Vitamin B6 deficiency: the most important questions and answers

Vitamin B6 Mangel: Die wichtigsten Fragen und Antworten

Vitamins such as A, C or D are known to everyone and are usually the focus. Others easily slip into the background, although they also play an essential role in numerous processes in our body. Fatigue, scaly skin and a susceptibility to infections accompany many of us in our daily lives. These three effects and many more can be the first signs of a vitamin B6 deficiency. Here you can find out what vitamin B6 is all about and why it is important.

In this article, we explain the essential functions of vitamin B6 in the human body and explain how deficiency symptoms can arise. We will then give you two more methods that can help prevent a deficiency or treat mild symptoms.

the essentials in brief

  • Vitamin B6 is one of the water-soluble vitamins and occurs in the human body in the muscles, brain, spleen and kidneys. The content of vitamin B6 in the body is around 100 grams.
  • In healthy people with a balanced diet, a vitamin B6 deficiency is very unlikely. However, there are a few risk groups. Women may have an increased need for vitamin B6 during pregnancy or menopause.
  • Vitamin B6 is sensitive to heat. Foods with a high content of the vitamin must therefore be prepared carefully.

Definition: What is vitamin B6?

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is one of the water-soluble vitamins and is a collective term for several compounds. Overall, the term includes all six forms of pyridoxine with biological activity. The vitamin is processed in the intestines and liver and thus reaches the whole body.

It is mostly found in muscles and blood plasma. It also occurs in the brain, spleen and kidneys. There are around 100 grams of vitamin B6 in the entire body, but only 10 percent of it is available.

The human organism gets by with this amount for about six weeks. It is therefore important to continuously increase the body's reserves of vitamin B6. In order to be able to process vitamin B6 at all, the body needs sufficient vitamin B2. (2)

Vitamin B6 is very sensitive to daylight and UV light. It can be damaged by exposure to heat, but is generally quite stable. Vitamin B6 occurs often in nature and can be synthesized by microorganisms and plants in various forms.

In total, including vitamin B6, there are eight vitamins in the vitamin B complex:

  • Thiamine - B1
  • Riboflavin - B2
  • Niacin - B3
  • Pantothenic Acid - B5
  • Pyridoxine - B6
  • Biotin - B7
  • Folic Acid - B9
  • Cobalamin - B12

A deficiency in which only an undersupply of the B6 vitamin occurs (isolated deficiency) is extremely rare. As a rule, a deficit is accompanied by a lack of other vitamins.

Background: What you should know about vitamin B6 deficiency

In this section we want to help you delve deep into the world of vitamin B6. We answer frequently asked questions in detail and show you what you should pay attention to. Equipped with the knowledge of the following paragraphs, nothing stands in the way of your healthy vitamin B6 household.

What is the function of vitamin B6 in the human body?

The vitamin plays an important role in enzymatic processes in the body and has a wide range of functions.

These include the metabolism of amino acids and the formation of the red blood pigment (hemoglobin). In addition, it influences the cross-linking of connective tissue and thus also the elasticity. Vitamin B6 contributes to the release of glucose from glycogen and thus influences the functional performance of the muscles. (2)

Vitamin B6 also has an effect on the nervous and immune systems. Vitamin B6 is also associated with the breakdown of homocysteine. If an increased level of this amino acid is detected in the blood, this can promote an increased occurrence of venous thrombosis and cardiovascular diseases. (1)

What is the daily requirement of vitamin B6?

The daily requirement of a person differs according to age and gender.

According to the German Society for Nutrition, the following guideline values ​​in milligrams / day apply to the recommended daily requirement (4):

age group Women Men
Children 7-13 years 1.0-1.2 1.0-1.2
Young people 13-19 years 1.5-1.6 1.4
Adults 19-65+ 1.6 1.4
Pregnant / lactating women - 1.5-1.8

These values ​​are easy to cover and, especially with a balanced diet, it is almost impossible to get too little vitamin B6.

Which foods contain vitamin B6?

In order to prevent a deficiency, foods with a high vitamin B6 content should be on the menu regularly.

Foods rich in vitamin B6 contain the following milligrams of vitamin B6 per 100 grams (2):

Groceries milligrams / 100 grams
liver 0.9
Fish 0.3-0.5
Chicken 0.3-0.8
pork / beef 0.3-0.5
beans 0.1-0.6
rice 0.1-0.4
Avocado / Peanuts 0.4
Cereals / Spinach / Potatoes 0.3
Broccoli / Corn 0.2
Bread / Mushrooms 0.1-0.2

Foods that contain vitamin B6 can lose some of the vitamin during preparation or storage due to heat or direct sunlight. Food should therefore be prepared and stored with care. (1)

Tip: Choose whole grain products for cereals. These contain significantly more vitamin B6 than white cereals.

Storage and processing of vitamin B6 rich foods

Proper storage is crucial for the preservation of valuable vitamins in food. A cool, dark and dry place is ideal for gentle storage.

During preparation, care should be taken to cook the products as a whole, if possible. If you crush the food, the vitamin dissolves more easily and escapes. Furthermore, as little water as possible should be used for the preparation and the cooking time should be short. In order not to waste valuable ingredients, the cooking water can be used as a basis for sauces, soups or stews. (3)

Does protein intake affect vitamin B6 requirements?

