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What Is Vitamin B6 Used for?

By Ellen Douglas

Also known as pyridoxine, vitamin B6 is present in fortified cereals and other foods Your doctor may suggest adding these foods to your diet to correct a vitamin B6 deficiency or that you take it in supplement form. Included in B vitamin supplements and multivitamins, vitamin B6 is also sold individually under the names pyridoxamine, pyridoxal-5-phosphate or pyridoxal.

Benefits

All B vitamins help turn food into fuel, giving you the energy you need during the day. The B-complex vitamins also promote proper liver, eye and nervous system function, as well as healthy skin and hair. Vitamins B6, B9 and B12 additionally fight heart disease and boost immunity. Beyond the attributes it shares with other B vitamins, vitamin B6 additionally promotes brain development and regulates hormones such as melatonin, norepinephrine and serotonin, which regulate sleeping patterns and mood. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that while the level of vitamin B6’s importance to all of these health issues is yet to be fully understood, research is ongoing about the possible benefits taking extra vitamin B6 may have on heart disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, depression, morning sickness, Parkinson’s disease and arthritis.

Deficiencies

Certain medications may interfere with your body’s ability to absorb vitamin B6, as can abusing alcohol. Deficiency of vitamin B6 is rare; symptoms include seizures, mood swings, swollen tongue and mouth sores. Among the prescriptions which may interfere with proper vitamin B6 absorption are those used for asthma, arthritis, blood pressure and tuberculosis. Always check with your doctor about symptoms you experience after starting a new medication. The Linus Pauling Institute additionally suggests that an increased protein intake may lead to a need for more B6 to support the metabolism of the amino acids in protein. If you are on a high-protein diet, ask your doctor about other nutritional adjustments you may need to make.

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Recommended Daily Allowance

Once on solid foods, young children need between 0.5 and 1.0 milligrams of vitamin B6 each day. During adolescence, the RDA rises to 1.3 milligrams for boys and 1.2 milligrams for girls. Adult men and women need 1.3 milligrams of vitamin B6 until about age 50. Older men should increase their intake to about 1.7 milligrams, while older women need about 1.5 milligrams. Pregnant and nursing women need between 1.9 and 2.0 milligrams of the nutrient.

Sources

Foods highest in vitamin B6 include fortified cereals, turkey, salmon, chicken, bananas, hazelnuts, vegetable juice, spinach and skin-on potatoes, according to Linus Pauling Institute. UMMC additionally recommends milk and cheeses, dry beans, carrots, brown rice, sesame sunflower seeds and wheat germ. Of the 1.5 milligrams the average adult needs of the nutrient each day, only fortified cereal provides it in a single serving. Because most people get enough vitamin B6 from their daily diet or from multivitamins, check with your doctor before seeking out the nutrient specifically

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