Vitamin B6 food
Vitamin B6 contributes to normal metabolism, as well as regulating hormonal activity and reducing tiredness and fatigue, etc.

Vitamin B6

Also known as:
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Nutrient reference value1.4 mg
Tolerable upper intake level mg


Vitamin B6 is an essential nutrient that is important for both your physical and mental health. But how do you make sure you get enough of this vitamin? And what happens if you don't?

In this article, we'll explain the most important things you need to know!

What is vitamin B6?

B6 (also known as pyridoxine) is a water-soluble vitamin important for your immune system, nervous system and for your body to convert the food you eat into energy.

There are 8 different B vitamins that your body needs, and B6 is one of them.

What all B vitamins have in common is that they help the enzymes in our body.

This also applies to vitamin B6, which is an auxiliary enzyme for the enzymes that assemble protein building blocks (amino acids). This is essential for the body to grow and maintain itself.

Vitamin B6 is actually a term for three different compounds: pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine. These three compounds are chemically related and appear to function in the same way in the body.

If you read the list of ingredients in supplements, B6 will often be listed as "pyridoxine hydrochloride".

What does vitamin B6 do?

Vitamin B6 has many functions in the body. It's involved in more than 150 chemical reactions and helps to ensure you have the energy to move your body, your brain can function and your heart can beat.

You use vitamin B6 to convert the food (in the form of protein, carbohydrates and fat) you eat into building blocks and fuel for your body.

In fact, the body uses large amounts of B6 to metabolise protein. Therefore, you typically need more of this nutrient if you eat a high protein diet.

B6 also plays an important role in the immune and nervous systems.

You also need B6 to form red blood cells and regulate hormones in your body, among other things.

Here you can see some of the documented functions vitamin B6 contributes to:

  • Normal energy metabolism
  • Normally functioning nervous system
  • Normal psychological functioning
  • Normally functioning immune system
  • Normal red blood cell formation
  • To reduce tiredness and fatigue
  • To regulate hormonal activity
  • Normal cysteine synthesis
  • Normal metabolism of homocysteine, protein and glycogen
A brain surrounded by smileys
One of the tasks of vitamin B6 is to help keep the psychological aspect functioning properly.
Did you know that...

Although vitamin B6 was discovered in 1932, science is still learning new things about its functions and effects. For example, scientific studies are being conducted on the vitamin's effect on pregnancy nausea and mood swings in PMS.

How do you get vitamin B6?

Your body is not able to produce vitamins and minerals on its own. This also applies to vitamin B6. You get it through the food you eat and perhaps by supplementing with a dietary supplement. So in this case you need to eat foods with vitamin B6 and perhaps take vitamin B6 tablets, if you for some reason are not getting enough through your diet.

B6 is a water-soluble vitamin. This means that it can only be "stored" for later in the body to a limited extent.

That's why you need to replenish your supply every day.

But luckily, it's very easy.

Foods with vitamin B6

B6 is found in almost all foods, both animal and plant-based. Therefore, it's easy to get enough of this nutrient without any special effort - as long as you eat a reasonably healthy and varied diet.

However, some people are at risk of becoming B6 deficient. You can read more about this further down in the article.

Good sources of vitamin B6 are fish, seafood, meat, liver, wholegrain products and starchy vegetables like potatoes.

But you also get B6 from eggs, dairy products, legumes such as lentils and chickpeas, fruits (except citrus) and vegetables such as bananas, avocados, squash, garlic and green beans.

Here you can see examples of foods that all contain good amounts of vitamin B6:

Foods with vitamin B6: Content per 100g

  • Pistachios, dry roasted with salt: 1.2 mg
  • Garlic: 1.2 mg
  • Tuna: 1.0 mg
  • Beef liver: 1.0 mg
  • Salmon, wild from the Atlantic Ocean: 0.9 mg
  • Breakfast cereals: 0.9 mg
  • Duck breast: 0.7 mg
  • Sunflower seeds: 0.6 mg
  • Lentils: 0.5 mg
  • Chicken breast: 0.5 mg
  • Brown rice: 0.4 mg
  • Eggs: 0.1 mg
  • Cheese 30+: 0.09 mg

Source: DTU Food Institute's food list

Foods with vitamin B6
B6 is found in almost all foods, including fish, shellfish, cereals, meat, fruit and vegetables. Therefore, it is easy to get enough of this vitamin if you just eat a reasonably healthy and varied diet.