Vitamin B6 plays a major role in amino acid metabolism. It was therefore assumed until now that the need for vitamin B6 depends on the respective supply of proteins. For this reason, the reference values ​​were also derived from the protein intake.

According to the DA-CH reference values ​​for nutrient intake, dependency cannot currently be assumed. Various studies show that with a normal mixed diet there is no influence of protein intake. (8th)

How does a vitamin B6 deficiency develop and who is often affected?

An isolated deficiency of vitamin B6 occurs relatively rarely. If there is a nutrition-related deficiency, this is usually accompanied by a deficiency of other B-complex vitamins. Apart from that, an undersupply of vitamin B6 can occur due to high protein intake, long-term use of certain medications or at the end of pregnancy. (1)

There are the following risk groups and causes of a vitamin B6 deficiency (6):

  • alcohol abuse
  • liver diseases
  • Long-term use of the pill (contraceptive)
  • Drugs for epilepsy, asthma around
  • Pregnant / lactating women
  • During Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
  • Malnutrition and malnutrition
  • Congenital metabolic disorder (homocysteinuria)
  • In vascular diseases
  • Old people

Some medications can promote a vitamin B6 deficiency. It is best to clarify this with your family doctor. A vitamin B6 deficiency can affect not only humans, but also animals.

What are the symptoms of a vitamin B6 deficiency?

A deficiency impairs numerous processes in the body and undesirable effects occur. The following symptoms can occur with a vitamin B6 deficiency (6):

  • muscle weakness
  • Inflammation of the skin (red and scaly)
  • Inflammation of the oral mucosa
  • depressions
  • sleep disorders
  • anemia
  • neurological disorders
  • fatigue
  • susceptibility to infection
  • numbness
  • liver dysfunction
  • confusion

Since vitamin B6 is involved in many different processes in the body, the symptoms are also very different and varied. Some of the symptoms can occur even with a mild deficiency, others are caused by a long-term deficiency.

How is a vitamin B6 deficiency diagnosed?

A vitamin B6 deficiency is often accompanied by so-called cryptopyrroluria (KPU) or hemopyrrolic actamuria (HPU). This does not represent an isolated vitamin B6 deficiency, but is a special feature of the metabolism.

KPU or HPU occurs in around 10 percent of the population.

The peculiarity can be inherited and has an influence on the porphyria metabolism of the red blood pigment (heme synthesis). The disease often remains undetected for years because symptoms occur unexpectedly in the course of life or can be triggered by exceptional circumstances (puberty, pregnancy, stress,...).

This special feature of the metabolism leads to a continuous, high loss of vital substances such as vitamin B6, zinc and manganese. The loss can then no longer be compensated for by regular nutrition.

This peculiarity is determined with a urine test. This can be carried out by those affected in their own four walls and is then examined in a laboratory. (9)

How is a vitamin B6 deficiency treated?

To compensate for a deficiency, the supply of special vitamins and nutrients is necessary to compensate for the deficit. The success of this is tracked and recorded by regular laboratory checks. In addition, lifestyle should be adjusted and stress reduced, for example.

These measures can achieve a significant improvement or even freedom from symptoms. The metabolic characteristics of KPU and HPU have not yet been researched to a large extent and are not even known to many doctors. We recommend that you consult an experienced therapist. (9)

Is there a vitamin B6 overdose?

Yes there is. Overdose can occur when people consume high amounts of vitamin B6 through nutritional supplements, medications, or fortified foods. These large amounts can result in undesirable side effects. (5)

Negative effects can occur with a long-term intake of more than 500 milligrams per day or 8 milligrams per body weight per day. These include skin changes, muscle weakness and neurological disorders. The latter can occur in a mild form with an intake of more than 100 milligrams per day. (5)

However, such high doses cannot be achieved through regular nutrition.

Vitamin B6 deficiency during pregnancy

According to the German Society for Nutrition, pregnant women should consume 1.5 milligrams of vitamin B6 per day in the 1st trimester and 1.8 milligrams per day in the 2nd and 3rd trimester. The recommended value is only slightly higher than that of non-pregnant women. (4)

During pregnancy, a deficiency manifests itself through the same symptoms as in other affected people. However, adequate vitamin B6 intake can result in reduced nausea. One more reason to pay attention to a balanced diet during pregnancy. (7)

pregnant woman

During pregnancy, the female body needs an increased supply of vitamin B6. A lack of B6 can lead to unwanted risks and complications. (Image source: Ignacio Campo / Unsplash)

Micronutrient experts recommend taking a supplement. This should contain several B vitamins as an isolated deficiency of a B vitamin rarely occurs. Apart from that, the vitamins of the B complex often work together and promote the breakdown of homocysteine, for example. An increased level of this cytotoxin can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy. (12)

Vitamin B6 deficiency during menopause

During menopause, a woman's body undergoes major hormonal changes. There are numerous side effects that affect daily life. Thus, B6 can help relieve symptoms such as mood swings and insomnia.

