Vitamin B6 may prevent lethal cytokine storms, blood clots in COVID-19 patients

HIROSHIMA, Japan — Can proper nutrition keep the deadliest symptoms of COVID-19 at bay? While scientists are mainly focusing on the benefits of vitamins C and D when it comes to coronavirus, a new study finds another vitamin may prevent lethal levels of inflammation from occurring. Researchers at Hiroshima University say consuming more vitamin B6 could keep COVID patients from developing blood clots and the dangerous “cytokine storm.”

Vitamin B6 plays a vital role in processing amino acids in the body. It also helps with the creation of red blood cells and neurotransmitters and regulates metabolism. Since the human body can’t produce B6 on its own, eaters can find it in fish, lean meats, bananas, and nuts like pistachios.

So far, studies have looked at the effect vitamins C or D and minerals like magnesium and zinc have on the immune system during the pandemic. Food scientist Thanutchaporn Kumrungsee contends that B6 shows just as much promise at lowering the risk of a serious COVID infection.

“In addition to washing your hands, food and nutrition are among the first lines of defense against COVID-19 virus infection. Food is our first medicine and the kitchen is our first pharmacy,” says Kumrungsee, an associate professor at Hiroshima’s Graduate School of Integrated Sciences for Life, in a university release.

“Recently, many scientists have published papers regarding the role of diets and nutrients in the protection against COVID-19. However, very few scientists are paying attention to the important role of vitamin B6.”

Vitamin B6 may be key to stopping lung damage

Along with promoting healthy blood cell creation, study authors say there’s evidence vitamin B6 can also protect the body from chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Their report finds B6 can suppress inflammation, inflammatory proteins from the immune system, oxidative stress, and carbonyl stress.

“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,” researchers explain.

Kumrungsee adds there are two serious symptoms which can lead to death in COVID-19 patients, thrombosis and the cytokine storm. This storm, or hyper inflammation, takes place when the patient’s own immune system goes into overdrive and attacks healthy cells. Thrombosis, or blood clotting, can block off capillaries and damages organs like the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.

Scientists say vitamin B6 is a natural anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting nutrient. Having a B6 deficiency has a connection to weaker immune function and higher chances of developing infections.

“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,” Kumrungsee says. “Thus, our attempt in this paper is to shed light on the possible involvement of vitamin B6 in decreasing the severity of COVID-19.”

Looking at B6 during COVID and beyond

The associate professor and her team now preparing for clinical trials to see how well coronavirus patients respond to B6 treatments. For now, the team adds scientists should keep studying B6 even after the pandemic ends. The vitamin may also help treat other life-threatening conditions which attack the lungs.

“It is of great interest to examine if vitamin B6 exerts protection against novel types of virus infection and pneumonia which will be encountered in the future. At present, there is few information regarding the protective role of nutrients against pneumonia and lung diseases,” Kumrungsee concludes.

“After COVID-19, we should develop the area of nutrition for lung diseases such as pneumonia and lung cancer.”

The study appears in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

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