By Dr. Brian K. Bailey


Copyright 1997

Published edited version in Whole Life Times, July

In the summer of 1979 in the U.C. Davis library I felt inspired to pickup a magazine to read. The magazine was Atlantic Monthly, May, 1979. This was the first time I saw the Atlantic Monthly. I read the most amazing article. It described how a simple vitamin deficiency caused arteriosclerosis. The vitamin was vitamin B6, is a necessary cofactor in the conversion of homocysteine (HC) to cystathionine. Folic acid, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and cobalamin (B12) likewise participate in the re-methylation of most HC back into methionine, which is not dangerous when B6 is adequate. Homocysteine results from normal metabolism of methionine, abundant in red meat and milk products. Research has shown even slightly elevated HC is an independent risk factor for heart disease and stroke. If elevated, it puts one at risk without respect to age, diabetes, smoking or any other conventional risk factor.

Although HC's concentration is only about one thousandth that of cholesterol, it promotes the tiny clots that initiate arterial damage, as well as catastrophic clotting that precipitates most heart attacks and strokes, arterial spasms, aneurysms, obesity, cancer and much more. HC does its deadly work by oxidizing cholesterol.

Cholesterol is not the villain it has been portrayed to be except for less than 1% of the population that has a family tendency to ultra-high cholesterol levels. Cholesterol doesn't damage arteries until it is oxidized. Cholesterol molecules combine with oxygen molecules forming oxysterols, or oxyradicals. These are carried by the low density lipoproteins (LDLs), which are then only accomplices in arterial damage through oxidative modification of arterial walls. Damage is proportional to oxysterols' concentration and at autopsy atherosclerosis correlates with the accumulation of lipid peroxides and hydroperoxides in serum and atheromas.

Other producers of oxysterols are polyunsaturated oils, partially hydrogenated oils, free radicals and oxidized food. Pre-formed oxysterols are in processed foods (foods that have been exposed to high heat and oxygen). Some examples are powdered milk or egg, partially hydrogenated oils (found in the majority of packaged supermarket foods). These deadly fats are found in high amounts in "fast foods". The French fries at McDonalds, Burger King and most chain restaurants are worse for your arteries than the hamburgers. Oxysterols like cholesterol serve important functions in the body, it is not until they reach high levels that they become damaging. After eating processed foods they may reach levels 1,000 times normal.

The good news is vitamin B6 seems to be the "magic bullet." In studies that include the only change as adding vitamin B6, participants have had less cardiovascular disease. Vitamin B6's action are not all known, it acts as an antioxidant, a antihistamine and is a co-factor in the metabolism and biochemistry of most food components including most amino acids, fatty acids and sugars.

Joseph G. Hattersley wrote an article about vitamin B6, Vitamin B6: The Overlooked Key To Preventing Heart Attacks, he cited over 80 research articles. In the article he says, "Expanded food fortification should include folate, vitamin B12 (cobalamin) and at least magnesium and zinc. Vitamin C intakes should be raised to tenfold the RDA and an equivalent amount of bioflavonoids (which may double the efficacy of ascorbic acid) should be added. These nutrients, ingested from inception, might end the 20th century's epidemic of heart attacks, strokes and cardiac arrests in about two generations. Because all degenerative diseases "have on the membrane level and on the genetic level, very much a common denominator", this program should also lower the incidence of such diseases as diabetes and cancer."

Depending on your diet, health and biochemical individuality 5- 50 mg of vitamin B6 two to three times a day should be all that is necessary to maintain optimal health. Vitamin B6 also needs folate, magnesium and vitamins B-2 and B12 to function optimally (without these accessory nutrients neurological side effects may occur at doses over 200 mg daily). I recommend 400 to 800 mcgs of folate, a vitamin B complex with a minimum of 5 mg of all the B vitamins (thiamin B1, riboflavin B2, niacin B3 and pantothenic acid B5) 2 to 3 times a day and vitamin B12 is best taken sublingually 500 mcgs once a week or daily if needed. Other B vitamins include choline and biotin.

As powerful as B6 is let's not forget a mostly vegetarian diet, exercise and other important supplements.

