10 Benefits of Vitamin B6

Medically Reviewed By Jerlyn Jones, MS MPA RDN LD CLT
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Research suggests that there may be health benefits to a diet rich in vitamin B6, including reducing your risk of depression, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and more.

there is a photo of pistachios, a good source of vitamin b6
Tatjana Zlatkovic/Stocksy United

The amount of vitamin B6 you need depends on your age. The recommended amount for an adult aged between 19–50 years is 1.3 milligrams (mg). During pregnancy and breastfeeding, this can increase up to 2.0 mg.

This article discusses 10 potential health benefits of vitamin B6. It also lists foods containing vitamin B6 and the possible side effects of consuming too much.

1. It may reduce symptoms of depression

Research published in the journal of Human Psychopharmacology suggests that vitamin B6 could improve feelings of depression and anxiety.

The study looked at over 300 participants. Some participants took a high dose of vitamin B6 or vitamin B12 supplements, once a day for a month. The results show that vitamin B6 reduced levels of depression in that group. 

Although encouraging, more research would provide an understanding of the full impact vitamin B6 can have on mood.

Learn about treatment options for depression.

2. It may promote brain health and reduce Alzheimer’s risk

Although research is limited, studies suggest that consuming more vitamin B6 through foods or supplements may protect your nervous system and cognitive health. This may reduce the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

To reduce the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease, it’s best to eat a diet rich in vitamins, including vitamin B6, as early in life as possible. Diets to consider include the Mediterranean and DASH diets.

3. It may help prevent stroke

High levels of homocysteine in your blood may damage your arteries. These higher levels can lead to blood clots and cause blockages in your blood vessels. The blood clot could travel in your bloodstream to your brain and cause a stroke.

Research of 44,224 participants shows that administering supplements of vitamin B6, along with B9 and B12, can lower levels of homocysteine. This reduces the relative risk of stroke by about 10%. 

Further research would provide a better understanding of how consuming more vitamin B6, along with folic acid (B9) and vitamin B12, may help prevent a stroke. 

4. It may help prevent anemia

There is limited research into whether vitamin B6 can prevent anemia. A 2010 study published in The National Library of Medicine finds that pregnant people who have a vitamin B6 deficiency and low iron levels were not responsive to iron supplements. However, when the participants’ vitamin B6 levels improved, they were also able to increase their iron levels. 

Your body needs vitamin B6 to make hemoglobin. If you have reduced levels of hemoglobin, your red blood cells may be smaller. You may then experience microcytic anemia.

Boosting your intake of vitamin B6 may prevent anemia from occurring by increasing your hemoglobin production.

5. It could help treat PMS

Studies suggest that vitamin B6 supplements can reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), such as irritability, forgetfulness, and low mood. 

More research would provide a better view of how vitamin B6 can improve symptoms of PMS.

Learn when to see a doctor for menstrual cramps.

6. It could decrease morning sickness in pregnancy

Further research would provide a better understanding. However, current research shows that increasing your vitamin B6 levels may reduce pregnancy-related nausea or vomiting.

A review of 78 studies looks at treatment options for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Clinical trials provide evidence that vitamin B6, along with other supplements, improves mild symptoms of nausea more than a placebo.

The studies also show that vitamin B6 supplements combined with doxylamine improve nausea in pregnant people who have moderate symptoms of nausea, compared to those given a placebo.

During pregnancy, your vitamin B6 levels may reduce. Speak to your doctor about the possibility of needing to take vitamin B6 supplements.

Learn more about easing morning sickness.

7. It might prevent clogged arteries

A deficiency in vitamin B6 can cause your levels of homocysteine to rise. This can damage the lining of your arteries and can lead to blood clots, which can increase the chances of a heart attack.

Eating a diet rich in vitamin B6 and taking vitamin B6 supplements may help to reduce your homocysteine levels. This would then reduce your chances of clogged arteries or heart disease.

Systematic research looks at studies of whether there is a link between the levels of folate, vitamin B6 and B12, and coronary heart disease (CHD). The results conclude that consuming higher levels of folate and vitamin B6 may reduce the risk of CHD in the general population.

8. It may help prevent cancer

A meta-analysis of nine studies looked to determine if vitamin B6 reduces the risk of pancreatic cancer. The results show that vitamin B6 may significantly reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer. However, further research would provide a better understanding.

A study published by the NIH suggests that eating a diet high in vitamin B6 may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer

Research indicates that eating a diet rich in vitamin B6 may reduce the risk for other cancers such as colorectal and some gastrointestinal cancers.

9. It could promote eye health

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) may be preventable when taking vitamin B supplements.

A study of 861 participants shows that those with a higher dietary intake of vitamins B5 and B6 have a lower risk of developing AMD by up to 28%.

10. It might help reduce inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis

Autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis break down vitamin B6 at an increased rate. Therefore, you may need to increase your vitamin B6 intake through your diet or supplements.

However, there is very little research on the benefits of vitamin B6 on rheumatoid arthritis.

One 2010 study shows that participants with rheumatoid arthritis show signs of reduced inflammation after receiving a large dose of vitamin B6 in supplement form.

Sources and supplements

Vitamin B6 is in food products such as:

  • some fish
  • chicken or turkey
  • pork
  • peanuts
  • soybeans
  • oats
  • fortified cereals
  • bananas

You can take vitamin B6 as a multivitamin or as a stand-alone supplement. The most common vitamin B6 supplement is pyridoxine.

A vitamin B6 deficiency is uncommon in the United States due to the majority of people eating foods rich in vitamin B6.

However, your doctor may advise you to take a B6 supplement if blood tests reveal you have a deficiency. Your doctor may also recommend one if you have certain health conditions such as impaired renal function or autoimmune conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Side effects and risks

Consuming high levels of vitamin B6 can lead to toxicity. This can cause symptoms that are similar to vitamin B6 deficiency and include:

However, it is unlikely that eating a diet high in vitamin B6 would cause any side effects.

Summary

Vitamin B6 is found in many foods and is available as a supplement. 

Some research suggests that there may be health benefits to increasing your intake of vitamin B6. These include the prevention of certain cancers, reducing symptoms of depression, or decreasing morning sickness.

However, the research is insufficient and inconclusive in its findings. More research may provide a clearer answer on the exact benefits of increasing our vitamin B6 intake.

Speak to your doctor if you are considering taking vitamin B6 supplements or increasing your dietary intake. 

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Medical Reviewer: Jerlyn Jones, MS MPA RDN LD CLT
Last Review Date: 2022 Nov 30
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