About 40 percent of people over the age of 65 experience some form of age-related memory loss. In some individuals, difficulty remembering things interferes with executive function and their ability to complete their daily living tasks. Science is continuously working on developing new ways to support brain health as we age, and studies now show that vitamin B6 may have neuroprotective properties that may make it beneficial for preventing cognitive decline. Read on to learn more.
What Is Vitamin B6?
Vitamin B6 is part of the B-complex of vitamins and one of the essential vitamins for human health. This means that your body requires vitamin B6 to function properly and can't produce it independently. Instead, you obtain vitamin B6 from the foods you eat. You may sometimes see vitamin B6 referred to by its scientific name, pyridoxine.
What Does Vitamin B6 Do?
Your body needs vitamin B6 to power over 100 different reactions. Without it, your body can't properly digest and utilize fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to produce energy to power itself. Vitamin B6 also impacts the activities of the immune system and the part of your red blood cells that carry oxygen.
Vitamin B6 has a link to brain function. During pregnancy, vitamin B6 in a pregnant mother's diet helps a baby's nervous system develop, and during infancy, the vitamin continues to support neural development. In addition, your body requires vitamin B6 to produce chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. These include chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.
What Causes Vitamin B6 Deficiency?
Severe vitamin B6 deficiency is rare in the United States. It is most likely to affect:
- People with kidney problems
- Individuals with autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis
- Those with digestive disorders like inflammatory bowel disease
- People with substance use disorders, particularly alcohol use disorder
Although most people aren't severely deficient in vitamin B6, not everyone gets enough of it through their diets daily, leading to minor deficiencies.
What Are the Symptoms of Vitamin B6 Deficiency?
People with low vitamin B6 levels may experience:
- Low red blood cell counts or anemia
- Frequent infections
- Cracking of the lips and the corners of the mouth
- Swollen tongue
Unfortunately, people may be deficient in vitamin B6 for long periods before any symptoms develop, and it's possible to be lacking the nutrient and not experience any symptoms.
What Are Some Vitamin B6 Benefits for the Brain?
Due to its activities in the body, vitamin B6 may:
- Promote better memory: One study found that men aged 54 to 81 years old with higher vitamin B6 levels performed better on memory tests than their peers with lower serum levels of the vitamin.
- Improve emotional balance: Serotonin is the brain's feel-good chemical, and low levels of it can trigger symptoms of depression. Some experts believe that vitamin B6 may support emotional balance as a result.
- Reduce the risk of dementia: There is some evidence to suggest that vitamin B6 may have neuroprotective properties that make people less likely to develop age-related memory impairments like dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
In addition to its brain health benefits, vitamin B6 may:
- Alleviate morning sickness during pregnancy
- Reduce the effects of air pollution on the body
- Relieve symptoms of pre-menstrual symptom
- Decrease the risk of colorectal cancer
- Lower the likelihood of heart disease
Keep in mind that studies on the benefits of vitamin B6 are ongoing. More research is needed to prove that the vitamin is beneficial for treating or preventing any medical condition.
What Foods Contain Vitamin B6?
Some of the best sources of vitamin B6 include:
- Legumes like chickpeas
- Seafood like tuna and salmon
- Poultry like turkey and chicken breast
- Lean cuts of beef
- Fruits like bananas and watermelon
- Vegetables like spinach, onions, and squash
- Dairy products like cottage cheese
- Nuts and seeds like sesame seeds, pistachios, and hazelnuts
- Whole grains like bulgur and brown rice
The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin B6 per day is 1.3 milligrams for men and women between 19 and 50. Older men need 1.7 milligrams of the vitamin daily, and women over 50 should consume 1.5 milligrams daily.
Vitamin B6 for Supporting Brain Health As We Age
Since your body can't store the water-soluble vitamin, consistently consuming foods that contain it is vital to health. Dietary supplements can make it easier for people to ensure that they have a sufficient intake of vitamin B6.
A combination supplement formulated for brain health may be the ideal solution for those looking to support better memory function. XeedLabs Balance Daily Chill provides 25 milligrams of vitamin B6 per two-capsule serving plus magnesium, herbs, and nutrients that have been shown to ease stress. Talk to your doctor about whether a brain health supplement is right for you.