Dear Alice,

What are the benefits of taking vitamin B6?

Dear Reader,

Also referred to as pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, and pyridoxal, vitamin B-6 is involved in the metabolism of amino acids, glucose, and lipids in the liver. Vitamin B-6 is also crucial in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, hemoglobin, and histamine, as well as proper gene expression. Because vitamin B-6 plays a significant role in more than 100 metabolic reactions, consuming enough of it on a daily basis is important. However, research regarding vitamin B-6 supplements is generally inconclusive, so those deficient in the vitamin should consider making dietary adjustments rather than taking supplements.

The amount of vitamin B-6 to be consumed on a daily basis depends upon an individual’s age and gender. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established the following Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) of vitamin B-6:

  • 0.5 milligrams per day for children 1-3 years
  • 0.6 mg/day for children 4-8 years
  • 1 mg/day for children 9-13 years
  • 1.2 mg/day for females 14-18 years; 1.3 mg/day for males 14-18 years
  • 1.3 milligrams/day for adults 19-50 years
  • 1.5 mg/day for females over 50 years; 1.7 mg/day for men over 50 years

Although it is relatively rare, vitamin B-6 deficiency can have harmful effects. Dialysis, arthritis, liver disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and HIV patients are at higher risk for vitamin B-6 deficiency, as well as individuals coping with alcoholism and those who take certain medications like penicillamine and hydrocortisone. It has also been found that oral contraceptives and other estrogens can interfere with vitamin B-6 metabolism, resulting in deficiency. Those deficient in the vitamin might consider changing their diets in order to ensure that they are consuming enough of the nutrient from food.

There are lots of great sources of vitamin B-6 in a wide range of delicious foods. Vitamin B-6 is found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, whole grains, legumes (bean and peas), potatoes, yeast, bananas, corn, cabbage, yams, prunes, watermelon, and avocado. One’s daily quota of vitamin B-6 can be easily consumed through food, including these vitamin B-6 rich food sources:

Banana, medium size

0.6 mg

Chicken breast, 3 oz., roasted

0.5 mg

Pork loin, 3 oz., roasted

0.4 mg

Baked potato with skin, 3 oz.

0.35 mg

Watermelon, 1 cup

0.23 mg

Black beans, boiled, 1 cup

0.12 mg

For more information about nutrition, check out the Optimal Nutrition section of the Go Ask Alice! archives. If you’re a Columbia student on the Morningside campus, you can make an appointment with a registered dietitian to discuss your intake of vitamin B-6.  If you are on the Medical Center campus, contact the Student Health Service to make an appointment with a registered dietitian. While you’re at it, take a look at Columbia’s get balanced! Guide for Healthier Eating for more information and ideas.



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