Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

How much do you need daily?

Men need around 1.4 milligrams a day and women, around 1.2 milligrams of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) per day. 

Are we getting enough?

The 2014 UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey found that the average daily intakes of vitamin B6 from food sources were well above the recommended levels for most people. Less than 0.5 per cent of people had intakes of vitamin B6 from food below the target level.

Why do we need it?

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) has several important functions, including helping the body use and store energy from protein, carbohydrates and fat. It plays a crucial role in many reactions involving protein and helps to form haemoglobin (the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body). Vitamin B6 keeps immune and nervous systems functional and healthy and is involved in the regulation of homocysteine, high levels of which are a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease. 

 Vitamin B6 is essential in the biosynthesis of melatonin, the sleep hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm).

 

Do I need a supplement?

No, a healthy vegan diet containing the foods below on a daily basis will cover your needs.

Vitamin B6 is abundant in a healthy diet but if you take supplements, make sure they don’t contain too much B6. High intakes – more than 200 milligrams a day – of vitamin B6 for a long time can lead to a loss of feeling in the arms and legs (peripheral neuropathy), skin lesions and digestive problems.​  

The Department of Health say people shouldn’t take more than 10 milligrams of vitamin B6 a day in supplements unless advised to by a doctor.

The best plant sources

The best plant sources of vitamin B6 include nutritional yeast, muesli, fortified vegan breakfast cereals, avocados, pistachio nuts, wheat germ, acorn squash, banana, quinoa, sunflower seeds, corn on the cob, wholemeal spaghetti, Brussel's sprouts, spring greens, chestnuts, hazelnuts, oranges, tahini (sesame seed paste), sesame seeds, tomatoes and walnuts.

Nutritional yeast is a food additive that can be used as a condiment or ingredient. It is made from yeast grown on molasses and then harvested, washed and heated to kill or ‘deactivate’ it. It doesn’t froth or grow like baking yeast as it is inactive. It is sold in tubs of flakes that can be sprinkled on dishes or added to sauces. Very popular with vegans, it even has its own nickname – nooch! A five gram teaspoonful of nutritional yeast provides 121-142 per cent of your daily requirement of vitamin B6. Buy one that’s fortified with vitamin B12 to cover all bases!

Signs of deficiency

Deficiency is very rare but can include anaemia, scaling on the lips and mouth corners, swollen tongue, depression and confusion, weak immune system, problems digesting food and sleeping.