Low levels of vitamin B6 in the body may be linked with a variety of inflammatory conditions, a new study suggests.
The study found that those with the lowest levels of B6 in their blood had the highest levels of inflammation. The reverse was also true. Those with the highest blood levels of vitamin B6 had the lowest levels of chronic inflammation and the lowest risk of inflammatory diseases.
Temporary inflammation, such as redness and swelling after an injury, is a powerful defence mechanism, triggering healing in the body. However, chronic inflammation is a destructive process, and has been identified as an emerging risk factor for a wide range of health problems, including heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes.
The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, measured levels of vitamin B6 in 2,229 adults. The researchers also measured several different markers of inflammation, including homocysteine, cytokines and the inflammatory C-reactive protein (CRP).
While previous studies have also linked low blood levels of vitamin B6 with various signs of inflammation (2, 3), such as C-reactive protein (CRP), researchers say this is the first large-scale study to look at the relationship between this vitamin and a variety of inflammation indicators.
The results found that with the highest blood levels of vitamin B6 had 42% lower levels of inflammatory CRP compared to those with the lowest blood levels. This group also had 14% lower levels of homocysteine and 20% lower levels of cytokines.
The researchers also looked at the incidence of inflammatory conditions within the group. Again, those with the highest levels of B6 demonstrated a 21% lower rate of cardiovascular disease, and a 40% lower rate of diabetes.
The researchers are confident that “overall inflammation is inversely associated with [vitamin B6 blood levels]”. Until more research elucidates this link, it certainly seems sensible to ensure that your diet is providing you with an adequate intake of this vitamin.
If your diet is heavy in sugar, refined flour, alcohol and coffee, you are likely to have reduced levels of vitamin B6 in your body. A wholefoods diet including good sources of vitamin B6 such as chicken, turkey and beef will help to boost your levels. Vegetarians can get plenty of this vitamin in pulses such as lentils and kidney beans, and in other plant foods such as spinach, bell peppers and sesame seeds.
As B Vitamins tend to work together, it is usually advisable to supplement B6 as part of a balanced B-Complex formula.
Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC
1. Sakakeeny L, Roubenoff R, Obin M, Fontes JD, Benjamin EJ, Bujanover Y, Jacques PF, Selhub J. (2012) Plasma pyridoxal-5-phosphate is inversely associated with systemic markers of inflammation in a population of U.A. Adults. J Nutr. 142(7):1280-5.
2. Shen J, Lai CQ, Mattei J, Ordovas JM, Tucker KL. (2010), Association of vitamin B-6 status with inflammation, oxidative stress, and chronic inflammatory conditions: the Boston Puerto Rican Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr 91(2):337-42.
3. Woolf K, Manore MM. (2008) Elevated plasma homocysteine and low vitamin B-6 status in nonsupplementing older women with rheumatoid arthritis. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Mar;108(3):443-53
4. Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat