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Vitamin B6 helps over 60s stay mentally fit

Copious intake of vitamin B6 can considerably reduce the chance of cognitive decline in the over 60s, write nutritionists at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland in Nutrients.

The researchers studied 155 elderly people aged 60-88. They used the Mini-Mental State Examination to assess their mental capacity and a questionnaire to determine their diet. They also analysed the participants' blood.

After four years the researchers got in touch with the participants and carried out the Mini-Mental State Examination again.

Vitamin B6
The researchers found two statistically significant relationships between B vitamins and mental decline as a result of aging, and both had to do with vitamin B6. The less vitamin B6 [also called pyridoxine] the participants consumed, the greater the chance that the participants' cognitive capacity had worsened.

The same was true for the concentration of the vitamin B6 metabolite pyridoxal-5-phosphate [PLP] in the participants' blood: the lower this was, the greater the likelihood of mental decline.

Vitamin B6 helps over 60s stay mentally fit

Vitamin B6 helps over 60s stay mentally fit

Vitamin B6 helps over 60s stay mentally fit

The researchers also found a direct relationship between the intake of vitamin B6 via food and the concentration of PLP in the participants' blood. More vitamin B6 in the diet was accompanied by a higher level of PLP.

At an intake of 0.9-1.4 mg vitamin B6, the chance of cognitive decline was higher by a factor 3.48 than at a higher intake. This raises the question of whether the current vitamin B6 guideline is not on the low side. Nutritionists in Europe advise a daily intake of 1.5 mg vitamin B6 per day.

"In conclusion, vitamin B6 may be an important (often overlooked) protective factor in helping maintain cognitive health in ageing, especially in a folate and vitamin B12 replete population," the researchers concluded. "Lower vitamin B6 status as assessed by both dietary intake and biomarker status at baseline predicted a greater than expected rate of cognitive decline over a 4-year period in healthy free living older adults."

"These findings are important because optimising vitamin B6 status in older people, through the use of fortified foods or supplements, may have a positive impact on cognition in ageing."

"Further research in this area in the form of well-designed randomised controlled trials targeted at populations with sub-optimal status are required in order to confirm a cause and effect relationship between B-vitamin status and cognitive health in ageing."

Nutrients. 2017 Jan 10;9(1).

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