You’ve likely heard that taking a B complex supplement is beneficial for your health. While there’s been a lot of attention on B12 and other types, a lesser-known B vitamin that really deserves the spotlight is B6, which is underrated and often overlooked in the world of supplements, health, and wellness.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is a water-soluble vitamin crucial to carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism, the creation of red blood cells, and much more. Significant research also points to several compelling ways that this nutrient supports functions essential to helping support weight management.*
The body can’t produce B6 on its own, so you must obtain it either from foods or supplements.
What is Vitamin B6?
Also known as pyridoxine, vitamin B6 is water soluble, meaning it can dissolve in water and doesn’t depend on fat for absorption, unlike other fat-soluble vitamins. B6 is actually a generic name for three similar compounds: pyridoxamine, pyridoxal, and pyridoxine. These three compounds convert to “cofactors,” which assist in enzyme reactions throughout the body that are essential for cell behavior and function.
The most potent and active form of B6 in the body is called pyridoxal 5’-phosphate (P5P), which is involved in over 150 reactions. P5P is a major player in lowering homocysteine, an amino acid that, in high amounts, is thought to have a negative impact on overall health.*. It’s important to mention this right off the bat, as many of vitamin B6’s health benefits are likely linked to its impact on high homocysteine levels.
Why is B6 Important?
Vitamin B6 boasts an impressive list of health benefits, ranging from mood and memory support to relief of menstrual-related discomforts, healthy pregnancies, healthy skin, better sleep, a normal cardiovascular inflammation response, and more.*
This vitamin is involved in the metabolism of protein and the conversion of tryptophan into vitamin B3 (niacin). It’s also essential for the formation of red blood cells, antibodies, and brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Due to its role in hemoglobin production, B6 is also used to help maintain hemoglobin levels.Hemoglobin is a protein that delivers oxygen to the body’s cells, and low levels can bring on excessive tiredness and exhaustion.
Does Vitamin B6 Help the Body Metabolize Fat?
Along with other B vitamins, B6 is essential for healthy fat metabolism and energy production.* Lipid metabolism depends on B6 for proper conversion of protein and carbohydrates into fat, and for the healthy metabolism of essential fatty acids.* B6 deficiency can seriously impair the metabolism of omega-3 fatty acids from linolenic acid to its more functional forms, EPA and DHA.
Healthy B6 levels are also necessary for converting linoleic acid to arachidonic acid, and various enzymes used in fatty acid metabolism depend on vitamin B6. Both B6 and essential fatty acids are necessary for normal and healthy cell function.*
Does B6 Suppress Appetite?
B vitamins and B6 can help to control appetite and hunger, particularly by stimulating thyroid function and, in turn, balancing hormones and water retention.* While more studies are needed, many people report that B complex vitamins help to curb cravings, and B6 in particular might help slow or even stop the glycation reactions that occur when dietary carbohydrates react with proteins.
Since B6 plays such an important role in carbohydrate metabolism, deficiency could cause an increase in carb and sugar cravings.*
Food Sources of B6
Aside from a high-quality supplement, B6 can also be found in certain whole foods. Since B6 is water-soluble and the body doesn’t store these vitamins, a continuous intake of B6-rich foods is key for maintaining healthy levels.
Foods highest in B6 include chickpeas, beef liver, fish (salmon and tuna), chicken breast, boiled potatoes, turkey, bananas, eggs, and milk. Women taking oral contraceptives might be more prone to B6 deficiency, so a focus on B6-rich foods and possible supplementation is of particular importance.
A well-rounded diet low in processed and packaged foods and rich in plants, protein, and good fats—along with plenty of physical activity—is the best way to maintain a healthy weight. But short-term vitamin B6 supplementation could help kick-start your metabolism if your levels are inadequate. Always check in with your functional medicine provider to determine safety and appropriate dosage.
 "Vitamin B6 status improves in overweight/obese women ...." https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18679411/. Accessed 2 Dec. 2020.
 Oudi, M. E., Aouni, Z., Mazigh, C., Khochkar, R., Gazoueni, E., Haouela, H., & Machghoul, S. (2010). Homocysteine and markers of inflammation in acute coronary syndrome. Experimental and clinical cardiology, 15(2), e25–e28.
 DESIKACHAR, H. S., & McHENRY, E. W. (1954). Some effects of vitamin B6 deficiency on fat metabolism in rats. The Biochemical journal, 56(4), 544–547. https://doi.org/10.1042/bj0560544