Alan Gaby, M.D. in his book, B6: The Natural Healer, (Keats Publishing). Dr. Gaby believes we have increased needs for B6 based on increased health problems related to B6. Some health problems, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, were rarely reported 60 years ago. Other examples include kidney stones (doubled in the past 30 years), hyperactivity (also known as attention deficit disorder, affects 5-20% of all children, not a major problem 20 years ago) and PMS (affects up to 90% of all American women). B6 is also involved (either as a reducer of risk factors or as therapy) in heart disease, elevated cholesterol, platelet adhesiveness (stroke risk factor), bladder cancer, glucose tolerance problems (blood sugar), lupus (SLE), B6-responsive arthritis, alcoholism, dental cavities, MSG sensitivity and asthma.

What has happened in the past half century that might explain why we are seeing a rash of health problems that respond to vitamin B6 therapy? First, we are processing the food more and throwing away the parts that are rich in B6. While processed food and increased amounts of sugar in the diet, account for part of the problem, they are not enough to explain why people seem to need so much more B6 today. The second part of the problem may be the key. There are chemicals in our food that use up our bodies stores of B6. When a chemical interferes with a nutrient the body needs, it's called an antimetabolite. Antimetabolites of B6 can cause problems in several ways: They might interfere with the absorption of B6, cause it to be used up more quickly, or damage it so it won't work correctly. In other words, the antimetabolites work against the normal action of B6. When this happens, our bodies need more B6. What are some of these antimetabolites of B6? The known list is small. As time goes on, we will probably find more and more things that not only interfere with vitamin B6, but also increase our need for other vitamins and minerals. Two known antimetabolites are hydrazine or hydrazide. These compounds look a little like B6. Sometimes, Dr. Gaby points out, when one chemical looks like another chemical, the body can't easily distinguish between them. When the body can't tell the difference, it might try to substitute the false compound for the nutrient. When this happens, the antimetabolite can interfere with the body's use of the real vitamin. Hydrazines and hydrazides are common in the environment. They appear in herbicides (sprayed on tobacco, potatoes and onions), field sprays (to help ripen peaches, nectarines, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, cherries, grapes and apples), rocket and jet exhaust (traces can hang around for days or weeks after the jet flies by), cigarette smoke, some prescription medications (for tuberculosis, depression, heart problems and high blood pressure) and food coloring (yellow number 5).

Scientists know that other things besides hydrazines and hydrazides, can increase our need for B6. For example, birth control pills, PCB's (polychlorinated biphenyls used in transformers and capacitors which are contaminating our water and food), heated vegetable oil and other by-products of food processing. The list goes on, everywhere we turn we seem to run into something that interferes with our body's normal healthy use of B6. As a physician, this suggests that even if you don't have a specific problem you can relate to B6 deficiency, you would be smart to take a supplement that contains B6. In fact, the evidence is building that so many chemicals are now in our environment that have never been part of human ecology before, and that many of them interfere with or create a higher requirement for vitamins and minerals. It may be that nutritional supplements are less a luxury and more a necessity for good health now than ever before.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a common complaint for women. The usual prescribed medicines don't get to the underlying problem and often don't even help the symptoms. Women who turn to alternative treatment get mixed results. In studies in England, it was found that a vast majority of women with PMS who took up to 400-600 mg of B6 daily had all their symptoms relieved. Follow-up studies showed none of the women had any side effects.

Carpal tunnel syndrome, CTS (where some fingers in the hand get numb and tingly because of pressure on the median nerve) is practically always relieved by B6. The dosage level for CTS is between 300 to 600 mg. According to Drs. Wright and Gaby, this dose needs to be maintained for 10-12 weeks in order for tissue to become sufficiently saturated.

Michael Lesser, M. D., in his book Nutrition and Vitamin Therapy, reports that 10 mg. of vitamin B6 and 300 mg. of magnesium oxide prevented recurrence of kidney and urinary tract stones in 80% of patients with a long history of the disease. Dr. Lesser also reports that this combination was helpful in treating hyperactive children.

Vitamin B6 more than any other B vitamin supports the immune system fight infections and cancer.


Dr. Bailey appears regularly on TV and the national radio talk show Here's To Your Health, he as written numerous magazine articles and he travels around the world speaking about optimal wellness of the body, mind and spirit. He also develops personalized wellness programs for individuals, families and corporations.

His latest book is the SECRETS TO HAPPINESS, INNER PEACE AND HEALTH: COMPLETE GUIDE TO OPTIMAL WELLNESS OF BODY, MIND AND SPIRIT (available at book stores and the L.A. County Library or get your autographed copy direct from Dr. Bailey); his 1999 corporate lecture series is TWELVE ESSENTIAL KEYS TO SUCCESS.

Dr. Bailey also does consultation worldwide over the phone, mail or by e-mail.

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