Even though both men and women need vitamin B6 to be healthy, men appear to need slightly more of it in their later years. The vitamin, which occurs in three chemical forms called pyridoxal, pyridoxamine and pyridoxine, can be found in a wide variety of foods, including beans, meat, fish, fortified cereals, some fruits and vegetables and poultry.
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General Importance of Vitamin B6
Your body uses vitamin B6 in more than 100 crucial enzymatic reactions. Without vitamin B6, these reactions would take place more slowly or not at all. They are primarily process proteins -- breaking down old ones and building new ones. One important example is the formation of hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen in the blood. Without adequate vitamin B6, you may experience symptoms of anemia because there may not be enough hemoglobin to deliver adequate oxygen to your cells and tissues. The vitamin also strengthens your immune system, helps convert amino acids into an important vitamin called niacin and assists in the regulation of blood sugar.
Recommended Daily Allowance for Men
Vitamin B6 is water-soluble, which means that it cannot be stored in your fat cells and thus any extra will be excreted through urination. Because you cannot store vitamin B6, it needs to be a part of your daily diet. According to the National Institutes for Health, men and women should consume basically the same amount of vitamin B6 each day. However, older men need slightly more than older women do. Men ages 19 to 50 should make sure to get at least 1.3 milligrams of B6 per day, and men over 50 should get at least 1.7 milligrams per day. B6 consumption should not exceed 100 milligrams per day; if it does, you risk developing a nerve disorder caused by too much of the vitamin.
Average B6 Intake for Men
According to the Linus Pauling Institute, younger American men consume an average of 2 milligrams per day of vitamin B6, which meets the recommended daily intake. However, surveys have found that elderly men consume an average of only 1.2 milligrams per day of the vitamin, an amount that does not meet their recommended daily intake. Studies of immune system and cognitive disorders have shown that this lack of vitamin B6 may be affecting their health.
Immune System Function in Elderly Men
Low vitamin B status is associated with poor immune system functioning in elderly individuals. In particular, elderly people who are deficient in the vitamin do not produce enough interleukin-2, a molecule important in immunity, or an adequate number of lymphocytes, a special type of immune cell. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, research has shown that increasing the vitamin B6 intake of such individuals restores their immune function to normal levels. The men in these studies had to consume significantly more vitamin B6 than the women: 2.9 milligrams per day compared to 1.9 milligrams per day.
Memory in Elderly Men
High blood levels of an amino acid called homocysteine is thought to contribute to dementia in the elderly. High homocysteine levels have been found to correspond to low levels of certain B vitamins, including B6. This has led researchers to suspect that supplementation with B vitamins might slow the onset of dementia. In one study of 38 elderly men, B6 vitamin supplementation was shown to improve the memories of the participants, but it did not affect other cognitive functions such as mood and mental performance.