Coronary heart disease is the nation’s #1 killer. While just about everyone has great expectations for an exciting, prosperous 2010, 1.5 million people will have a heart attack this year and of those, an estimated 500,000 will die and become another “death by heart attack” statistic.
Post holiday heart attacks are one of the biggest killers in North America. A U.S. study of 53 million deaths between 1973 and 2001 showed deaths from heart disease peaking in December and January. There are a number of factors for this such as overeating during the holidays, stress, depression, and lack of exercise.
While heart health should be a primary focus of your regimen all year long, during the winter months and with the onset of a New Year with new resolutions, it is especially important to pay more attention to it.
Heart disease is the most studied and researched of all diseases simply because it is the #1 killer. Much has been discovered and written as far as what causes heart attacks and the ways to avoid one. Certainly the consumption of trans fats and toxic fats plays a destructive role when it comes to heart disease. Getting off of the bad fats and putting the healthful fats in your body like Omega-3’s, 6’s & 9’s can have a profound impact on your arteries and heart.
Another prominent marker that scientists and researchers have linked to heart disease is elevated blood levels of homocysteine. Research has proven that those with high blood levels of homocysteine experience a greater number of heart attacks. Much could be written about how and why homocysteine levels are raised in the blood and what could be done to lower it or prevent it from elevating in the first place. Modern medicine is just now catching up to what some early health pioneers knew a long time ago. A trio of B-Vitamins (B6, Folate, & B12) has demonstrated the ability to lower blood levels of homocysteine and positively effect heart health and longevity.
In this interview, Christopher Barr shares his insights about this trio of B-vitamins and the knowledge he has regarding these early pioneers who were far ahead of their time when it comes to knowing how to lower and prevent heart attacks. In addition to the positive impact these B-vitamins have on heart health, Barr also explains why they play a significant role in many other bodily processes as well.
Crusador: Thanks again for another interview, Chris. I know you’re a very busy man so I consider it a blessing that you continue to write for our paper about all of the life saving knowledge you have. In this interview, I’d like you to share your pearls of health wisdom on vitamin B6, folate and vitamin B12. To begin, why do you feel that of all the B-vitamins, B6 is the most important one that deserves our attention?
First, let me also thank you Greg for the opportunity to present nutritional health information without regard to all the political and egotistical infightings from both medicine and nutrition that have significantly held back real progress for many decades about the roles of nutrients.
As for the pyridoxal group collectively referred to as B6 it is “more than a feeling” to quote the old Boston song as to its “most important status” among “all the B vitamins”. In fact, this is the single most important of all those nutrients classified as ‘vitamins’. It is the only one of the so called ‘vitamins’ for which I make significant recommendations and I refer to ‘pyridoxals’ rather than ‘Vitamin B6’ in the interest of greater accuracy.
Pyridoxals are necessary for more than 100 enzyme systems involved in protein metabolism alone as well as hormone activities, nervous and immune system functions, red blood cell metabolism and production of hemoglobin. There are none of the so called vitamins more involved in so many vital functions of the body. Couple its need in so many functions with the callous removal of it from the food supply by modern day food processing and it is easy to see why it is the single most important of all of those nutrients identified as vitamins – easy to see for those bothering to look which is sadly too, too very few.
Crusador: Let’s get into what I feel is the most important aspect of vitamin B6 – its role in helping to prevent heart disease. From the research I’ve seen there’s a positive correlation between vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12 supplementation and lower incidences of heart disease. This trio also helps patients who have had heart attacks to live much longer than those not supplementing with this vitamin. Why is this so important for heart health?
In recent years the build up of an amino acid metabolite called homocysteine has been recognized as an important risk factor for heart disease – finally. I first learned of this almost 30 years ago in the book, ‘Vitamin B6: The Doctor’s Report’ by Dr. John M. Ellis, M.D. published in 1973 by the mainstream giant Harper & Row publishing house.
Dr. Ellis wrote at length about the work from the 1960s of Dr. Kilmer McCully, M.D. at Harvard University regarding the substance of homocysteine. Dr. McCully noted that homocysteine contributed to heart disease and that it was created because of a deficiency of pyridoxal.
