Overview

Vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) is important for normal brain development and for keeping the nervous system and immune system healthy.

Food sources of vitamin B-6 include poultry, fish, potatoes, chickpeas and bananas. Vitamin B-6 can also be taken as a supplement, typically as an oral capsule, tablet or liquid.

People who have kidney disease or conditions that prevent the small intestine from absorbing nutrients from foods (malabsorption syndromes) are more likely to be vitamin B-6 deficient. Certain genetic diseases and some epilepsy medications also can lead to deficiency. This can cause a condition in which you don't have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body's tissues (anemia), confusion, depression and a weakened immune system.

A vitamin B-6 deficiency is usually coupled with deficiency in other B vitamins, such as folate (vitamin B-9) and vitamin B-12.

The recommended daily amount of vitamin B-6 for adults is 1.3 milligrams.

Evidence

Research on the use of vitamin B-6 for specific conditions shows:

  • Heart and blood vessel disease and stroke. Vitamin B-6 has been shown to work together with folate (vitamin B-9) and vitamin B-12 to control high levels of homocysteine in the blood. Elevated homocysteine levels might increase your risk of diseases of the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disease). However, research hasn't shown that taking this mix of supplements reduces the risk or severity of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
  • Morning sickness. Vitamin B-6 might reduce the severity of morning sickness during pregnancy. If you have persistent morning sickness symptoms, your pregnancy care provider might prescribe vitamin B-6 supplements.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). There is some evidence that vitamin B-6 might reduce symptoms of PMS, however these studies are considered to be low quality.
  • Sideroblastic anemia. Vitamin B-6 is effective at treating this genetic type of anemia.

Our take

Green light: Generally safe

Generally safe

A healthy and varied diet will provide most people with enough vitamin B-6. However, for people with kidney diseases, malabsorption syndromes and certain other conditions, a vitamin B-6 supplement is often necessary.

Vitamin B-6 supplements are also effective for treating a genetic form of anemia and for preventing an adverse reaction to the antibiotic cycloserine, a prescription drug taken to treat tuberculosis.

Oct. 17, 2017