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.
Vitamin B6 helps the immune system produce antibodies. Antibodies are needed to fight many diseases. Vitamin B6 helps maintain normal nerve function and form red blood cells. The body uses it to help break down proteins. The more protein you eat, the more vitamin B6 you need.
Vitamin B6 is found in beans, nuts, legumes, eggs, meats, fish, whole grains, and fortified breads and cereals.
Large doses of vitamin B6 can cause neurological disorders and numbness. Deficiency of this vitamin can cause mouth and tongue sores, irritability, confusion, and depression. (Vitamin B6 deficiency is not common in the United States.)
The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommends the following dietary intake for vitamin B6:
- 0 - 6 months: 0.1 milligrams per day (mg/day)
- 7 - 12 months: 0.3 mg/day
- 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 from the food guide pyramid.
Specific recommendations depend on age, gender, and other factors (such as pregnancy). Women who are pregnant or producing breast milk (lactating) need higher amounts. Ask your health care provider which amount is best for you.
Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, PantothenicAcid, 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.
Rakel D, ed. Integrative Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007.
Mason JB. Vitamins, trace minerals, and other micronutrients. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 237.
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Family Physician, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.