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Vitamin B6 May Cut Colorectal Cancer Risk in Half

Higher blood levels of vitamin B6 may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by over 50%, suggests a nearly two decade long study published in the May 2009 issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention.

Vitamin B6 plays an important role in many essential functions in the human body including nervous system function, red blood cell formation, and hormone function.  Since our bodies do not naturally synthesize the vitamin, we must get our B vitamins from dietary sources.

For the study, Harvard researchers took blood specimens from 15,000 men between 1982 and 1984 to evaluate their vitamin B levels.

The participants were then followed for nearly 20 years and 197 cases of colorectal cancer were documented.

The 197 men with colorectal cancer were then compared to 371 controls, matched by age and smoking status.

The researchers found that the men in the lowest quartile for vitamin B6 blood levels had a 51% higher risk of colorectal cancer compared to those in the highest quartile.

This study adds to growing research into the link between B vitamins and the risk of certain cancers.  Another study, published in the November 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that daily supplementation of B vitamins may reduce the risk of invasive cancer by 25% and breast cancer by 35% for women over the age of 65.

In addition to cancer protection, B vitamins are essential to overall health.  B vitamins promote cell growth, support metabolism and lower the risk of Alzheimer's. Deficiencies in B vitamins have been linked to brain shrinkage, high homocysteine levels and birth defects.

You can get more of these essential vitamins through supplementation or by eating more vitamin B rich foods.  Some foods rich in B vitamins include broccoli, asparagus, potatoes, tuna and salmon.  Many milk and flour products are also fortified with B vitamins.

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