If you’re looking to optimise your health with vitamin or mineral supplements, you might notice that they often come in combinations. But is it worth taking a combo like magnesium and vitamin B6 together, and do you really need both? We say yes and yes! Read on to find out exactly why this synergistic pair goes together so well…
What are magnesium and vitamin B6?
Magnesium is an essential mineral and vitamin B6, AKA pyridoxine, is one of eight essential “B” vitamins. They’re each involved in hundreds of biochemical processes in the body that are vital for optimal health and wellbeing.
Vitamin B6 plays a major role in:
- Insulin function
- Energy use and storage
- Immune function
- Neurotransmitter synthesis
- Haemoglobin synthesis (the part of red blood cells that carry oxygen)
Magnesium plays an important part in:
- Muscle movement
- Nerve function
- Heart rhythm
- Bone synthesis
- Blood sugar control
- Blood pressure regulation
- Immune system regulation
- Energy production
- DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis
How much magnesium and vitamin B6 do you need?
The recommended magnesium dosage and intake vary depending on your age and sex. The tables below show the adequate intake (AI) and recommended dietary allowance (RDA) from the National Institute of Health.
|Birth to 6 months||30 mg*||30 mg*|
|7–12 months||75 mg*||75 mg*|
|1–3 years||80 mg||80 mg|
|4–8 years||130 mg||130 mg|
|9–13 years||240 mg||240 mg|
|14–18 years||410 mg||360 mg||400 mg||360 mg|
|19–30 years||400 mg||310 mg||350 mg||310 mg|
|31–50 years||420 mg||320 mg||360 mg||320 mg|
|51+ years||420 mg||320 mg|
|Birth to 6 months||0.1 mg*||0.1 mg*|
|7–12 months||0.3 mg*||0.3 mg*|
|1–3 years||0.5 mg||0.5 mg|
|4–8 years||0.6 mg||0.6 mg|
|9–13 years||1.0 mg||1.0 mg|
|14–18 years||1.3 mg||1.2 mg||1.9 mg||2.0 mg|
|19–50 years||1.3 mg||1.3 mg||1.9 mg||2.0 mg|
|51+ years||1.7 mg||1.5 mg|
* Adequate Intake (AI)
What happens if you don’t get enough?
Your body can’t produce magnesium or vitamin B6 by itself, so you have to get both from your diet (or from supplements). Not getting enough of either on a regular basis can have some serious consequences for your health and well-being.
Magnesium deficiency is alarmingly common, but many people don’t even realize they’re falling short of the recommended daily intake. Possible reasons include:
- Not eating enough magnesium-rich foods.
- Eating foods with the depleted magnesium content.
- Health conditions that limit magnesium absorption, e.g. gastrointestinal disorders.
- Health conditions that increase magnesium excretion, e.g. kidney disease.
- Medications that affect magnesium absorption or excretion.
A magnesium deficiency is hard to detect, but telltale signs and symptoms include:
- Muscle cramps, stiffness, or spasms
- Eye twitches
- Headaches or migraines
- Numbness or tingling
- Irregular heartbeat or palpitations (a “fluttering” sensation in your chest)
- Anxiety, depression, or low mood
Vitamin B6 deficiency
Unlike fat-soluble vitamins that can be stored in your adipose (fat) tissue, Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin. That means you’ll lose any excess throughout the day in your urine, so it’s important to get enough every day. You might be at greater risk of deficiency if you:
- Don’t get enough B6 in your diet, especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan.
- Are overweight or obese.
- Take certain medications, e.g. oestrogens, corticosteroids, anticonvulsants.
- Suffer from a condition that affects absorption, e.g. a gastrointestinal disorder.
- Suffer from hormonal conditions like diabetes or thyroid disease.
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Drink excessive amounts of alcohol.
- Have deficiencies in other B vitamins, especially B9 (folate) or B12.
B6 deficiencies are rare, but they can lead to serious complications like peripheral neuropathy (loss of feeling in the limbs), anemia (a condition affecting oxygen-carrying red blood cells), or seizures.
If you have any of the risk factors above and you notice the following telltale signs, your B6 levels could be low:
- Tingling, numbness, or pain in the hands and feet
- Cold hands and/or feet
- Low energy levels/fatigue
- Chest pain or palpitations
- Unusually pale skin
- A tendency to get sick often
- Low mood or depression
- Skin rashes
- Sore, cracked lips
- An inflamed tongue
- Seborrheic dermatitis
How can I get more magnesium and vitamin B6?
