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All you need to know about Vitamin B6 Deficiency

Dr. Rashmi ByakodiNov 11, 2022

Vitamin B6 plays an essential role in boosting your immune system, nervous system, and brain function. Since it is a water-soluble vitamin, the body cannot store it. In order to maintain Vitamin B6 levels in your body, you need to include Vitamin B6-rich foods in your diet on a daily basis; otherwise, it might lead to Vitamin B6 Deficiency. This article explains in detail the causes, symptoms, and treatment of Vitamin B6 Deficiency.

Vitamin B6 Deficiency

Contents

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Role of Vitamin B6 in your body

Vitamin B6 is one of the essential elements in the cells of living organisms. Being a coenzyme, it is associated with more than 100 enzyme reactions. 

Here are the functions of Vitamin B6. 

  • Protein and carbohydrate metabolism

  • Amino acid metabolism

  • Lipid metabolism

  • Critical functioning of cells

  • Cognitive development

  • Immune system function

  • Foetal brain development that continues throughout infancy

  • Formation of haemoglobin

What is Vitamin B6 Deficiency?

Vitamin B6 deficiency refers to inadequate levels of Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine in the body. It may be caused due to low intake of Vitamin B6 in your daily supplement or diet. Although Vitamin B6 is attainable through the diet, if you are lacking other B vitamins such as cobalamin (B12) and folic acid (B9), you are more likely to fall short of Vitamin B6 as well.

Additionally, Vitamin B6 Deficiency is prevalent in people having kidney, liver, digestive, or autoimmune diseases. It is also found in obese people, alcoholics, smokers, and pregnant women. As the human body cannot store Vitamin B6, a daily intake of it is required. The daily recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for Vitamin B6 is as follows.

Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
0 to 6 months 0.1 mg/day* 0.1 mg/day* - -
7 to 12 months 0.3 mg/day* 0.3 mg/day* - -
1 to 3 years 0.5 mg/day 0.5 mg/day - -
4 to 8 years 0.6 mg/day 0.6 mg/day - -
9 to 13 years 1mg/day 1mg/day - -
14 to 18 years 1.3 mg/day 1.2 mg/day 1.9 mg/day 2.0 mg/day
19 to 50 years 1.3 mg/day 1.3 mg/day 1.9 mg/day 2.0 mg/day
Above 50 years 1.7 mg/day 1.5 mg/day

*  Adequate Intake (AI)

Causes of Vitamin B6 Deficiency

There can be various causes of Vitamin B6 Deficiency. Here’s a list.

  • Some genetic disorders like homocystinuria

  • Certain malabsorption syndromes like ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease

  • People having end-stage renal diseases (kidney failure)

  • Chronic kidney disease

  • Autoimmune disorders

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

  • Protein-energy malnutrition 

Some other important causes of Vitamin B6 are the usage of antiepileptic drugs, chronic alcoholism, obesity, preeclampsia and eclampsia, and other B vitamin deficiencies such as vitamin B9 and B12.

Effects of Vitamin B6 Deficiency

Long-term Vitamin B6 Deficiency can lead to several Vitamin B6 diseases that may include the following. 

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Certain types of cancer

  • Microcytic anaemia

  • Electroencephalographic abnormalities

  • Dementia and cognitive failure

  • Depression and confusion

  • Weakened immunity

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

The effect of Vitamin B6 Deficiency in infants may include the following.

  • Irritability

  • Abnormal hearing

  • Convulsive seizures

Symptoms of Vitamin B6 Deficiency

Here are some symptoms of Vitamin B6 Deficiency to watch out for.

1. Skin rashes

A low level of Vitamin B6 can lead to seborrheic dermatitis, a skin condition that causes a red and itchy rash. It may affect your face, neck, scalp, and upper part of the chest. The rashes may appear as oily blisters, scaly, flaky, or white patches. Since Vitamin B6 helps synthesize collagen that is required for healthy skin, deficiency of Vitamin B6 may result in such types of skin rashes.

2. Cheilosis

Vitamin B6 Deficiency can result in a condition called Cheilosis, where the lips get sore, red, and swollen with cracked mouth corners with or without bleeding. It is a very painful condition that can make talking and eating difficult. Food items rich in Vitamin B6 or a supplement may help ease these symptoms.

