially on the lips and around the mouth. Other symptoms are related to a loss of B6’s assistance with other body functions and can include depression, brain fog, and weakened immune system.

Most people will easily get enough vitamin B6 from their diets; deficiencies are typically only seen in areas where malnourishment is common or in individuals who have certain digestive or autoimmune diseases that may interfere with absorption from food.

Final Take

While not by any means exhaustive, hopefully this short guide has shed some light on how vitamin B6 helps you, and where you can find it in your regular diet. Remember, making sure to eat a wholesome, varied diet helps ensure you feel your best!

References:

[1] Office of Dietary Supplements National Institute of Health. Vitamin B6-Consumer Fact Sheet. US Department of Health and Human Services, 2016.

[2] University of Maryland Medical Center. Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine). University of Maryland Medical Center, 2015.

[3] Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institute of Health. Vitamin b6 Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet.  US Department of Health and Human Services, 2016.