There are three forms of vitamin B6: pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, and pyridoxal. All three perform similar actions in the body and a large part of their role is the metabolism of proteins. Without B6, your body cannot make amino acids (the building block of protein).
B6 also helps to break down homocysteine, the amino acid associated with cardiovascular disease and hardening of the arteries. High levels of homocysteine are associated with low B6 and B12 levels. Thus, increasing foods rich in B6 lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and osteoporosis [I].
Deficiency of vitamin B6 is somewhat common and can cause low concentrations of hemoglobin in red blood cells (anemia). Considering that hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen to tissues, deficiency of this vitamin can result in extreme fatigue.
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
Men, .3 mg/day
Women, .3 mg/day
Pregnant women, .9 mg/day
Breastfeeding women, 2.0 mg/day
Upper Level (UL), 100 mg/day
Food Sources of Vitamin B6
Animal sources: liver, organ meats, beef pork, salmon, and tuna
1 turkey liver— 1.5 mg
3.5 oz pork tenderloin— 0.8 mg
3.5 oz buffalo steak— 0.8 mg
3.5 oz beef ribeye— 0.7 mg
3.5 oz pheasant— 0.7 mg
3 oz yellowfin tuna— 0.9 mg
3.5 oz salmon— 0.9 mg
3 oz cooked octopus— 0.6 mg
Plant sources: mushrooms, nuts, and small amounts in vegetables
½ cup of pistachios— 1 mg
½ cup sunflower seeds— 1 mg
3.5 oz dried acorns — .7 mg
1 cup uncooked amaranth— 1.1 mg
1 cup brown rice— 1.0 mg
1 cup uncooked quinoa— .8 mg
1 cup whole groat buckwheat— 0.7 mg
3.5 oz dried shiitake mushrooms— 1.0 mg
3.5 oz palm heart— .8 mg
3.5 oz prunes— 0.7 mg
2 tablespoons brewers yeast— roughly 1.2 mg
Many people don’t get enough B6 from food sources and will often reach for supplementation. Those who consume alcohol are especially at risk for deficiency, as alcohol impedes the metabolism of this vitamin. However, B6 can be dangerous when taken at high doses and can cause difficulty walking, numbness in the hands and feet, and neurological problems. Since this vitamin plays a huge role in mood, sleep, and appetite, it is easy to see why people may want a “quick fix.” However, avoid the temptation to supplement without the advice of your health care provider.
It also helps to keep in mind that many healthy sources of saturated fat such as liver, salmon and tuna are not only great sources of vitamin b6, but also of many other nutrients. Do you include enough healthy fats in your diet?
[I] Saposnik G, Ray JG, Sheridan P, McQueen M, Lonn E. “Homocysteine-lowering therapy and stroke risk, severity, and disability: additional findings from the HOPE 2 trial”. Stroke. 2009 Apr;40(4):1365-72. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA. 108.529503. Epub 2009 Feb 19. Web. June. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19228852?dopt=Abstract>.