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Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) - Deficiency Risk and Symptoms

2 min read

Nutrient Name

Vitamin B6 - otherwise known as Pyridoxine.

Potential for deficiency


Groups of people who are more susceptible to a Vitamin B6 deficiency include pregnant and breast-feeding women (due to the additional demands on the body), women taking oral contraceptives, the elderly (due to lower food intake), underweight people and alcoholics.

In people with a high protein intake, the body's requirement is increased because protein metabolism can only function properly with the assistance of Pyridoxine.

What does Vitamin B6 do?

Like all of the 8 B vitamins, pyridoxine plays a role in converting carbohydrates into glucose, metabolising fats and proteins, and keeping the nervous system working properly.

Vitamin B6 also helps make neurotransmitters, which carry signals from one nerve cell to another, produce hormones, red blood cells, and cells of the immune system. It also controls (along with vitamin B12 and vitamin B9) blood levels of homocysteine - an amino acid that is associated with heart disease. Scientific studies suggest that low intake of Vitamin B6 is associated with a higher risk of having heart disease.

Some studies have shown that vitamin B6 may help improve PMS symptoms.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirms that clear health benefits have been established for the dietary intake of Pyridoxine (vitamin B6) in contributing to: 

  • normal protein and glycogen metabolism
  • the normal function of the nervous system
  • normal red blood cell formation
  • the normal functioning of the immune system
  • the regulation of hormonal activity
  • normal homocysteine metabolism
  • normal energy-yielding metabolism
  • normal cysteine synthesis
  • normal psychological functions
  • the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.

Food Sources

Most fruit and vegetables are very poor sources of Vitamin B6. Excellent sources include chicken, beef liver, pork and veal. Good sources include oily fish (salmon, sardines and herring), walnuts, peanuts, bread, corn and whole grain cereals. 

Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) is a water-soluble vitamin and as such, it is unlikely to reach toxic levels. However in the European Union the recommended upper dose for adults is 25 mg/day and in the U.S. 100mg/day. Prolonged intake of daily doses of 500 mg and more may cause damage to the sensory nerves.

Symptoms of deficiency

  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • A impaired immune system
  • Inflammation of skin and mucosa
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.