McCully continued his researches and promotion of this very basic truth through the 1970s until his job at Harvard was threatened if he didn’t stop pressing the matter.
It was about another 10 years before the matter of homocysteine as a risk factor for heart disease began to receive notice again and only in recent years before receiving significant notice.
Folate and B-12 are involved in helping with the homocysteine problem though theirs are significantly lesser roles.
Crusador: Tell us about the work of John Ellis, M.D. and Kilmer McCully, M.D.; what did they discover and why should their research be held in high esteem?
Dr. McCully at Harvard had discovered the biochemistry of how pyridoxal deficiency contributes to heart disease in the late 1960s as he followed up on the work of others from 1951 who had determined that pyridoxal deficiency can indeed result in heart disease.
Dr. Ellis came upon the work of McCully as he expanded his own researches on pyridoxal that he had begun in 1961. His work was far more exhaustive with regard to pyridoxal and Ellis subsequently wrote the book on the subject – quite literally.
Ellis and McCully actually did join together in some professionally published research regarding pyridoxine, homocysteine and heart disease in the 1990s.
For those who may question the relevance of a book on nutrition more than 30 years old, well, there has been no noteworthy contributions to that of Ellis on the subject excepting his own follow-ups including ‘Vitamin B6 Therapy’ more than 25 years after his classic work on the subject. This 1999 publication primarily substantiated his postulations from the 1973 work and should really be considered as an addendum to the earlier work.
One need only glance over some of the table of contents of the more recent work to get a hint at the much greater picture of importance demonstrated within the work.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Gynecologic and Obstetric Disorders
Coronary Heart Disease
Arthritis and Rheumatism
A sad and tragic footnote to all of this is that Dr. Ellis was killed just one year ago in a car accident at the age of 89. Equally sad and tragic is that his passing went unnoticed by the nutrition industry although in a sense that is apropos since his magnificent work was so often overlooked and unnoticed. The local Mt. Pleasant Daily Tribune newspaper gave him accolades. Though the nutrition industry was silent, even the Texas State Legislature honored his memory with an official resolution commemorating much about him including that “Dr. Ellis gained national attention for his extensive research on the benefits of vitamin B6”.
Crusador: When it comes to heart health, what are the most important nutrients someone should be taking and why?
Well, Greg, among the most important nutrients to take when it comes to heart health is the mineral chromium in only a 100% whole food, grown variety (as that is the only form the body will readily utilize) for a couple reasons. First, chromium manages cholesterol and in the absence of chromium cholesterol is unmanaged and out of control. Second, chromium is vital for getting glucose into the cell and the heart is a muscle and as such has a higher need for sugar than other tissues. Dr. Henry Alfred Schroeder of Columbia, Yale and Dartmouth universities who also received the highest award of the American Heart Association noted that chromium deficiency was THE cause of heart disease.
The mineral selenium is very important for another couple reasons. First there is the unsurpassed antioxidant power of selenium that protects against damage to the arteries. It is damaged arteries that are primarily subject to cholesterol build-up. Second, selenium is required for the body to produce CoEnzymeQ10 which is very important to heart health. Of course, if you are deluded into taking statin drugs then you don’t get this benefit because statin drugs interfere with selenium’s ability to produce CoQ10.
The mineral silicon (or silica) is another very important nutrient for heart health because of its importance for structural integrity of the arteries. It contributes both strength and elasticity to the arteries. Low silicon levels and unhealthy arteries are two sides of the same coin. Plenty of silicon keeps the arteries strong and less susceptible to damage from free radicals and homocysteine. Silicon is also a semi-conductor and electrical impulse is another facet to a healthy heart.
Magnesium is another mineral that is also a very important nutrient for heart health due to its role in maintaining a healthy heart rhythm.
Finally, pyridoxal is of great importance because it is a lack of this vital nutrient that results in escalating production of homocysteine. This nutrient is vital for complete and healthful breakdown of the essential amino acids methionine and tryptophan. In the absence of enough pyridoxal the methionine does not complete its breakdown and gets hung up at homocysteine.
It is incredible that as the polluted mainstream of modern medicine has finally recognized the problem of homocysteine, they emphasize the use of folic acid which is first of all, the wrong form of that nutrient (folate is the correct form), and secondly, of much less importance to the issue. In fact, without addressing the more important pyridoxal deficiency that is of the most predominant importance to the issue, it is debatable whether even folate is of much value against homocysteine.