3. Glossitis

Another Vitamin B6 Deficiency symptom is called glossitis, where the tongue gets sore, swollen, smooth, reddened, and inflamed. The tongue becomes smooth and glossy due to the loss of papillae and can cause difficulty in talking, chewing, and swallowing.

4. Behavioural changes

Lack of Vitamin B6 can cause mood swings, hyperirritability, anxiety, depression, increased feelings of pain, and disorientation. This is because Vitamin B6 helps make various neurotransmitters like gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) and serotonin that control depression, anxiety, and feelings of pain. Research also recommends that consuming 50 to 80 mg of Vitamin B6 daily may help alleviate signs of premenstrual syndrome like irritability, mood swings, anxiety, and depression.

5. Decreased immunity

A robust immune system helps prevent various infections, inflammation, and several cancers. But Vitamin B6 Deficiency reduces the production of antibodies and interrupts the immune system that is required to fight infections. Lack of Vitamin B6 hampers the production of white blood cells and T cells in the body that regulate the immune function.

6. Anaemia

Vitamin B6 plays a key role in the production of haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that helps transport oxygen throughout the body. When you have Vitamin B6 Deficiency, your cells do not get enough oxygen because of too little haemoglobin. This condition is known as anaemia, and it can make you feel weak and tired. Vitamin B6 Deficiency can also cause tiredness due to its role in making melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep.

7. Peripheral Neuropathies

Lack of Vitamin B6 can cause nerve damage, also known as peripheral neuropathy. This may include a burning sensation and sharp and tingling pain in the arms, hands, legs, and feet. Peripheral neuropathy may also cause balance issues and difficulty in walking.

8. Convulsions and seizures

Since Vitamin B6 is responsible for the production of calming neurotransmitter GABA, a lack of Vitamin B6 may result in inadequate amounts of GABA in the brain and thereby increase the risk of seizures. Seizures may cause symptoms like muscle spasms, erratic movement of arms and legs, rolling of eyes, uncontrollable shaking (convulsions), and loss of consciousness.

9. Increased homocysteine

Some B vitamins like B6, B9, and B12 are helpful in processing homocysteine, a by-product formed during protein synthesis. A deficiency of these vitamins may cause high levels of homocysteine, which is linked with various health problems, notably Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.

How to prevent Vitamin B6 Deficiency?

Vitamin B6 is found in both plant food and animal food. Moreover, it is also added to fortified foods such as nutrition bars and breakfast cereals. Below are some foods that provide Vitamin B6.

Name of the Food Mg per serving %DV (Daily Value)
Chickpeas (1 cup) 1.1 mg 65%
Beef Liver (85 grams) 0.9 mg 53%
Roasted chicken breast (85 grams) 0.5 mg 29%
Potatoes (1 cup) 0.4 mg 25%
Banana (1 medium) 0.4 mg 25%
Breakfast Cereals (fortified) 0.4 mg 25%
Turkey meat (85 grams) 0.4 mg 25%
Ground beef 0.3 mg 18%
Waffles (1 piece) 0.3 mg 18%

Besides these, some other foods that are good sources of Vitamin B6 are bulgur wheat, cottage cheese, and squash which contribute 12% of the daily value and long grain rice, mixed nuts, raisins, spinach, onions, watermelon, and tofu contribute 6% of the daily value.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here’s a list of common questions and answers related to Vitamin B6 Deficiency

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What are the symptoms of Vitamin B6 Deficiency?

The common symptoms of Vitamin B6 Deficiency are as follows. 

  • Itchy skin rashes

  • Sore, red, and cracked lips

  • Inflamed, red, and sore tongue (glossitis)

  • Behavioural changes like mood swings, hyperirritability, anxiety, depression

  • Weakened immunity

  • Anaemia

  • Pins and needles

  • Convulsions and seizures

Which foods are rich in Vitamin B6?

Good food sources of Vitamin B6 are chickpeas, beef liver, roasted chicken breast, potatoes, bananas, breakfast Cereals (fortified), turkey meat, ground beef, etc. 

How long does it take to overcome Vitamin B6 Deficiency?

Being a water-soluble vitamin, it is absorbed quickly in the body. Positive effects may be evident within one week; however, the exact time duration to correct Vitamin B6 Deficiency depends on the severity of the condition.

Sources

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions. 

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