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Diet & Exercise: Essential nutrients: Vitamin B6 helps keep body’s muscles stronger, toned

Today’s essential nutrient is vitamin B6 (pyridoxine).

B6 is naturally present in many foods, added to foods and available in supplement form. This water-soluble vitamin comes in three main forms: pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine.

Vitamin B6 carries out many functions in our bodies. In fact, it’s necessary for over 100 enzymes needed in protein metabolism.

Enzymes help chemical reactions take place. Protein metabolism is just a fancy phrase for our bodies processing, breaking down and using proteins. Vitamin B6 helps build and keep muscles strong by helping us absorb sufficient amino acids.

In other words, without B6, much of the protein used to make muscle is wasted. With adequate amounts of this vitamin, muscle will be stronger, more fit and toned. That’s important for the elderly, as well as athletes.

Here are other pyridoxine benefits:

• B6 is necessary for a healthy nervous system. It helps create “amines”, which are molecules responsible for transmitting messages from one nerve to the other. These molecules are referred to as neurotransmitters.

• Vitamin B6 plays a role in breaking down and reducing homocysteine. Homocysteine is a compound linked to cognitive impairment. Elevated levels of this aggregate are linked to autism, Alzheimer’s, and dementia in the elderly. B6, along with vitamins B9 (folate or folic acid) and B12 reduce levels of homocysteine.

• Vitamin B6 helps regulate serotonin and norepinephrine. These brain hormones play a major role in stabilizing mood and clear thinking.

• Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should ask their obstetrician if they are getting adequate amounts of vitamin B6, because this nutrient is essential to the baby’s brain and nervous system development. It also helps the baby metabolize proteins and carbohydrates.

• Pyridoxine is also good for cardiovascular health, because it helps control the level of fats deposited in and around the heart. It also assists in the restriction of stone formation in the kidneys.

• B6 helps with rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy joints, causing pain, swelling and stiffness. Research shows that B6 taken along with folate (folic acid) reduces inflammation.

Average recommended daily amounts of Vitamin B6 are: birth to 6 months: 0.1 milligrams; infants 7-12 months: 0.3 milligrams; children 1-3 years: 0.5 milligrams; children 4-6 years: 0.6 milligrams, children 9-13 years: 1 milligram; teens 14-18 years (boys): 1.3 milligrams; teens 14-18 years (girls): 1.2 milligrams; adults 19-50 years: 1.3 milligrams; adults 51-plus years (men): 1.7 milligrams; adults 51-plus years (women): 1.5 milligrams; pregnant teens and women: 1.9 milligrams; breastfeeding teens and women: 2 milligrams.

Unlike many other B vitamins, it is possible that too much B6, taken for a year or more, can cause severe nerve damage. Upper levels of vitamin B6 for young children are 30 milligrams; teens, 80 milligrams; and adults, 100 milligrams.

Vitamin B6 can interact or interfere with certain antibiotic and anti-seizure medication.

I recommend getting vitamin B6 either from food or a balanced B complex supplement. Food sources of pyridoxine include avocado (raw), baked potato (flesh and skin), fish, bananas, fortified cereals, meat, lima beans, garbanzo beans, poultry, spinach, peanut butter, wheat bran, tomato juice, sunflower seeds, walnuts and soybeans.

David Crocker, of Landrum, has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 30 years.