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A Course In Nutrition: Learning Your A, B, C’s
Welcome back to Part 6 of our multiple-part series on Vitamins.
As you probably know, we took a small break from this series to talk about prostate health and male infertility. These are two health challenges that have seen a sharp rise in the last few years. If you haven’t read these blogs, yet, I encourage you to do so. The men in your life will thank you for it.
In the last blog of this series, we talked about Vitamin B5, Pantothenic Acid.
- the importance of Vitamin B5
- what health challenges occur when there is a deficiency
- what foods are packed with this very important vitamin
- and, an easy recipe to make sure you’re eating enough Vitamin B5 daily
In today’s blog, we will talk about Vitamin B6, also known as Pyridoxine (peer a dock seen).
As a reminder, all of the B vitamins are water-soluble…..which means our body doesn’t store them for a long time and it’s important to eat foods rich in this nutrient, every single day.
As has been the case with the other B vitamins we’ve discussed, pyridoxine is also important for energy production. It allows for healthy red blood cell production, which then allows for healthy oxygen distribution, which then allows for more strength and stamina….and who wouldn’t want more of that?
There are three additional areas where Vitamin B6 shines and you’ll soon understand why you’d want to make sure you’re eating foods that contain this vital nutrient.
Pyridoxine appears to play a role in improving brain function and preventing Alzheimer’s Disease. This is a big deal to me because my mom died of Alzheimer’s Disease and my father has it. You can be sure that I’m doing everything in my power to support brain health.
- One particular study showed that in adults with high homocysteine levels and mild cognitive impairment supplementing with B6, B9 (folate) and B12 (methylcobalamin) decreased homocysteine and reduced damage in some areas of the brain that are vulnerable to Alzheimer’s Disease.
There is encouraging research that shows that Vitamin B6 may prevent clogged arteries and minimize heart disease risk.
- The research went on to say that people with low blood levels of vitamin B6 had almost twice the risk of getting heart disease compared to those with higher B6 levels.
- This is likely due to the role of B6 in decreasing elevated homocysteine levels associated with several disease processes, including heart disease.
Another research article showed the beneficial effect of B6 in preventing heart disease.
- A randomized controlled trial in 158 healthy adults who had siblings with heart disease divided participants into two groups, one that received 250 mg of vitamin B6 and 5 mg of folic acid every day for two years and another that received a placebo.
- The group that took B6 and folic acid had lower homocysteine levels and less abnormal heart tests during exercise than the placebo group, putting them at an overall lower risk of heart disease.
Vitamin B6 plays an important role in mood regulation, too.
- This is partly because this vitamin is necessary for creating neurotransmitters that regulate emotions, including serotonin, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
- As has been listed above, vitamin B6 plays a role in decreasing high levels of the homocysteine, which have been linked to depression and other psychiatric issues.
- Several studies have shown that depressive symptoms are associated with low blood levels and intakes of vitamin B6, especially in older adults who are at high risk for B vitamin deficiency.
- One study in 250 older adults found that deficient blood levels of vitamin B6 doubled the likelihood of depression.
Now that you understand the importance of pyridoxine in brain health, heart disease and depression, wouldn’t it be nice to know if you might be deficient in this important vitamin? Signs to be on the look out for include:
- Recall at the beginning of this blog, I stated that B6 was important for red blood cell formation. If your body is low on B6, you can get anemia, which is too few red blood cells. That would make you feel tired and weak.
- Sometimes low iron, folate and B12 can also cause anemia, but adding foods rich in B6 will certainly be helpful.
- Pyridoxine helps regulate your mood and memory.
- A deficiency may make you more likely to get depressed.
- If you notice feeling confused or sad, especially if you’re a senior, a shortage of this nutrient might be the reason.
Weak Immune System
- A deficiency here may make it harder for your body to resist infections and diseases.
- If you find that you tend to get every ‘bug’ out there, like colds, coughs, flu, etc, low levels of pyridoxine might be a reason.
Foods Rich in Vitamin B6
Even if you’re not suffering with the challenges listed above, it will be wise to eat foods rich in this nutrient to minimize your risk of developing any of these ailments.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for pyridoxine is between 1.5-2.0 milligrams, depending on if you’re male, female, pregnant or lactating. For arguments sake, let’s just keep it at 2.0 milligrams.
In the studies listed above, the average range of supplementation was 50-100 mgs per day. Please don’t think more is better….it’s not. And, if you’re not struggling significantly with the health issues listed above, I would encourage you to get your pyridoxine from food, not from supplements. You can aim for 5-10 mgs daily if you want to optimize heart and brain health.
Eating a variety of whole foods should get you there. Also, it’s important to note that only 75% of B6 that’s eaten is actually absorbed into your bloodstream.
If you’ve been paying close attention to which foods are rich in all the other B vitamins, then it will be easy to guess which food I’m going to suggest here…..BEEF LIVER, coming in at 0.9 mgs per 3 oz serving. (Yep, by the time you finish this series, it is my hope that you’ll start incorporating liver into your dietary routine.)
The food that comes in first place, however, is:
- Chickpeas, at 1.1 mgs per 1C serving.
- Yellow fin tuna ties with beef liver at 0.9 mg per serving.
- Salmon, chicken breast and potatoes come in at 0.5-0.6 per serving.
- Bananas come in at 0.4.
- Fortified breakfast cereal also comes in at 0.4 mg per serving.
It’s sad to note that in the United States, most adults obtain their dietary vitamin B6 from fortified cereals, starchy vegetables (likely in the form of French fries), and bananas.
As you’re reading through this information, if you find yourself a little overwhelmed and not sure where you might want to start on your wellness journey, please know that there are many skilled experts in the world of nutrition therapy and they’d certainly be happy to help you as you start down the road to better health. Please don’t think you have to do this alone.
I will be providing a yummy recipe that is easy to prepare, and doesn’t use fortified cereal or French fries. 😊
Tuna Chickpea Salad with Avocado
(I threw the avocado in because the healthy fats will help with depression and cognition.)
FOR THE SALAD:
- 15 ounces canned tuna
- 14 ounce can chickpeas, drained
- 2 large avocados, peeled and pitted
- 2 large vine ripened tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 1 large cucumber, halved lengthways and sliced
- 1/2 of a red onion, sliced thinly
FOR THE DRESSING:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley (plus extra to serve)
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic (or 1 large garlic cloves, minced)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Whisk together dressing ingredients in jar.
Mix together all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with dressing. Season with pepper and extra salt if desired.
Make-Ahead Tip: Combine all of the ingredients together in a bowl (except the dressing), cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When ready to serve, drizzle with dressing.
About the author: Dr Becky Spacke is a course instructor at Nutrition Therapy Institute. Additionally, she has a private practice focused on minimizing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease as a qualified ReCODE practitioner. You can learn more about her work at www.HealingFromAlz.com
Recipe image by Dr. Becky Spacke
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