You see, Greg, folate merely causes the homocysteine to revert back to methionine. If you do not address the need for pyridoxal then the methionine metabolism will just end up in escalating levels of homocysteine again. Emphasizing folic acid or folate more than or to the exclusion of pyridoxal just puts one on a merry-go-round and a merry-go-round just goes round in circles never actually getting anywhere.
It is most interesting to note that all of these most important nutrients for heart health are predominantly removed when white flour is made. For more than 50 years the conventional wisdom has actually been conventional foolishness. While turning butter-on-bread into the bogeyman along with other saturated fats, the real terror has been the white bread.
This point was made in a recent Men’s Health article about the promoting of saturated fat in 1953 as causing heart disease because of a correlation between greater saturated fat consumption and heart disease in Americans compared to less of each in 5 other nations. It was noted that another study in 1957 demonstrated that the correlation fell apart when all 22 nations for which that same data was available for were compared. The Men’s Health article then noted of Americans that “perhaps they also consumed more sugar and white bread”. BINGO! The increased sugar intake would also increase chromium deficiency and escalate the heart degradation thereby making chromium deficiency a much greater problem regarding heart disease.
Crusador: What is the difference between vitamin B6 found in fruits and vegetables and vitamin B6 found in animal products?
Now that is a very little known but very distinctive and extremely revealing difference. The pyridoxal form found in non-animal foods is very stable to heat whereas the pyridoxal form found in animal products is very unstable to heat. In other words, cooking your veggies results in minimal pyridoxal loss but cooking meat and eggs decreases pyridoxal, and in the case of dairy –can you say PASTEURIZATION — virtually eliminates the very high level of pyridoxine normally found in milk.
Crusador: You stated to me that every time someone consumes an animal protein that they should pop a vitamin B6 tablet. Why is that?
Because, Greg, unless you are eating your meat raw (something I don’t recommend) the pyridoxal is substantially reduced and – and this is a great big and – animal protein is a more concentrated protein that is the highest source of the essential amino acids methionine and tryptophan that particularly require pyridoxal for proper use.
This also demonstrates that The Almighty intended animal protein to be a garnish or occasional item rather than the predominant part of the dietary.
You see, Greg, it is not the saturated fat of meat that is so much the problem as it is the pyridoxal that is cooked out of it.
Crusador: Why are women more often deficient in vitamin B6?
Women have a greater propensity for pyridoxal deficiency because of the great importance of this nutrient to hormonal activity and they being women operating more hormonally than men.
The Dr. Guy Abraham of UCLA that I referred to in the magnesium interview also has demonstrated the importance of pyridoxal specifically in partnership with magnesium for women’s health issues and especially regarding hormonal activity.
Of course, Dr. Ellis had already fully developed this importance of pyridoxal and magnesium for women ahead of Dr. Abraham.
Crusador: You stated to me that carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is easily eliminated with vitamin B6 supplementation. Can you tell us about the pathogenesis of CTS and why vitamin B6 can reverse it in a very short period of time despite the fact that the medical community says that most cases of CTS don’t have a known cause?
Dr. Ellis discovered this with much research and clinical application in the 1960s and proved it very well, and he was a prominent member of the medical community though they ignored his excellent and elaborate research pretty much the same as the nutrition industry.
Of course, you had to follow the protocols properly.
Dr. Ellis told me personally, “One with carpal tunnel syndrome should first take 200 milligrams of vitamin B-6 every day for 90 days. If there is no response after that time then surgical options should be considered.” That was three years ago when he was 87. He then concluded, “In my experience I have found this regimen to provide a 90 per cent success rate.” Now that is saying a lot since the experience of Dr. Ellis with carpal tunnel syndrome was extensive and went back more than 40 years to 1961.
As for me, I’ve had a 100 per cent success rate going back more than 20 years. Part of my higher success rate might be due to not having helped as many people with this problem as Dr. Ellis. On the other hand the better success I have had has usually been with only half as much pyridoxal or less than Dr. Ellis recommended with results generally seen much more quickly as well.
