Vitamin B6 has a potential role in preventing cytokine storms in COVID-19 patients, research suggests.
The beneficial effects of vitamin C and D and minerals such as magnesium and zinc on the immune system have attracted attention, but there are hardly any studies on vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6 is an essential nutrient and belongs to the B vitamins which are water-soluble, meaning they are not stored in the body so we consume them from everyday foods and dietary supplements.
Vitamin B6 is found in various foods such as beef, fish, bananas, whole grains, chickpeas, soya beans, sweet potatoes, nuts, and milk.
The new study reveals that vitamin B6 has a potential ability to reduce the risk of cytokine storms by improving immune function and supressing inflammation.
Vitamin B6 protects against long-term health conditions including diabetes and cardiovascular diseases (CVD) by decreasing inflammasome activity, carbonyl stress, and oxidative stress.
On the other hand, vitamin B6 deficiency would result in poor immune function, increased risk to viral infection, and higher death rate from CVD.
Dr Thanutchaporn Kumrungsee, the study’s first author, said:
“In addition to washing your hands, food and nutrition are among the first lines of defence against COVID-19 virus infection.
Food is our first medicine and the kitchen is our first pharmacy.
Recently, many scientists have published papers regarding the role of diet and nutrients in the protection against COVID-19.
However, very few scientists are paying attention to the important role of vitamin B6.”
The main harm caused by respiratory viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 is related to inflammation and lung injury.
Antioxidant supplementation such as N-acetylcysteine and carnosine has been shown to improve lung injury.
Oral intake of vitamin B6 seems to have similar beneficial effects on lung injury by using its antioxidative and anti-inflammatory power against the COVID-19 virus.
The authors wrote:
“Coronaviruses and influenza are among the viruses that can cause lethal lung injuries and death from acute respiratory distress syndrome worldwide.
Viral infections evoke a cytokine storm, leading to lung capillary endothelial cell inflammation, neutrophil infiltration, and increased oxidative stress.”
Dr Kumrungsee pointed out that a high incidence of cytokine storms and thrombosis are associated with a greater severity of COVID-19 infection.
Cytokine storms or hyper-inflammation happen when the immune system overreacts and attacks healthy cells.
Thrombosis or blood clots seen in COVID-19 patients cause serious damage to organs such as the liver, heart, kidneys, and lungs.
However, vitamin B6 intake is known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombosis effects.
Dr Kumrungsee said:
“Vitamin B6 has a close relationship with the immune system.
Its levels always drop in people under chronic inflammation such as obesity, diabetes and heart diseases.
We can see from the news that obese and diabetic people are at high risk for COVID-19.
Thus, our attempt in this paper is to shed light on the possible involvement of vitamin B6 in decreasing the severity of COVID-19.”
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition (Kumrungsee et al., 2020).