Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers that strikes Americans with the average person having a one in twenty chance of getting this disease at some point in their lifetime. Diet plays an important role in the risk of colon cancer – and the incidence of this cancer is low in countries that eat few processed foods. Now, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that getting more vitamin B6 could help to lower colon cancer risk.
Does More Vitamin B6 Reduce the Risk of Colon Cancer?
This study looking at levels of B6 and the risk of colon cancer is a meta-analysis meaning it sums up the information obtained from a variety of different studies – and usually gives a more accurate picture than a single study. This meta-analysis showed that people with the highest blood levels of B6 were only half as likely to get colon cancer compared to people with the lowest levels of vitamin B6 in their blood.
Some Americans Need More Vitamin B6
According to JAMA, many Americans aren’t getting enough vitamin B6 in their diet – with forty percent of older women and twenty percent of men having inadequate levels of this vitamin. Vitamin B6 is important for more than just cancer prevention. It’s a critical co-factor involved in protein and carbohydrate metabolism and plays a role in mood by affecting neurotransmitter levels in the brain – among other functions. A deficiency of vitamin B6 can cause skin problems, depression, personality changes, and nerve damage due to neuropathy. Although frank deficiencies of B6 aren’t common – except in people with eating disorders, the elderly, and alcoholics – many people don’t have optimal blood levels of this vitamin.
How to Get More Vitamin B6 to Reduce the Risk of Colon Cancer
Vitamin B6 is widely found in meat and seafood. Vegetarians can get more of this vitamin by adding green, leafy vegetables, bananas, and nuts to their diet – and many cereals are fortified with vitamin B6. Look for ones that are made with whole grains and are high in fiber and low in sugar. Although it’s important to get enough vitamin B6, too much can cause nerve damage which can be irreversible. This isn’t a risk when getting more vitamin B6 naturally through foods, but could be a problem with supplements. Don’t get more than 100 milligrams of vitamin B6 in a day and you shouldn’t have to worry about toxicity.
More Vitamin B6 to Reduce the Risk of Colon Cancer: The Bottom Line?
Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B6 rich foods – especially if you’re a vegetarian. Vegetarians, the elderly, and people who drink large amounts of alcohol are at the greatest risk of having inadequate levels of B6. Getting enough B6 is good for preventing mood disorders such as depression – and could low your risk of colon cancer too.
JAMA 2010 Mar 17; 303:1077.