Vitamin B6 Deficiency Is Common

Published: October 23, 2012

Research at Tufts University has suggested that deficient vitamin B6 levels are common in the United States, and could be reduced via supplementation.

The results come from the NHANES data base, which is one of the largest epidemiological studies to evaluate overall nutrition, as well as B6 levels.

The study found four groups to be particularly deficient in Vitamin B6:

  1. Women of reproductive age, especially current and former users of oral contraceptives.
  2. Male smokers.
  3. African-American men.
  4. Those over 65.

Martha Morris, PhD, an epidemiologist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts noted that "Across the study population, we noticed participants with inadequate vitamin B6 status, even though they reported consuming more than the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin B6, which is less than two milligrams per day. The question our study raises is whether, due to aging, genetics, or exposures, some population subgroups need supplements to achieve the current biochemical definition of adequate status."

Vitamin B6 is important for heart health, immune system function and mood, as well as being critical for numerous other functions.

For the purposes of the study, PLP blood levels of less than 20 nmol/L were deemed to be deficient in both men and women. This is the level below which one sees symptoms of deficiency, but is not the level needed for optimal function. Overall, 11% of supplement users and nearly a quarter of non-users demonstrated plasma PLP blood levels of less than 20 nmol/L, with a higher incidence among the sub-groups noted above.

The researchers also noted "Most importantly, the data suggest oral contraceptive users have extremely low plasma PLP[vitamin B6] levels. Three quarters of the women who reported using oral contraceptives—but not vitamin B6 supplements—were vitamin B6 deficient."

I like to tease that the RDAs stands for "Ridiculous Dietary Allowances." The RDAs for vitamin B6 Range from 1.3-1.7 mg a day. This study shows that even those levels can result in severe vitamin B6 deficiency. I personally recommend 85 mg daily of vitamin B6, and this is the amount in a good multivitamin powder. Do not take over 250 mg of vitamin B6 daily unless directed by your physician, as significantly higher doses may be associated with nerve injury.

As an aside, Holistic physicians recognized that birth control pills caused vitamin B6 deficiency and associated depression over 25 years ago. Given another 30 years, standard medicine may finally get up to date with the research data, and recommend that women on the birth-control pill be given vitamin B6 supplements. Meanwhile, I continue to recommend overall supplementation for almost everyone, as the American diet truly is awful.


American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Volume 87, pages 1446-54. "Trends of Vitamin B6 Status in US Population Sample." Authors: Morris MS, Picciano, MF, Jacques PF, Selhub, J.

Jacob Teitelbaum, MD

is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.

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