Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is involved in more bodily functions than almost any other single nutrient. The amount of vitamin B6 that you have in your body can affect both your physical and mental well-being. In a nutshell, B6 is necessary for the absorption of fats and proteins, the production of hydrochloric acid, maintaining the sodium/potassium balance, and promoting red blood cell formation. It is also needed by your nervous system and for brain function.
There have been a lot of studies done on the effectiveness of vitamin B6 in the prevention of disease. Vitamin B6 has been shown to play a role in cancer immunity, as well as in the treatment or prevention of allergies, arthritis and asthma. But perhaps one of vitamin B6’s most protective benefits is its ability to help lower the risk for heart disease and atherosclerosis.
Researchers have discovered that vitamin B6 is effective in the prevention of heart disease because it reduces levels of homocysteine. Homocysteine is a substance that can cause arteries to harden, setting the stage for other cardiovascular problems. Researchers also believe that vitamin B6 reduces the risk of blood clots and can help to lower blood pressure.
In one study, 304 patients being treated for coronary artery disease were evaluated for risk factors. It was found that vitamin B6 deficiency was as much a risk factor as smoking and high cholesterol. A mild deficiency of vitamin B6 is pretty common; it’s probable that well over half the population doesn’t get enough of this vitamin. Along with confusion, depression, weight loss, and skin problems, a severe deficiency could result in heart disease.
There’s good news, however. Vitamin B6 is found in basically every food. There are some food sources that are better than others, of course. Boost your vitamin B6 intake by increasing your consumption of these foods:
— Brewer’s yeast (many forget this excellent source of B6)
— Sunflower seeds
— Wheat germ
The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for vitamin B6 is two milligrams. Antidepressants, estrogen therapy, and oral contraceptives will increase the need for vitamin B6. Some drugs such as diuretics and cortisone treatments block the absorption of vitamin B6 by your body. If you are taking any of these types of medications, you might want to consider supplementing with B6 to boost your intake to adequate levels.