Vitamin B6 food

Vitamin B6 food belongs to those known as the anti-frailty group of four.

You cannot enjoy sparkling well-being without plenty of vitamin B6 food, and researchers are suggesting we may be needing far more than we are getting.

Interesting research on the development of frailty found that taking your vitamins in pill-form did little to halt the relentless progress prematurely of old age [1]. Rather we should get it from our food.

This page was built by Dr Bernard Preston on 26th February, 2020.

Chickpeas are the richest source of vitamin B6; draining and rinsing after pressure cooking is important.Draining chickpeas

Or, as Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, put it, let your food be your medicine.

Vitamin B6 is found in six different forms. They all have the prefix pyridox'in them.

Pyridoxine is probably the best recognised form, and the most active derivative, found mainly in muscle, is PLP, or pyridoxal 5-phosphate; it plays a vital role in over 100 enzyme reactions in the body that would be inhibited by a deficiency of vitamin B6 food. Many of them have to do with the management of glucose in cells, and the synthesis of neurotransmitters like dopamine from amino acids.

Vitamin B6 anaemia

Haemoglobin in the blood enables the body to carry oxygen from the lungs to the tissues; it is made up of two parts, namely haem, the iron part, and a protein fraction, globin.

Vitamin B6 is essential at two levels, firstly the synthesis of haem, and secondly in enabling haemoglobin to bind to oxygen in the lungs and releasing it in the tissues. 

A deficiency causes a vitamin B6 anaemia and is clearly central to the development of frailty in the older person.

Vitamin B6 and Parkinson's disease

Vitamin B6 is essential in the reaction in which dopamine is formed from L-dopa in a nucleus in the brain known as the substantia nigra.

This neurotransmitter is essential in many pathways, in the brain where a deficiency causes Parkinson's disease, and in the colon where it stimulates the muscles facilitating normal contractions of the gut.

Vitamin B6 acts as an essential coenzyme in the synthesis of another important neurotransmitter, serotonin. It has many functions, notably a mood stabiliser and in normal bone formation.

In fact B6 is necessary for protein metabolism, the breakdown of virtually all amino acids.

A B6 deficiency contributes to the development of dystonias, constipation and depression; and osteoporosis, clearly contributing significantly to the development of frailty.

Worse is that the Parkinsonian medication interferes with B6 metabolism.

Vitamin B6 and inflammation

There have been many studies linking a deficiency of vitamin B6 to chronic inflammation in the body. This is in part due to its vital role in breaking down homocysteine, a breakdown product of protein metabolism.

This page on homocysteine cardiovascular explains further.

Chronic inflammation means inter alia cardiovascular problems, muscle and joint pain, all contributors to the development of frailty.

Blood sugar

The stabilisation of blood sugar is not only from carbohydrate metabolism, but also from amino acids (known as gluconeogenesis) and fats.

It is here that B6 plays a vital role in glucose metabolism, helping to prevent low levels of blood sugar, or hypoglycemia.

It is also an essential cofactor[2] in the breaking down of glycogen in the tissues, known as glycogenolysis to release glucose for use in the muscles.

Vitamin B6 food

Vitamin B6 food along with three other vitamins help prevent us becoming feeble long before our time.

To be effective this vitamin B6 must be obtained from your food, and many people show signs of low levels in the blood despite taking tablets. The richest sources are:

  • Fatty fish
  • Chicken
  • Potatoes
  • Bananas
  • Red meat
  • Chickpeas and other legumes

Other good sources are:

  • 100% wholewheat
  • Cottage cheese
  • Butternut squash
  • Nuts, raisins, onions, spinach, watermelon

In short, none of us should be deficient in vitamin B6 food, but we are.

B6 enemies

A narrow diet deficient in protein from legumes, chicken and meat is the greatest of the B6 enemies; fish too, of course. Add to that minimal fruit, greens, and nuts and one is almost certain to become prematurely frail.

Vegetarians, of course, have shown that one can be perfectly strong without fish, fowl and red meat. Generally they do eat eggs and dairy products though.

Vegans have to be more careful.

Alcohol too inhibits the absorption of B6 in the gut.

Researchers in the USA have found that many people have low levels of circulating B6 in their blood.

This also invites questions about the abundance of the normal flora in the gut; many of them do synthesise the B vitamins and we would all do well to enjoy a probiotic like kefir on a regular basis.

This is particularly true if we have recently been on antibiotics, or eat a lot of food laced with chemicals like preservatives; artificial sweeteners have also been fingered.

The B vitamins are water-soluble and some is lost in the liquid used to cook our food.

Steaming or sauteing, or using that veggie water in soups and stews is the way to go; do not just pour those nutrients down the drain.


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Frailty syndrome

A vitamin B6 anaemia obviously lowers the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood; that would contribute to at least two of the cardinal signs of frailty syndrome; low energy levels and slowed walking speed.

The tea and toast diet of so many elderly people is obviously one major cause.

  1. Bernard Preston
  2. Authentic hummus recipe
  3. Vitamin B6 food

Useful links


  1. Low vitamin intake is associated with risk of frailty in older adults.
  2. Glycogen phosphorylase.

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