You need vitamin B-6 to keep your energy levels up by powering your metabolism. It works side by side with several other B vitamins to break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
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Aside from its major role in energy production, vitamin B-6 helps produce hemoglobin, a blood protein that carries oxygen. According to a 2016 research article published in Nutrients, vitamin B-6 is involved in making neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin.
It's essential in helping the nervous system function normally. Because B-6 has so many different functions, consuming the amount you need each day is important for your health.
Your daily B-6 needs depend on your gender and stage of life. Adult men require 1.3 milligrams of the vitamin up through age 50. After that, you’ll want 1.7 milligrams.
As a woman, aim for 1.3 milligrams of daily B-6 until you’re 50 years old. Once you reach age 51, you’ll need to increase your intake to 1.5 milligrams each day, according to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine.
As with many nutrients, your vitamin B-6 recommendation goes up if you’re pregnant to further help your body get the energy you need from food and to support your increase in blood. Throughout your pregnancy, you’ll need 1.9 milligrams of B-6 each day. Then, if you decide to nurse your newborn, increase your intake to 2 milligrams daily.
You may need a little more B-6 as well if you fit into other categories. If you're recovering from alcoholism, have kidney failure or if you suffer from a bowel disorder such as Crohn's or celiac disease, you might need to up your B-6 intake.
In addition, A study published in 2011 in "Nutrition Reviews" suggest that women who are on oral contraceptives may have a lower level of vitamin B-6. If you are on medication for epilepsy, tuberculosis, or medications for breathing issues, your B-6 status could be affected, according to the National Institutes of Health. Your doctor will give you specific recommendations in these cases.
You can rest easy knowing that you will most likely never reach the upper level intake of B-6 from food. However, too much vitamin B-6 from supplements can be dangerous and life threatening. Long-term, high-dose B-6 intake can result in neurological issues, such as losing the ability to control body movements and nerve damage.
Skin lesions, extreme sensitivity to the sun, nausea, diarrhea and heartburn are other warning signs that you ingested too much B-6. Avoid going over the tolerable upper level intake for the vitamin, which is 100 milligrams a day for all adults, the Office of Dietary Supplements reports. This is the maximum amount you can have before negative side effects generally start occurring.
Before taking a vitamin B-6 supplement, read the label on your daily multivitamin, if you’re taking one. Most multivitamins include adequate doses of B vitamins, so there is usually no need to take a separate supplement.
Where to Get It
Rather than adding another supplement to your diet, focus on eating more vitamin B-6-rich foods. A cup of chickpeas gives you a big chunk of your daily requirement — 1.1 milligrams. Three ounces of cooked liver or yellowfin tuna provide 0.9 milligrams, while the same amount of sockeye salmon, roasted turkey or chicken breast each contain around 0.5 milligrams of B-6.
A medium banana, 1 cup of diced, cooked potatoes, or 8 ounces of marinara sauce each give you 0.4 milligrams of the vitamin. You’ll even get around 0.1 milligrams of B-6 from 1 cup of cooked, enriched rice, 1/2 cup of raisins, half a cup of cooked spinach or 1 ounce of mixed nuts. Many of these foods are full of other B vitamins as well, so you are sure to get a good dose of nutrition from healthy foods rich in vitamin B-6.