Dr. Ellis’ experience was with USP pyridoxine hydrochloride. This is a man-made synthetic variety commonly available. My experience has been with a 100% whole food, grown variety that is not so commonly available. There is a difference and the body knows the difference. Our bodies were designed for that which is grown (food) in a form that only The Almighty can form.
Crusador: The online encyclopedia Wikipedia says that there are numerous therapeutic uses for vitamin B6. One preliminary study has found that this vitamin may increase dream vividness or the ability to recall dreams. It is thought that this effect may be due to the role vitamin B6 plays in the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. According to a prospective study from the Netherlands, intake of vitamin B6 could cut the risk of Parkinson’s disease by half. Other studies suggest that vitamin B6 and magnesium in combination can help attention deficit disorder. What can you tell us about these studies and why there are such effective results?
Well, Greg, I have to laugh because you have rather answered your own questions within the asking of them.
Yes, all of these matters are covered in some depth by Dr. Ellis in his books on pyridoxal. Indeed, pyridoxal is vital for tryptophan metabolism which results in some 20 different metabolites. The most common and useful are conversion to niacin, serotonin and dopamine.
Pyridoxal and magnesium are cofactors in many aspects especially in brain and central nervous system functions, such that they are helpful together for ADD, ADHD, Down syndrome and autism as well.
Crusador: Studies have shown that individuals diagnosed with autism have responded extremely well to high doses of vitamin B6 and magnesium. Apparently this therapy is one of the most popular complementary and alternative choices for autism. What makes these two nutrients work so well when taken together?
As previously noted pyridoxal and magnesium work together in a great many ways and certainly autistic children have often benefited especially with extra B-Complex vitamins. It should be noted that not all autistic children respond to this and it is certainly not a cure for autism.
It should also be noted that when using high doses of pyridoxal (100 milligrams or more) a daily B-Complex should be taken as a base because large doses of single isolated B-Complex nutrients can throw off other B-Complex nutrient balances. Simply taking a B-Complex in the morning with a pyridoxal dose will suffice so that pyridoxal can be taken thereafter throughout the day without additional B-Complex nutrients.
Crusador: Tell us about the difference between folic acid and folate and why folic acid should be avoided?
There is no folic acid in foods. This nutrient in foods is in the form of folate. It would be more accurate to consider folic acid as a drug than as a nutrient. Even nutritionally oriented doctors know that in order to get results with folic acid they have to use large quantities even in amounts of thousands of micrograms daily. You’re basically forcing square pegs into round holes that way. It is really a disservice to use folic acid at all but so few know anything about whole food nutrients.
Crusador: Folic acid is promoted to pregnant women as something necessary to help prevent birth defects. Are the experts in error about this or is what they’re saying true, but folate in a food grown state is the real answer instead of a synthetically produced version of folic acid?
To be honest Greg, I haven’t looked into the neural tube defects issue to know whether that is actually a folate matter but if it is then without a doubt folate would be the correct answer rather than folic acid.
Crusador: There are seven known forms of vitamin B6. Can you explain the differences between them and which form is the best one to use as a nutritional supplement to experience the best overall health benefits?
That is a lot of discussion so let me simplify by noting that there is a difference and your body knows the difference between nutrients that are grown as only The Almighty can form them and all the rest that pass for nutrients. I have insisted upon using only 100% whole food nutrients and have seen more results and seen them more quickly than the literature indicates.
Crusador: Why are so many people deficient in these three nutrients?
Government figures have placed American consumption of refined white flour as 20 per cent of the dietary. Most of these nutrients are removed during the processing. Then there is the matter of milk which is normally a rich source of pyridoxals that are even more substantially destroyed by pasteurization than refining removes them from whole grain. Finally there is the high meat consumption common with so many people. Greater meat consumption means greater need for pyridoxals but the cooking of meat substantially reduces the content of pyridoxals.
If you eat only whole grains, drink unpasteurized, raw milk, and consume meat only as a garnish or occasional item then you avoid deficiency. The more you stray from these guidelines the greater your deficiency will be.
Crusador: You have been a very outspoken promoter of the Innate Response line of supplements because they are one of the few companies in the entire nutritional supplement industry that actually derives its nutrients from 100% food grown sources. Tell us about the Folate, B6 & B12 product that Innate Response manufactures and what kind of results have people experienced that you have recommended this product to?
