What is pyridoxine (vitamin B6)?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Wednesday, 08 July 2015.
Tagged: healthy eating

What is pyridoxine (vitamin B6)?

Vitamin B6 exists in three forms: pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine. High doses can damage nerve endings producing symptoms that include tingling of the hands and feet. Vitamin B6 supplements should not be used when taking medication for epilepsy or Parkinson's disease as they reduce the effectiveness of these drugs.

What does pyridoxine do in the body?

Pyridoxine performs a number of important functions. It:

  • acts as a co-enzyme in the metabolism of proteins and glycogen
  • Is needed for the formation of red blood cells which prevents anaemia.

How much pyridoxine do I need?

The Recommended Dietary Intakes (RDIs)* for pyridoxine per day are:

Infants

0.1mg for infants (0-6 months) AI**

0.3mg for infants (7-12 months) AI**

Children

0.5mg for children (1-3 years)

0.6 mg for children (4-8 years)

1.0mg for children (9-13 years)

Older children

1.2mg for girls (14-18 years)

1.3mg for boys (14-18 years)

Women

1.3mg for women (19 to 50 years)

1.5mg for women (51 years and over)

Pregnancy 1.6mg

Breastfeeding 2.0mg

Men

1.3mg for men (19 to 50 years)

1.7mg for men (51 years and over)

mg stands for milligrams

**AI means Adequate Intake (used when there are no RDIs)

From the Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs) for Australia and New Zealand, NH&MRC 2006.

Safe upper limit for pyridoxine

50 mg

List of the best pyridoxine-rich food sources

Pyridoxine is found in a wide range of natural foods including organ meats (liver, kidney, heart), lean meats, poultry and fish, whole grain foods, nuts, vegetables and fruits. If you eat a healthy balanced diet, you’re going to get enough of this vitamin from foods.

My top 10 sources

Here’s a list of 10 richest food sources of pyridoxine by concentration by weight per 100g or 3½oz in descending order:

  1. Lean meat including kangaroo, mutton, lamb and pork
  2. Liver
  3. Poultry
  4. Fish including Atlantic salmon, shark, sardines
  5. Yeast and yeast spread such as Vegemite or Marmite
  6. Legumes especially Lima beans, lentils, red kidney beans
  7. Nuts especially pistachios, peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews
  8. Whole grains especially wheatgerm, brown rice and wild rice
  9. Vegetables especially eggplant, sliver beet/spinach, cabbage, bok choy
  10. Sunflower seeds

Source: FSANZ NUTTAB 2010 database

Easy ways get your recommended day's intake

The best way to get the daily requirement of pyridoxine is to eat a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods.

Pyridoxine deficiency signs

Deficiency of pyridoxine is relatively uncommon and often occurs in association with other vitamins of the B complex. Elderly folk and alcoholics have an increased risk of vitamin B6 deficiency, as well as other micronutrient deficiencies such as vitamin B1 and zinc. The signs of deficiency include:

  • Scaly patches and red skin on the face, upper chest and back along with stubborn dandruff (seborrhoeic dermatitits).
  • Microcytic anaemia, a type of anaemia which is a blood disorder.
  • Convulsions
  • Depressions and confusion.
Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby knows nutrition! She is an accredited nutritionist, food commentator, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Catherine Saxelby's Food and Nutrition Companion answers all those tricky questions on healthy eating, diets and supplements. It draws together a lifetime of advice and gives you all you need to know to eat right! It's a complete A to Z. A handy desk go-to reference.