Pancreatic cancer remains one of the deadliest cancers even with improved therapies. Because many people are diagnosed too late and the prognoses are generally poor it is essential to focus a lot more on prevention for instance by striving to maintain normal weight and avoiding smoking. According to a new meta-analysis published in Nutrition Journal, it appears that large quantities of vitamin B6 from diet or supplements have the potential to lower the risk of pancreatic cancer. Earlier studies have also shown that vitamin B6 lowers the risk of bowel cancer.
On a global scale, pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive and deadly cancer forms. Millions of people have died of this specific cancer. Although with improved treatments, the prognoses are quite poor. Only around four percent of those who get the disease live more than five years after their diagnosis. Another problem is that there are not enough screening methods available to make early diagnoses, so prevention is the only way to reduce the human and economic burden that follows in the wake of this disease.
Smoking and overweight are well-known risk factors. It is also assumed that diet plays a role, and there is a host of biological mechanisms that can account for the relation between lack of nutrients and the development of cancer of the pancreas and other organs.
Some of the diet-related risk factors that can affect the development of pancreatic cancer include lack of nutrients involved in the metabolism of glucose from dietary carbohydrates. The scientists behind the new meta-analysis mention vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12, and the amino acid methionine that can protect against cancer by regulating genes (DNA methylation), cell division, and repair of damaged DNA and other cellular components.
These vitamins and amino acids have different mechanisms of action in the energy turnover and in cell protection, so the scientists wanted to look closer at a number of studies that linked these particular nutrients to the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
The relation between vitamin B6, PLP, and pancreatic cancer
The scientists analyzed 18 suited studies published between 1991 and 2020 that looked at the relation between vitamin B6, vitamin B12, methionine, and the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Only high intake of vitamin B6 was directly linked to a lower risk of developing this cancer form, according to their findings. The participants’ dietary vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) intake was reported in eight studies, while levels of the active form of the nutrient, PLP (pyridoxal-5-phoshate), that is measured in the blood was reported in five studies. Levels of PLP in particular were directly linked to a lower risk of pancreatic cancer. The higher the PLP level in blood, the lower the risk of cancer.
Vitamin B6 is found in many types of food such as meat, fish, bananas, vegetables, whole grains, and eggs, which opens the door to ways of preventing this cancer form. Still, the researchers call for larger, randomized studies that can help pinpoint the optimal vitamin B6 doses that are required to effectively prevent pancreatic cancer. The new meta-analysis is published Nutrition Journal. Its results support earlier studies of vitamin B6 and bowel cancer.
Vitamin B6 must be converted into active PLP in the blood to prevent bowel cancer
Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers. Although diet plays a major role, studies have shown conflicting results when it comes to vitamin B6 and its ability to prevent the disease. Nonetheless, it has been seen that high blood levels of active PLP (pyridoxal-5-phosphate) are associated with a 30-50 lower risk of bowel cancer compared with low levels of the nutrient.
The scientists behind this study still do not understand why there are conflicting results between vitamin B6 intake from diet or supplements and PLP levels in the blood. This is probably due to the many factors that can inhibit the uptake and utilization of vitamin B6.
Things that can block the uptake and utilization of vitamin B6
It is known that vitamin B6 deficiency and poor utilization of the nutrient may be a result of unhealthy eating habits, heating and processing of food, poor gut microflora, ageing, overconsumption of alcohol and other stimulants, birth control pills and hormone pills, and certain drugs. In other words, many people lack this vital nutrient and especially have too little of the active form PLP in their blood.
Facts about vitamin B6
Dan-Hong Wei. Vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and methionine and risk of pancreatic cancer: a meta-analysis. Nutrition Journal 2020
Bird RP. The Emerging Role of Vitamin B6 Inflammation and Carcinogenesis. Adv Food Nutr Res 2018
Marcelina Parra et al. B6 and Its Role in Cell Metabolism and Physiology. Cells. Published online 2018
Zhang XH et al. Vitamin B6 and colorectal cancer; current evidence and future directions. World Gastroenterol 2015
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