Vitamin B6: A Jack of All Trades

If they gave out awards for the nutrient with the largest number of reported benefits, vitamin B6 would win hands down. This vitamin has been suggested or used as treatment for conditions ranging from A (autism) to Z (zinc deficiency), with carpal tunnel syndrome, herpes, kidney stones, worms and more in between.

“This vitamin has been linked with an amazing list of conditions, diseases and disorders, some of them really bizarre, but very few of these claims have scientific support”, says James E.Leklem, Ph.D., professor of human nutrition.

You need vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine, for many important functions, including making red blood cells, helping your body use protein, fats and carbohydrates and keeping your nervous system working right. And B6 helps you fight off disease. Possible signs of deficiency include: anemia, weakness, nervousness, irritability, insomnia.

How much B6 is enough? The Recommended Dietary Allowance is 1.6 milligrams for women and 2 milligrams for men. While B6 appears in many foods, including meats, nuts, poultry, fish, whole grains and a few vegetables and fruits like potatoes, avocados, and bananas, many older people apparently aren’t getting enough of this nutrient.

Some researches suggest that B6 may be a ticket to better health for those with diabetes. About 20 to 30 percent of people with diabetes have low blood levels of vitamin B6. For these people, a large daily dose of B6 may help protect the heart and blood vessels from premature wear and tear by minimizing the harmful effects of high levels of blood sugar on blood vessels. Experts agree, however, that people with diabetes should not take single supplements of B6 without consulting with their doctor.

While most of us can get adequate B6 from our diets without any trouble, older people and those with diabetes should make an effort to eat foods rich in B6, such as lean meat, poultry or bananas. Taking a balanced vitamin and mineral supplement containing vitamin B6 offers added insurance. But pour B6 supplements should be taken only under the supervision of a doctor.

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