An observational study by Agnoli, C. from 2016 indicated that increased vitamin B6 intake can delay the onset of menopause. In addition, an increased, combined supply of vitamin B6 and vitamin B2 could reduce the risk of breast cancer. However, the latter is not supported by all studies. (10)

In combination with vitamin B12 and folic acid, vitamin B6 is essential to break down the cell toxin homocysteine. This occurs to a greater extent in the blood due to the reduced estrogen level during menopause. High levels of the toxin increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and fractures.

Woman is standing on the beach

Vitamin B6 helps to activate messenger substances such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. This reduces symptoms such as mood swings and sleep problems during menopause. (Image source: Vadir Nordli-Mathisen / Unsplash)

There are currently no qualitative studies available that demonstrate the effectiveness of vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid for symptoms associated with menopause. The protective effect of vitamin B6 against elevated homocysteine ​​levels also needs to be researched more closely.

Women who are going through the menopause are recommended a daily amount of vitamin B6 of 2-3 milligrams. In addition, it is recommended to take 10-15 micrograms of vitamin B12 and 200 to 400 micrograms of folic acid. It can be taken via preparations. (11)

Vitamin B6 deficiency: 2 measures to maintain healthy vitamin B6 levels

A lack of B vitamins should be treated by medical treatment. The following three tips should help you to ensure that this is not necessary in the first place. We will show you how you can easily ensure a healthy vitamin B6 balance in your body.


According to the National Verzehstudie, part of the German population does not reach the recommended daily intake of vitamin B6 despite the relatively low reference values. However, this low supply is not immediately to be compared with a deficiency. However, this increases the risk of developing a deficiency. (13)

In order to ensure an adequate supply, the daily consumption of whole grain products, nuts, fruit and vegetables is recommended. Fish or a small amount of meat should also be consumed once or twice a week.

We have selected an example of what a meal rich in vitamin B6 can look like (5):

serving size Groceries Vitamin B6 / 100g
60g Muesli 0.15
200 g Cow's milk (1.5% fat) 0.09
125g honeydew melon 0.11
25g hazelnuts 0.17
180g cooked wild rice 0.13
150g lean pork 0.49
200 g leaf spinach 0.44
200 g mushrooms 0.12
100 g tomato raw 0.10
total = 1.80

In this way, vitamin B6 can be supplied for the entire day with a single meal.

dietary supplements

In healthy people, taking vitamin B6 supplements is both necessary and useful. These should only be taken if a doctor prescribes them. If you still want to give your body an extra kick of healthy ingredients, you can use mixed vitamin food supplements.

For example, there are preparations that combine vitamin B12, folic acid, vitamin D, vitamin B6 and many more in a less concentrated form. Before buying, it is best to research the ingredients and their effects and consult a doctor if you have any doubts. Read the package leaflet when taking it and pay attention to any side effects.


An underestimated vitamin B6 deficiency can result in unpleasant consequences or promote the development of serious diseases. Anemia or depression can have serious consequences and should be diagnosed and the cause investigated as soon as possible. Due to the wide variety of symptoms, the diagnosis can take quite a bit of time.

However, if there is a suspicion, a relatively simple test and treatment is carried out. In severe cases, the deficit can be compensated with vitamin B6 supplements and in mild cases even by changing your diet.

Taking pure vitamin B6 preparations is not recommended for healthy people. Excessive intake can lead to side effects and neurological disorders. As a rule, the daily requirement for vitamin B6 is covered by the diet.


  1. Health.GV.AT. 2020. Vitamin B6. 07/27/2020
  2. CentroSan BV Vitamin B6 - for protein metabolism, blood and immune system.
  3. Biesalski HK, Grimm P.: Pocket Atlas of Nutrition, 6th edition; Georg Thieme Verlag, 2015
  4. German Society for Nutrition eV Reference values ​​for vitamin B6.
  5. German Society for Nutrition eV 2019. Selected questions and answers about vitamin B6.
  6. Pietrzik, K. et al.: Handbuch Vitamine, Urban & Fischer Verlag, 2008
  7. Mindell, E.: The new vitamin bible, Heyne Verlag, 1st edition, 2007
  8. Supplementary delivery to the DA-CH reference values ​​for nutrient intake, 4th supplementary delivery, complete revision of the vitamin B6 and zinc chapters in the 2nd edition, 5th updated edition.
  9. Schulz-Ruthenbeg N. Cryptopyrroluria (KPU) or HPU. Online in: Niels Schulz-Ruthenberg.
  10. Agnoli, C. et al. (2016): Plasma Riboflavin and Vitamin B-6, but Not Homocysteine, Folate, or Vitamin B-12, Are Inversely Associated with Breast Cancer Risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Varese Cohort. J Nutr 2016 Jun;146(6):1227-1134.
  11. Gröber, U. (2018): Drugs and micronutrients - medication-oriented supplementation. 4th edition. Scientific publishing company Stuttgart.
  12. Gröber, U. (2011): Micronutrients. Metabolic Tuning - Prevention - Therapy. 3rd edition. Scientific publishing company mbH Stuttgart.
  13. Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. 2019. National Consumption Study II: How consumers in Germany eat. 07.08.2019
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