DEAR DR. GOTT: I am an 82-year-old lady who wants to praise the vitamin B-6 that I take daily. A year ago, the fingers of my right hand were numb, and I had a terrible time picking up small objects. My son said a friend had a wrist problem, and, after taking B-6, it went away. I tried it, and my fingers are just fine. I've been clear for over a year now.
DEAR READER: Vitamin B-6 is an extremely important water-soluble vitamin required for more than 100 enzymes associated with protein metabolism. Our nervous and immune systems require the vitamin to function properly. It helps make hemoglobin, and it is needed for the conversion of an amino acid known as tryptophan to niacin. It helps maintain blood sugars and convert stored carbohydrates and other nutrients to sugar when inadequate calories are consumed.
B6 is found in many foods, including fortified breakfast cereals, salmon, tuna, pork, chicken, peanut butter, beans, bananas and many vegetables. In fact, a three-quarters cup of fortified breakfast cereal alone contains 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance. A proper B-6 balance in the system is most often found through diet alone.
Deficiency is rarely seen but can occur in people who have extremely poor diets. Signs include depression, confusion, glossitis (painful tongue) and dermatitis. Since some of the symptoms mentioned can also result from medical conditions unrelated to a B-6 deficiency, any issues should be discussed with a physician to determine the cause and the most appropriate medical care.
Alcoholics and older adults are more likely to have inadequate B6 intake because of their limited diets. Alcohol can also lead to the destruction of B-6 within the body.
Some controversy surrounds B-6 therapy. For example, the vitamin has been used for a number of years for carpal tunnel syndrome, even though there are no scientific studies available to indicate its effectiveness. The upper tolerable limit recommended for adults is 100 milligrams per day.
It has been used for symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), despite lack of evidence to support significant benefits with its use. In fact, one study found that neuropathy (nerve damage) was present in almost 40 percent of those tested who took B-6 for PMS. Oddly enough, this could be the result of too much B-6 present in the system.
It appears the supplements are helping. Don't rock the boat by making any changes, but have your levels tested periodically. Your physician can monitor your numbers and make appropriate recommendations if necessary.
To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Fads: Vitamins and Minerals."