The Powerful Health Benefits of Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is an astonishingly powerful and versatile nutrient. It partners with enzymes throughout your body to help spark over 150 biochemical reactions necessary for your health. Low levels of vitamin B6 increase your risk of conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, chronic inflammation, and severe COVID-19 infections. According to experts, vitamin B6 is a vital nutrient that’s easy and safe to boost through diet or supplements.

Key takeaways:

What is vitamin B6?

Vitamin B6 is one of eight vitamin B molecules found in food and dietary supplements. Because of its impressive versatility, vitamin B6 is involved in a myriad of interactions at the cellular level throughout the body.

One of its main tasks is to help break down and build up proteins. With the help of vitamin B6, your body combines individual amino acids (the building blocks of proteins and other vital molecules) into emotionally stabilizing neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and melatonin.

It’s also involved in building up and breaking down other molecules like carbohydrates, fats, DNA, and RNA.

Vitamin B6 helps your body make immune cells and hemoglobin, the protein in your red blood cells that delivers oxygen throughout your body. As an antioxidant, vitamin B6 helps protect you from damaging free radicals, which increase your risk of chronic disease.

But that’s only scratching the surface of vitamin B6’s masterwork. Let’s dig further to discover what vitamin B6 is good for.

Health benefits of vitamin B6

The health benefits of vitamin B6 are wide-reaching and too numerous to fully discuss. More research is needed to uncover the full powers of vitamin B6. In the meantime, an ample and growing body of research shows its many benefits.

Improved brain function

Much of vitamin B6’s impact on brain function comes from its ability to suppress homocysteine, an amino acid that tends to be too high in those with degenerating brain health. With ample vitamins B6, B9, and B12, your body can eliminate homocysteine on its own. Decreasing homocysteine levels helps reduce dangerous inflammation and brain shrinkage, even in areas most severely affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

As a result, vitamin B can produce these benefits:

  • Reduced risk of dementia
  • Reduced brain fog
  • Slower cognitive decline as you age.

Boosted mental wellness

Vitamin B6 improves mental wellness mainly because it helps make neurotransmitters like GABA, serotonin, and dopamine, each necessary for inner calm and confidence. It also helps with stress management for several reasons. When you’re stressed, the body burns more vitamin B6, making adequate amounts of vitamin Bs necessary for healthy stress management.

Vitamin B6 can help improve mental wellness in these ways and more:

  • Reduced anxiety, panic attacks, and possibly depression
  • Improved confidence
  • Significantly reduced symptoms of schizophrenia and autism
  • Better stress management

Stronger immune system

Vitamin B6 manufactures several immune cells and molecules essential to healthy immune function.

It helps reduce the cytokine storm from some infections — a dangerous risk of COVID-19. As mentioned earlier, its ability to suppress homocysteine levels significantly reduces chronic inflammation. It also helps eliminate excess histamine, which helps improve allergy symptoms. Vitamin B6 is also a potent antioxidant, reducing the damage of free radicals.

Due to these immune-boosting powers, vitamin B6 supports your immunity in several ways.

  • Reduced allergies and mast cell activation disorder (MCAD)
  • Improved autoimmune symptoms
  • Stronger defense against infections
  • Less severe COVID-19 infections
  • Stronger immunity throughout the gastrointestinal tract
  • Reduced chronic inflammation
  • Lower risk of cancer

Improved diabetes

Studies show vitamin B6 improves blood sugar levels for people with type 1 and 2 diabetes. With its additional ability to support the nervous system, vitamin B6 helps reduce pain for people suffering from neuropathy related to diabetes.

Sufficient levels of vitamin B6 levels aid people with diabetes in several ways, including:

  • Balanced blood sugar levels
  • Improved neuropathic pain
  • Improved metabolism and weight loss

Better cardiovascular health

As noted earlier, high levels of homocysteine are associated with chronic inflammation, which increases the risk of atherosclerosis (dangerous plaque development in veins and arteries).

In addition, vitamin B6 also helps decrease high blood pressure, reduce dangerous blood clots, and strengthen the walls of veins and arteries. As a result, studies show that low vitamin B6 levels are related to a higher risk of stroke.

Healthy levels of vitamin B6 also help reduce microcytic anemia because vitamin B6 is vital for making hemoglobin, which is low in microcytic anemia.

Vitamin B6 can strengthen your cardiovascular system in crucial ways:

  • Lower risk of heart attacks
  • Improved blood pressure
  • Reduced risk of strokes and other vascular diseases
  • Improved anemia

Boosted metabolism

Because vitamin B6 improves the body’s breakdown and use of food, experts say it supports weight loss and energy levels.

