What Is the Difference Between Vitamin B6 & Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 keep your body healthy.

Vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 keep your body healthy.

Trying to tell the difference between all of the vitamins and minerals out there can leave your brain spinning. The B vitamins can be confusing, since there are eight different ones. Also, the vitamins have common names, in addition to numerical names, which adds to the confusion.


Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, plays a vital role in protein metabolism by transferring amino groups and strengthening chemical bonds. It contributes to over 100 reactions in your body, suggesting the importance of the vitamin. Other functions include carbohydrate metabolism, immune function, blood health, normal growth and brain development. Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, primarily works with folate in creating and replicating your genes. Additionally, the vitamin keeps your nerves safe, blood healthy and brain strong. It literally functions from your head to your toes and is essential in maintaining overall health.

Vitamin B6 Food Sources

Interestingly, vitamin B6 can be found in many foods in the American diet. Excellent sources include chickpeas, beef liver, tuna, salmon, chicken breast, certain fortified ready-to-eat cereals, potatoes, turkey, bananas and marinara sauce. Good sources include ground beef, waffles, bulgur, cottage cheese and winter squash. Clearly, vitamin B6 food sources can be found in a wide range of foods.

Vitamin B12 Food Sources

Unlike vitamin B6, food sources of vitamin B12 are found only in animal products that include but are not limited to meat, fish, milk and yogurt. Excellent sources include clams, rainbow trout, salmon, tuna fish, cheeseburger, haddock and beef sirloin. Good sources include milk, yogurt, cheese, ham and eggs. Common vegetarian sources are fortified ready-to-eat cereals, fortified non-dairy milks and fortified meat substitutes.

Vitamin B6 Deficiency

Due to the wide variety of food sources, B6 deficiency is uncommon in the United States. However, certain malabsorptive disorders and kidney disease can lead to a secondary deficiency. Healthy adult women need 1.3 milligrams of vitamin B6 every day, pregnant women need 1.9 mg and lactating women need 2.0 mg. Low levels of B6 leads to metabolic abnormalities and neurological damage. Vitamin B6 deficiency is characterized by weakness, sleeplessness, cracks on the lips and corners of the mouth, swollen tongue, confusion, depression and a weakened immune system.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency is more prevalent than vitamin B6. The daily recommendation of vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms every day for healthy women, 2.6 mcg for pregnant women and 2.8 micrograms for lactating women. Populations at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency include vegans and vegetarians, individuals with gastrointestinal disorders or who have undergone gastrointestinal surgery, individuals with anemia, alcoholics and older adults. Sometimes the cause of the deficiency is unknown. Common symptoms include fatigue, weakness, impaired balance, confusion, dementia, poor memory, loss of appetite and weight loss.


About the Author

Laura Michele Oliver received her bachelor's degree in nutrition from Auburn University. She served as a dietetic intern at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, where she also graduated with a Master of Science in clinical nutrition. She now works as a registered dietitian in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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