It's good to be aware that vitamin B6 is sensitive to light, heat and freezing. This means that most of the vitamin is degraded by frying, baking, boiling, freezing or exposing it to light.

B6 in animal foods is most sensitive. B6 in plant foods is less sensitive.

Supplements and vitamin B6 tablets

Vitamin B6 can also be taken as a dietary supplement. The most common form is as pills, tablets or capsules.

If you supplement your diet with a multivitamin pill, it will usually contain B6.

NOTE: Dietary supplements cannot replace a healthy and varied diet.

How do you take B6 as a dietary supplement?

B6 is a water-soluble vitamin, so it doesn't really matter if you take it with a meal or not - just drink a glass of water. However, for some people, it might be best to take it during a meal rather than on an empty stomach.

If you need to take a larger amount of B6 (or other water-soluble vitamins), it's a good idea to spread your intake throughout the day - rather than taking the entire dose at once. This allows for better absorption.

To preserve the quality of the vitamins, it is best to store the vitamin B6 tablets in a cool place at room temperature and in an airtight, sealed container.

Remember, if you are taking medication, you should talk to your doctor to make sure B6 does not interact with the medication.

How much vitamin B6 do you need?

According to the European recommendations drawn up by EFSA (European Food Safety Authorities), it is recommended that adult women get 1.6 mg of vitamin B6 daily and adult men get 1.7 mg daily.

Can you get too little B6?

Yes, you can. But since it's easy to meet your B6 needs through diet, deficiency is not usually a problem among healthy people in the UK.

Who can benefit from B6 supplementation?

Although B6 deficiency is rare, some people may benefit from increasing the amount of B6 in their diet or supplementing with a supplement, such as vitamin B6 tablets.

Your B6 requirement depends, among other things, on how much protein you eat, because B6 is used to metabolise nutrients from your food. Therefore, the need for this vitamin is actually very individual.

During periods when the body is under stress and hard work, the need for vitamin B6 also increases.

People with certain types of health problems may need extra supplementation because the absorption of B6 from the gut is impaired. Some medications may also increase the need.

In addition, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding have a slightly increased need for this vitamin as it plays a role in fetal development. A healthcare professional can advise you on whether supplementation is beneficial for you and in what dose.

Typical causes of B6 deficiency

  • Health problems, stress and hard work
  • Too little and too unbalanced diet (e.g. in eating disorders, strict dieting, and in elderly people who are picky eaters)
  • High protein diet
  • Overconsumption of alcohol
  • Prolonged use of certain medicines

If you are deficient in B6, you will usually also be deficient in other B vitamins, especially B12 and B9 (folic acid). A regimen will therefore typically include supplementation of all the B-complex vitamins.

Vitamin B6 deficiency symptoms

A mild deficiency state does not usually cause symptoms. However, a severe or long-term deficiency can manifest itself in this way, among others:

  • Skin changes, e.g. dry, itchy and scaly skin.
  • Anemia, such as. can be felt by feeling pale and weak, getting dizzy easily or cracking the corners of your mouth.
  • Fatigue and reduced energy.
  • Seizures similar to the type of convulsions seen in epileptic seizures.
  • Mood swings: Depression, irritability, confusion.

The symptoms above can have different causes and are not necessarily due to B6 deficiency.

If you are concerned about vitamin B6 deficiency or experience symptoms that suggest it, it is always a good idea to consult a doctor or nutritionist for a specific measurement and assessment.

Can you get too much vitamin B6?

Yes, you can, but the risk is fairly low.

All B vitamins and vitamin C are water-soluble. This means that excess amounts are excreted in the urine when you urinate. Therefore, it is rare for people to "overdose" on vitamin B6.

If you only get B6 through the food you eat, it's really hard to get too much.

If you are taking a dietary supplement, you should follow the dosage instructions on the package. Pay attention to the total amount if you take more than one supplement at a time.

Side effects of overdose

Overdosing is very rare. However, excessive amounts of B6 over a long period of time can cause symptoms such as impaired coordination of movements and reduced sensation in the arms and legs.

Symptoms usually subside after stopping the high dose.

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