Vitamin B6 (also known as pyridoxine) is one of eight B vitamins. Our bodies are not able to produce vitamin B6, so we need to get this vitamin from our foods and supplements.
Unlike vitamins D and E, vitamin B6 (and all the other B vitamins) is water-soluble. This means that excess amounts of the vitamin are not stored in the body, but rather lost in urine.
Role in the Body
Vitamin B6 plays a roles in many functions in the body including supporting our immune system, nervous system, metabolism and creating hemoglobin.
Neurotransmitters and the Nervous System
Our bodies use vitamin B6 to create neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that are used in our brain and nervous system.. Serotonin and dopamine are well-known neurotransmitters associated with pleasure, rewards and mood stability. Due to the role of vitamin B6 in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, it’s no surprise that many studies have found a link between B6 deficiency and depression.
If you want to read some more on how food can impact your mood, or what foods to include, check out “How Does Our Diet Affect Our Mental Health?”.
Additionally, inadequate intakes have been associated with cognitive decline, particularly in older adults. One study reported a relationship between higher blood concentrations of vitamin B6 and improved memory test scores in men.
Hemoglobin and Anemia
Vitamin B6 is also used in the synthesis of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen. Inadequate intakes can result in decreased hemoglobin synthesis, consequently contributing to the development of microcytic anemia.
How Much Vitamin B6 Do I Need?
There’s a range of vitamin B6 recommended intakes, based on both age and gender. Health Canada recommends healthy individuals between 14 and 50 years old consume between 1.2 to 1.3 mg per day. They also recommended individuals over 50 should consume between 1.5 to 1.7 mg per day. For a full list of recommended intakes, you can visit Health Canada’s website.
Am I at Risk of Deficiency?
Although vitamin B6 is found in many foods and deficiency is uncommon, some populations are at risk of deficiency. These populations include individuals with, alcohol dependency,
- Alcohol dependency
- Impaired renal function
- Autoimmune diseases
- Malabsorption syndromes (such as celiac disease, Crohn’s and colitis)
Additionally, long-term use of some medications such as anti-epileptic drugs can lead to deficiency.
What are the Signs of Deficiency?
People with inadequate intakes of vitamin B6 may not have any signs or symptoms of deficiency right away. It may be many months or even years before signs and symptoms of deficiency appear.
In addition to cognitive decline and microcytic anemia, other signs and symptoms of deficiency include,
- Weakened immune function
- Dermatitis with cheilosis (scaling on lips and cracks at the corners of the mouth)
- Swollen tongue (known as glossitis)
Can I Have Too Much Vitamin B6?
When using supplements, it is possible to consume too much vitamin B6. Consuming too much of the vitamin may have negative side effects, including nerve damage or numbness in hands and feet.
Where Can I Find Vitamin B6?
Vitamin B6 can be found in a variety of foods in our diet. Some of the richest sources of this B vitamin include,
- Yellowfin Tuna
- Beef liver
- Sockeye salmon
- Breakfast cereals (fortified)
- Turkey meat
Vitamin B6 supplements are widely available at pharmacies and may be used for the treatment of some conditions, including microcytic anemia. Additionally, some research suggests that B6 supplementation may be useful in the treatment of PMS and morning sickness.
You should always chat with your doctor or dietitian before beginning any new supplements.
Vitamin B6 can be found in a variety of foods in our diet. Although consuming an inadequate amounts is rare, it can lead to declines in cognitive function, development of microcytic anemia and weakened immune function.
Check out the Micronutrient Mondays blog series to learn more about other vitamins and minerals.
Need help identifying foods in your diet that may be negatively impacting your mental health? Book a FREE discovery call today to get started on meeting your nutrition goals!