Food sources of vitamin C

Boost brain and heart health with vitamin B6

Toni Knight, a supervisor at Holland & Barrett, on the benefits of vitamin B6

What is vitamin B6 and why is it good for you?

There are a number of vitamin B6 benefits. This essential nutrient supports the normal functioning of many bodily systems, such as our nervous system, and brain development and function.

It also keeps our metabolism ticking over, making red blood cells and regulating hormones. It’s great for anyone experiencing low mood, low energy, anaemia or PMS.

Vitamin B6 (also known as pyridoxine) helps the body make norepinephrine (which helps you cope with stress), and it also helps you manufacture melatonin, which is important for regulating your internal clock and your sleep patterns.

What's the right amount of B6 and what are the signs that you may have a vitamin B6 deficiency?

Vitamin B6 is water-soluble, which means it dissolves in bodily fluids, so any amount that’s not used will be lost through urination. That means vitamin B6 is needed every day. Adults need 1.4mg a day to prevent a deficiency in B6. However, supplementation is available in higher doses such as 100mg.

Signs you have a vitamin B6 deficiency can include fatigue or pernicious anaemia – which you’ll spot through symptoms such as being short of breath, foggy brained, clumsy, or having dry skin or flaky nails.

How can you get more?

Major food sources of B6 include meat, poultry and fish, but vegetarians and vegans can get plenty from foods like sunflower seeds, bananas, nuts and spinach.

The main people at risk of having a vitamin B6 deficiency include the elderly, people suffering from high levels of stress, and people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Aside from supplementation, you can also increase your intake of B6 by eating more oats, peanuts and foods containing soya, such as soya-based meat alternatives and soya milk, potatoes and other starchy vegetables.

Brewer’s yeast flakes are also a great, tasty way to increase your daily amounts of B6, due to their mild cheesy flavour. Many vegans use these nutritional flakes as an alternative to Parmesan cheese on dishes such as spaghetti bolognese (using soya mince) or pizza.

Can you OD on vitamin B6?

B6 is not toxic if you take too much but, over a long period of time, a high intake could have adverse effects, particularly in relation to your nerve function. These effects are usually reversed by simply stopping taking the supplement.

Anything else we need to know?

Keeping your B6 at the correct levels is particularly important as it is easily destroyed by food processing, freezing, alcohol and oestrogen. As we age, it becomes more difficult for our body to absorb nutrients, so it’s possible you will need to consider a supplement as you get older

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