Vitamin B6 food contains one of four substances belonging to the anti-frailty group; there are three other equally important micronutrients that the elderly absolutely must have regularly.
You cannot enjoy sparkling well-being without plenty of vitamin B6 food; researchers are suggesting we need far more than we are actually getting.
Disturbing research on the development of frailty found that taking vitamins
in supplements did little to halt the relentless premature progress of aging. Rather we should get these micronutrients from our food; B6 may be the exception.
This page was updated by Dr Bernard Preston on 9th February, 2023.
Or as Hippocrates, the father of Western healthcare put it let your food be your medicine.
Vitamin B6 is found in six different forms. Each of them has the prefix "pyridox" in its name.
Pyridoxine is probably the best recognised form.
The most active derivative, found mainly in muscle, is PLP or pyridoxal 5-phosphate. It plays an essential role in over 100 enzyme reactions in the body that would certainly be inhibited by a deficiency of vitamin B6 food.
Many of them have to do with the management of glucose in the cells; and the synthesis of neurotransmitters like dopamine from protein. So clearly it has a very important role to play in diabetes and the degenerative conditions like Parkinson's disease.
Dopamine is produced in the body in two places; a nucleus in the brain called the Substantia Nigra and the cells lining the colon of what is sometimes called the happy tum. That's one that has a full complement of friendly bugs; and plenty of dietary fibre to keep them satisfied.
Haemoglobin in the blood enables the body to carry oxygen from the lungs to the tissues; it is made up of two parts.
Vitamin B6 is essential at two levels; firstly in the synthesis of haem.
And secondly in enabling haemoglobin to bind oxygen in the lungs and release it in the tissues of the body.
A deficiency causes a vitamin-B6 anaemia which is clearly central to the development of frailty in the older person.
Vitamin B6 is essential in the reaction in which dopamine is formed from L-D in a nucleus in the brain known as the Substantia Nigra.
This neurotransmitter is essential in many pathways; in the brain where a deficiency causes Parkinson's disease. And also in the colon where it stimulates the muscles facilitating normal contractions of the gut.
It comes as no surprise thus that researchers reporting in BMC Geriatrics state that there is an association between low vitamin B6 food intake and Irritable Bowel Syndrome; and constipation.
Vitamin B6 acts as an essential coenzyme in the synthesis of another important neurotransmitter called serotonin. It has many functions; notably as a mood-stabiliser and in normal bone formation.
In fact B6 is necessary for amino acid metabolism; the breakdown of virtually all protein.
A B6 deficiency contributes to the development of dystonias, constipation and depression; and osteoporosis, clearly significant in the progression of frailty.
Worse is that the Parkinsonian medication interferes with B6 metabolism.
There have been many studies linking a deficiency of vitamin B6 to chronic inflammation in the body. This is in part due to its important role in denaturing homocysteine, a breakdown product of protein-metabolism.
This page on homocysteine cardiovascular explains it in some detail.
Chronic inflammation means inter alia cardiovascular problems, muscle and joint pain; all contributors to the development of frailty.
The stabilisation of blood sugar is not only from carbohydrate metabolism; but also from the break down of amino acids and fats, known as gluconeogenesis.
It is here that B6 plays a vital role in glucose metabolism, helping to prevent low levels of blood sugar; known as hypoglycemia.
It is also an essential cofactor in the break down of glycogen in muscle tissues and the liver.
This is known as glycogenolysis to release glucose for use during movement.
Vitamin B6 food along with three other important micronutrients help to prevent us from becoming feeble long before our time.
To be effective this vitamin B6 must be obtained from our food; but many people show signs of low levels in the blood despite taking tablets. The richest sources are:
Other good sources are:
In short none of us should be deficient in vitamin B6 food; but we are.
A narrow diet deficient in protein from legumes, chicken and meat is the greatest of the B6 enemies; fish too, of course. If we add to that minimal fruit, greens and nuts then one is almost certain to become prematurely frail.
Vegetarians of course have shown that one can be perfectly strong without fish, fowl and red meat. Generally they do eat eggs and dairy products though.
Vegans have to be more careful.
Alcohol too inhibits the absorption of B6 in the gut.
Researchers in the USA have found that many people have low levels of circulating B6 in their blood.
This also invites questions about the abundance of the normal flora in the gut; many of these bacteria do synthesise the B vitamins and we would all do well to enjoy a probiotic like kefir on a regular basis.
This is particularly true if we have recently been on antibiotics; or
eat a lot of food laced with chemicals like preservatives. Artificial
sweeteners have also been fingered.
The B vitamins are water-soluble and some are lost in the liquid used to cook our food.
Steaming, sauteing and using that veggie water in soups and stews is the way to go; do not just pour those nutrients down the drain.
There is very disturbing research into the B6 status of those in old age homes; scientists found that only 27% were at no risk from malnutrition and frailty.
We find it interesting that in five distinct areas of the world where Blue Zone longevity is the norm that old-age homes simply do not exist; yet ten times as many elderly folk reach their strong and vigorous nineties. They remain either living alone or with their children where they grow and consume most of their food from their own gardens.
Malnutrition is far more prevalent when eating institution food.
Learning how to cook chickpeas, also known as garbanzo-beans, is a huge step towards ensuring that you are getting enough vitamin B6 food. Then freeze them so they are readily available for stews, soups and hummus.
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A vitamin B6 anaemia obviously reduces the oxygen carrying-capacity of the blood. That would contribute to at least two of the cardinal signs of frailty syndrome; low energy levels and slowed walking speed.
The "tea and toast" breakfast of so many elderly people is obviously one major cause.
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