The best place to start is your diet. We’ve covered the magnesium content of all your favorite foods in our ultimate guide to magnesium-rich foods, but here’s a brief list of the top sources:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Dark chocolate
- Soy products
- Some fatty fish
- Whole grains
- Legumes, nuts, and seeds
Pork, poultry, and fatty fish are among the best sources of vitamin B6. However, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you can still get plenty of B6 from foods like:
- Sweet potatoes
- Pistachio nuts
If you’re still struggling to get enough magnesium and vitamin B6 in your diet, you can also try supplements.
Can I take magnesium and vitamin B6 together?
Yes, you can take magnesium and vitamin B6 at the same time, and we highly recommend them! Here’s why they make the perfect pair…
What are the benefits of taking magnesium and vitamin B6 together?
Vitamin B6 and magnesium share many of the same health and well-being benefits, so taking them together doubles up the positive effects. Also, B6 actually escorts magnesium into your cells, essentially making sure you get the full benefit of your magnesium supplement.
Magnesium and vitamin B6 supplements are often marketed together as a natural solution for tiredness and fatigue, thanks to their role in energy-yielding metabolism. However, there’s so much more to this synergistic pair!
- Mood and mental health
There’s a known link between low B6 levels and mood disorders like depression. In one study, B6 deficiency doubled the likelihood of depression, while another study confirmed that higher B6 intake led to lower depression risk.
This is probably because of the important role B6 plays in neurotransmitter production. Three in particular — serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline — are critical for mental health, and they’re often deficient in people with depression or other mood disorders. Another theory is that B6 alleviates depression by reducing levels of an amino acid called homocysteine, high levels of which are known to cause mood disturbances.
Magnesium is also a key player in the creation of neurotransmitters like serotonin. Just like B6, a deficiency of magnesium is known to increase the risk of depression and anxiety. Supplementing with magnesium can improve symptoms of both, help patients recovering from substance abuse, and match or improve the effectiveness of some antidepressants.
When you combine magnesium and B6, the benefits are even greater. In people experiencing severe stress, this combination has been shown to be significantly more helpful than magnesium alone. People report experiencing significant improvements in quality of life, depressive symptoms and anxiety.
Serotonin is also essential for healthy sleep patterns. Vitamin B6 converts an amino acid called tryptophan into serotonin, which can then be turned into the “sleep hormone” melatonin. The magnesium then reduces the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain, making sure plenty is available for melatonin synthesis.
Another key sleep chemical is connected to vitamin B6 and magnesium. GABA is a neurotransmitter that binds to specific receptors in the brain to create a relaxing, sleep-inducing effect. B6 is essential for the creation of GABA, while magnesium binds to and stimulates GABA receptors to create a similar relaxed feeling.
Magnesium also relaxes your muscles and regulates your natural sleep-wake cycle, helping you to stick to a healthy sleep schedule. A specific type called magnesium glycinate is shown to help you fall asleep quicker, stay asleep longer, and feel more rested the next day.
Learn more about magnesium for sleep.
- Brain health and cognitive function
Magnesium is essential for healthy cognitive function, but one type, in particular, stands out. Magnesium L-threonate crosses the blood-brain barrier more easily than other types, leading to higher concentrations — and greater benefits — in the brain cells. Specifically, it increases the number of stem cells in the hippocampus, an area of your brain that plays a big part in learning and memory and has been shown to improve these exact functions in a number of animal studies.
In a landmark human study, people taking magnesium L-threonate showed significant improvements in visual attention, task switching, processing speed, and executive function. More impressively, they also reversed brain aging in people who had experienced a cognitive decline by an average of nine years!
Vitamin B6 can also support healthy brain aging. Remember homocysteine? It’s also known to strongly increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. In reducing homocysteine then, B6 might have a preventative effect. One study showed that a combined dose of three B vitamins, including B6, reduced waste in areas of the brain vulnerable to Alzheimer’s.
- Heart health
Vitamin B6 may also benefit the heart, with research finding double the risk of heart disease in people with a deficiency. Homocysteine is the culprit yet again, associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and arterial blockages. In each case, increased vitamin B6 levels showed protective/preventative effects.
- Lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Increase “good” HDL cholesterol and reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Repair injured cardiac muscle (magnesium orotate).
- Improve survival rates in congestive heart failure (magnesium orotate).
- Protect cardiac tissue (magnesium taurate).
