It is the vitamin that protects the heart and the brain, which counteracts aging and supports the immune system, we are talking about vitamin B6. Precisely because it is a vitamin that plays a fundamental role in various biological processes, it is clear how important it is to understand how to avoid its reduction, often determined by diet and lifestyle. The study we are talking about today clarifies this aspect and makes known the factors that can cause a reduction of this vitamin in the body. The research was published in the British Journal of Nutrition by a group of UK scientists from the University of Nottingham (Alsaeedi et al, BJN, 2023).
Vitamin B6, what it is and food sources
Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that must be introduced regularly with the diet. Food sources of vitamin B6 are meat, especially poultry, dairy products, fish, such as tuna or salmon, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, potatoes, legumes, nuts, avocados, bananas, papaya and melon. Vitamin B6, once in the blood, is converted by the liver into the active form called pyridoxal 5'-phosphate, or PLP. PLP is the index measured to evaluate the presence of vitamin B6 in the body. But why all this interest in vitamin B6 and its active form PLP? Because PLP participates in countless biological processes. In fact, PLP supports the immune system, plays a role in neurotransmission and cognitive function, participates in the formation of lipids and amino acids and influences processes aimed at counteracting free radicals. It is not for nothing that vitamin B6 is often included in supplements to counteract aging. A reduction in PLP is associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, episodes of thrombosis, diabetes, cellular degeneration but also of presenting a more severe course in case of infections, such as that caused by COVID 19. Therefore, it is essential to understand what can cause a decrease in PLP values.
Vitamin B6, diet and lifestyle
Scientists were based on data on the health, diet and lifestyle of 6802 volunteers, all adults over 19 and participants in the large National Diet and Nutrition Survey, which started in 2008. What emerged from the analysis is that, first of all, attention must be paid to the type of diet. Indeed, a reduction of vitamin B6 introduced with the diet is reflected in a reduction of PLP. Lower values of vitamin B6 were observed in the case of a vegetarian diet compared to an omnivorous diet. Then, lifestyle can influence the transformation of vitamin B6 into PLP and consequently the levels of PLP in the blood, but let's see in more detail. In smokers, a reduction in PLP values is observed compared to non-smokers, with the same amount of vitamin B6 introduced with the diet. And the more cigarettes you smoke, the more PLP values drop. The study estimates that, among all volunteers, 21% of smokers had a PLP deficiency compared to 6% of non-smokers. Taking certain medicines can also impact PLP levels. Specifically, the drugs that have been shown to reduce PLP levels are analgesics, antibacterials, antidiabetics, antidepressants, calcium channel blockers, which are a class of antihypertensive drugs, oral contraceptives, asthma drugs and cholesterol lowering agents. Clearly the study does not want to say that these drugs should no longer be taken, especially if prescribed by the doctor, but wants to bring awareness in those cases, such as in the elderly, in which more drugs are taken. In these cases it is important to talk to your doctor and evaluate the diet and intake of supplements.
The study helps to understand how some diet and lifestyle choices can influence the values of the very important vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is considered the anti-aging vitamin, capable of protecting the brain, heart and immune system as well as the intestine and its reduction is therefore to be avoided. Hence the importance of a healthy and varied diet that includes legumes, eggs, green leafy vegetables, nutritional yeast, fish, nuts and other fruit, such as bananas and papaya, but also fish, poultry and dairy products. Then it is clearly important not to smoke, not only for the purpose of preserving vitamin B6 values but also for health in general, and to pay attention to the accumulation of drugs. In the latter case, the situation should be evaluated with your doctor.