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Vitamin B-6 Requirements and Dietary Sources

Vitamin Guide

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Updated July 05, 2014

dry beans and vitamin B6

Dry beans are rich in vitamin B-6.

Sanja Gjenero

Vitamin B-6, or pyridoxine, is a member of the water-soluble family of B-complex vitamins. It's required for protein and glucose metabolism, and you need vitamin B-6 to make hemoglobin, which is the component of red blood cells that carries oxygen to all the parts of your body.

Sufficient amounts of vitamin B-6 are needed for normal immune system function because it helps maintain the health of your thymus, spleen and lymph nodes. It's also required for normal nervous system function.

Vitamin B-6 is found in foods of both plant and animal origin, including fish, meat, fruits, legumes, and many vegetables.  

Since it's found in such a wide variety of foods, almost everyone gets enough from their diet. A true vitamin B-6 deficiency is rare, but it can result in a form of anemia, cracks in the corners of the mouth, a swollen tongue and depression. When  B-6 deficiency occurs, the person usually is deficient in other B vitamins as well.

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies set the dietary reference for B-6 intakes for both men and women. It varies by age and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need a little more than women who aren't pregnant. 

These DRIs indicate the amount needed for a person in good health so if you have any healthy conditions, your doctor can help you determine if you're getting enough B-6 from your diet.

Dietary Reference Intakes

Males

1 to 3 years: 0.5 milligrams per day
4 to 8 years: 0.6 milligrams per day
9 to 13 years: 1.0 milligrams per day
14 to 30 years: 1.3 milligrams per day
31+ years: 1.7 milligrams per day

Females

1 to 3 years: 0.5 milligrams per day
4 to 8 years: 0.6 milligrams per day
9 to 13 years: 1.0 milligrams per day
14 to 30 years: 1.3 milligrams per day
31+ years: 1.5 milligrams per day
Women who are pregnant: 1.9 milligrams per day
Women who are breastfeeding: 2.0 milligrams per day

Vitamin B-6 supplements have been recommended for relief of a variety of conditions including carpal tunnel syndrome, depression, headaches and premenstrual syndrome. But research hasn't provided a sufficient level of clinical evidence to able to make any recommendations.

Supplemental B-6 will reduce blood levels of homocysteine. Elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, supplementation does not appear to reduce that risk.

Ingesting large amounts of supplemental vitamin B-6 may result in nerve damage, so the Institute of Medicine established 100 milligrams per day as the upper tolerable intake level. While the amount found in most multivitamins is safe, please speak to your health care provider before taking B-6 in large amounts.

Also Known As: pyridoxine, pyridoxal, pyridoxamine

Sources:

Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Dietary Reference Intakes -- Vitamins. Accessed July 4, 2104. http://iom.edu/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutrition/DRIs/DRI_Vitamins.pdf.

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. "Vitamin B-6 Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet for Professionals." Accessed July 4, 2014. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional/.

Otten JJ, Hellwig JP, Meyers LD. "Dietary Reference Intakes: The Essential Guide to Nutrient Requirements." IOM, 2006.

 

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