- Blood sugar control
A recent major review concluded that there’s a two-way relationship between B6 deficiency and diabetes (i.e. one can cause the other), potentially creating a vicious cycle. They also noted that a lack of B6 increases the risk of diabetic complications (e.g. heart disease, vision loss, amputation).
It’s not clear exactly why, but animal studies have shown that B6 deficiency disrupts the pancreatic cells that produce insulin and interferes with insulin activity. It can also cause the body’s cells to become resistant to insulin, something that might be caused by high levels of — you guessed it! — homocysteine. On the other hand, supplementing with vitamin B6 has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.
Magnesium also plays an important role in insulin function and blood sugar management. Having adequate levels of magnesium reduces your risk of developing diabetes by as much as 47%, and can reduce the risk of pre-diabetes progressing to diabetes. This is partly thanks to its proven positive effect on blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity (see here, here, here, here and here).
- Immune health
Lots of functions in your immune system depend on having enough vitamin B6. For example, you need B6 to:
- Absorb B12, is required to make red blood cells and certain immune cells.
- Stimulate immune defenders like antibodies, lymphocytes, and T-cells.
- Send messages between immune cells to coordinate an immune response.
Interestingly, some of those immune cells can’t function with low magnesium levels. Researchers have found, for example, that T cells can only eliminate infections and abnormal cells in a magnesium-rich environment.
When inflammation — a normal immune response — becomes chronic (long-lasting), it can contribute to serious conditions like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, autoimmune disease, and Alzheimer’s.
One autoimmune disease that seems to respond well to B6 supplementation is rheumatoid arthritis. The inflammation responsible for the disease also reduces B6 levels in the body. In a study that tested the effects of vitamin B6 supplementation, participants had significantly lower levels of pro-inflammatory molecules in their system after 12 weeks.
Chronic inflammation has also been linked to low levels of magnesium, but again, supplementation may help. Magnesium boosts your body’s antioxidant abilities, decreases markers of inflammation in people with pre-diabetes or sleep deprivation, and even fights inflammation at a genetic level.
- Premenstrual Syndrome
Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, can leave women feeling bloated, sore, depressed, tearful, anxious, irritated, and exhausted in the run-up to their period. Some studies have found that vitamin B6 and/or magnesium supplements may help to take the edge off.
Low magnesium levels are associated with PMS, and supplements have been shown to help relieve mood swings, depressive symptoms, and fluid retention. Likewise, a three-month study showed that a daily vitamin B6 supplement helped to improve PMS-related depression, irritability, and tiredness by 69%.
Magnesium and B6 seem to be even more helpful when taken together. In both of these studies, the combination of magnesium and vitamin B6 proved to reduce PMS symptoms more effectively than when either one was taken by itself.
If you’re one of the many pregnant ladies who experience aches, pains, or morning sickness, vitamin B6 and magnesium may be able to help (with your doctor’s approval, of course!).
Vitamin B6 is commonly recommended by healthcare providers to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Two different studies have found that a daily B6 supplement reduced nausea and vomiting in pregnant women in just a few days, with one study showing a 31% reduction in symptoms.
- Visual health
High levels of homocysteine (again!) are associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), but because B6 lowers levels, it can help to reduce the risk. In one long-term study, a B6, B12, and folate combo reduced AMD risk by 35-40%. Low B6 is also associated with retinal vein problems, regardless of homocysteine levels.
Taking your B6 with magnesium can boost the visual benefits, with magnesium shown to improve blood flow to the eyes, guard against oxidative stress and cellular loss, and help to keep the ocular nerves healthy. This translates to easier management of eye conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy, with fewer complications.
Are there any side effects from taking magnesium and vitamin B6 supplements?
Both magnesium and vitamin B6 supplements are safe for the majority of people when used as directed. But as always, check with your doctor first if you have a health condition or take medications.
Taking excessive doses of vitamin B6 in supplement form can cause nerve damage that may be permanent. This has been seen in doses as low as 100mg per day, so the NHS warns that you shouldn’t take any more than 10mg of vitamin B6 per day in a supplement unless told to by your doctor.
Magnesium is generally very well tolerated and it would be incredibly hard to take a toxic dose. That said, the risk of mild digestive side effects (i.e. diarrhea and nausea) increases with doses above 350mg from supplements a day.
You’re less likely to experience side effects with better-absorbed types of magnesium, like glycinate, taurate, and malate. However, if you do experience side effects, they can usually be resolved quickly by simply lowering your dose.