Vitamin B-6 Requirements and Dietary Sources

Vitamin B-6 is found in a variety of foods.
Chicken and chickpeas are both high in vitamin B-6.. Cultura/BRETT STEVENS/Getty Images

Vitamin B-6, or pyridoxine, is a member of the water-soluble family of B-complex vitamins. It's required for protein and glucose metabolism, and you need vitamin B-6 to make hemoglobin, which is the component of red blood cells that carries oxygen to all the parts of your body.

Sufficient amounts of vitamin B-6 are needed for healthy immune system function because it helps maintain the health of your thymus, spleen and lymph nodes.

It's also required for normal nervous system function.

Vitamin B-6 is found in foods of both plant and animal origin, including fish, meat, fruits, legumes, and many vegetables. 

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Health and Medicine Division sets the daily dietary reference intakes (DRIs) for vitamin B-6 for both men and women. The need varies by age and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need a little more than women who aren't pregnant. 

These DRIs indicate the amount necessary for a person who's currently in good health, so if you have any healthy conditions, your doctor can help you determine if you're getting enough vitamin B-6 from your diet.

Dietary Reference Intakes


1 to 3 years: 0.5 milligrams per day
4 to 8 years: 0.6 milligrams per day
9 to 13 years: 1.0 milligrams per day
14 to 30 years: 1.3 milligrams per day
31+ years: 1.7 milligrams per day


1 to 3 years: 0.5 milligrams per day
4 to 8 years: 0.6 milligrams per day
9 to 13 years: 1.0 milligrams per day
14 to 50 years: 1.3 milligrams per day
51+ years: 1.5 milligrams per day
Women who are pregnant: 1.9 milligrams per day
Women who are breastfeeding: 2.0 milligrams per day

Vitamin B-6 Deficiency

Since it's found in such a wide variety of foods, almost everyone gets enough from their diet.

A true vitamin B-6 deficiency is rare and is usually accompanied by other B-complex vitamin deficiencies.  Alcohol speeds up the loss of vitamin B-6 in the body so alcoholics may be prone to deficiency symptoms. Older adults whose diets have little variety may also become deficient in vitamin B-6. 

What About Dietary Supplements?

Vitamin B-6 supplements have been recommended for relief of a variety of conditions including carpal tunnel syndrome, depression, headaches and premenstrual syndrome. But research hasn't provided a sufficient level of clinical evidence to able to make any recommendations.

Supplemental B-6 will reduce blood levels of homocysteine. Elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with a high risk of cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, supplementation does not appear to reduce that risk. It doesn't seem to improve cognitive function either.

Vitamin B-6 may be able to help reduce nausea and vomiting in pregnant women. The typical dosage is well below the UL, usually in the range of 10 to 25 milligrams per day.

However, even at these safe levels, you should speak to your doctor before taking vitamin B-6 supplements.

Vitamin B-6 Toxicity

According to the U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements, taking large doses of vitamin B-6 every day for a prolonged time may cause severe and progressive sensory neuropathy characterized by a loss of control of bodily movements.

The nerve damage has been reported in people who have taken one to six grams of pyridoxine for more than one year. The damage is reversible when supplementation is stopped. Vitamin B-6 toxicity can also cause skin lesions, light sensitivity and gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea and heartburn.​


The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Health and Medicine Division. "Dietary Reference Intakes Tables and Application." 

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. "Vitamin B-6 Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet for Professionals." 

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