With adequate vitamin B6 levels, you could experience:

  • Improved weight loss
  • Higher energy levels

Improved PMS and hormone levels

Due to vitamin B6’s ability to balance estrogen and progesterone and lower histamine levels, studies have shown improved premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms with adequate vitamin B6. By helping to balance sodium levels, vitamin B6 may also reduce bloating and water retention. As a result, some experts recommend supplementing with vitamin B6 to help relieve PMS.

All in all, these improvements with vitamin B6 are good news for women:

  • Reduced premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms
  • Improved menstrual cramps
  • Less bloating
  • Reduction of high estrogen levels, also known as estrogen dominance

Better sleep

Due to its role in transforming amino acids, like tryptophan, into calming neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin, vitamin B6 may significantly improve your sleep, according to experts.

Improved magnesium absorption

Many Americans have low magnesium levels, another nutrient vital for health. Vitamin B6 helps escort magnesium into your cells. If you’re taking magnesium for any health or wellness reason, experts recommend ensuring adequate vitamin B6 levels to shuttle magnesium where it needs to go.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends a similar dietary intake of vitamin B6 to the National Institutes of Health recommendations in the United States.

The EFSA recommends these levels for most healthy people:

Recommended doseAge
0.3 mg7–11 months (infants)
0.6–1.4 mg1–14 (children)
1.7 mg (men), 1.6 mg (women)15–17 (young adults)

Additionally, specific recommendations apply for expecting women. It's advised to get 1.8 mg of vitamin B6 for pregnant women, and 1.7 mg for lactating women.

Vitamin B6 deficiency

Extreme vitamin B6 deficiency is rare, but less severe deficiency is still common. According to NIH, 11% of vitamin B6 supplement users and 24% of people in the United States who don’t take vitamin B6 supplements, have suboptimal levels. Due to medications, genetic makeup, stress levels, and some health conditions, you may have suboptimal vitamin B6 levels.

Common symptoms of vitamin B deficiency include:

  • Diagnosis of a chronic health disease
  • Poor dream recall or nightmares
  • Poor stress management
  • Brain fog
  • Insomnia
  • Social anxiety
  • Irrational fears
  • Water retention
  • Nausea, particularly in the morning
  • Tingling or pain in hands and feet
  • Low stomach acid
  • Low energy
  • Anemia
  • Convulsions/spasms
  • Migraines or headaches
  • Motion sickness

Risks and side effects of vitamin B6

The tolerable upper limit of vitamin B6 intake is much higher than the recommended daily values. This means increasing your intake through your diet or supplementation is largely safe. According to the NIH, the tolerable upper limit (UL) for adults is 100 mg daily for long-term use — a vast difference from the recommended daily intake of 1.7 mg for healthy men and 1.6 mg for healthy women.

Due to a rare genetic predisposition, a very small group of people may feel toxicity symptoms at lower levels. Toxicity produces neurological symptoms like tingling or painful sensations in your arms and legs. If you experience such feelings, experts recommend stopping the supplement and talking with your primary care provider.

Vitamin B6 can interact with some medications. If you’re on any prescription drugs, talk with your doctor before adding a supplement to your daily regimen.

Food sources of vitamin B6

To eat a diet rich in vitamin B6, eat a whole-food diet with few processed foods.

Vitamin B6 is abundant in beef, chicken, turkey, and wild-caught fatty fish, like salmon and tuna. It’s also rich in fruits and vegetables like dark leafy greens, papaya, oranges, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, avocados, bananas, spinach, chickpeas (found in hummus), pistachios, and sunflower seeds. Nutritional yeast is also a great source.

When to take a vitamin B6 supplement

Since each person is unique, experts recommend adjusting supplements and doses to your unique needs, which is always done best with a supportive health practitioner.

If your diet isn’t varied and rich in whole foods, you may need a vitamin B complex supplement when life stresses you with mental or physical challenges, serious illness, or intense physical activity.

You may also need a vitamin B6 supplement if you have some of the signs and symptoms of deficiency or suffer from one of the conditions associated with low vitamin B levels, especially mental health or chronic inflammatory conditions.

Some nutrition scientists say they cannot overestimate the importance of vitamin B6 for the whole body. If you need a health boost, consider packing your diet full of varied, nutritious whole foods and talking with your doctor about whether a vitamin B6 supplement might help you.

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