For starters I have seen responsiveness in 100 per cent of carpal tunnel syndrome cases with this product. It is also a part of my heart protocols. It has been a key in turning around many cases of rheumatoid arthritis as well. Then there is the matter of diabetes.
Though the primary cause of adult diabetes is a gross deficiency of the mineral chromium there are several other underlying nutritional issues. In almost every instance 100% whole food chromium in sufficient quantity will turn diabetes around though the other underlying nutritional issues are still there. In the very rare circumstance where a diabetic is non-responsive to proper chromium intake, I have found that addressing the other underlying nutritional issues then brings that one around. These include pyridoxals and magnesium that work together in this regard (and many other regards also), as well as zinc, silicon and selenium. Notice that those include the most important nutrients for heart health (with the exception of zinc) so it should be no wonder that diabetics are at much greater risk for heart disease than non-diabetics.
Truthfully, all diabetics should take all of these nutrients though proper chromium intake so often makes such a profound difference all by itself that it is often difficult to talk them into doing anything else even though the lesser needs are still there.
Crusador: Is there anything else important that we need to cover or share with our readers that we didn’t get into?
Well, there are a couple. Pyridoxal deficiency is the primary cause of neuropathy though sometimes diabetics with this problem receive relief after prolonged chromium use (with the right form of chromium of course). However, medical scare tactics will often warn against use of pyridoxals stating that their use can cause neuropathy but that is a half truth and a half truth is a whole lie. Dramatically high use of pyridoxals in excess of 500 mg. for sustained periods of time can result in neuropathy but the same medical literature that documents this also notes that the damage is not permanent and almost immediately ceases after discontinuing this high amount of pyridoxal. Personally I have never recommended amounts anywhere near that amount and have never known of a case where Dr. Ellis did either.
In recent years the Institute of Madness, er, uh, Medicine that is the primary source for government recommendations has set an “Upper Limit” of just 100 milligrams daily. Those buffoon lackeys of all things medical pretty much never get anything right when it comes to nutrition.
Dr. Ellis took 200 milligrams daily for almost 50 years and was in robust health when a traffic accident ended his life in the backside of his 90th year. He also routinely recommended the same intake for all his patients and he had a very large number of patients who lived to more than 100 years of age following that advice – and extra longevity due to that level of pyridoxal intake is actually published in a 1995 journal with Dr. Kilmer McCully as co-author. I am certain Dr. Ellis would have lived so long as well except for his accidental death last year. One of my many calls to him in recent years was kept brief because he was on his way to a funeral for a former patient who had died at 103.
The last item I will only bring up in brief as it would take an entire issue just to cover the basics on it but I’ll throw it out here as just a little teaser. Scurvy is actually more of an extremely severe pyridoxal deficiency syndrome than it is a deficiency of what has come to be called “Vitamin C”. OK, so that is a BIG TEASE but it takes a lot of explaining which we don’t have time for here. I once spent the better part of an hour going into all the details with a prominent biochemist. His comment was, “Chris, I can’t find any flaw in what you are saying but it can’t be true because it goes against so much of what we have been taught.” That gave me a hearty laugh as I responded, “You’ve been taught wrong,” while still laughing.
Let me just close with two quotes from the two greatest figures regarding so called ‘Vitamin C’ – each of them Nobel laureates. First from the most well known of all, Linus Pauling.
"When an old and distinguished person speaks to you, listen to him carefully and with respect — but do not believe him. Never put your trust in anything but your own intellect. Your elder, no matter whether he has gray hair or has lost his hair, no matter whether he is a Nobel Laureate, may be wrong. The world progresses, year by year, century by century, as the members of younger generations find out what was wrong among the things that their elders said. So you must always be skeptical — always think for yourself."
That quote came from Pauling in a speech to Swedish university students in 1954 where he had come to receive his first Nobel Prize.
The final quote is from Albert Szent-Gyorgyi who received his Nobel Prize due to studies that brought him to his alleged discovery of the anti-scorbutic factor.
"Discovery consists in seeing what everybody else has seen and thinking what nobody has thought."
These two great quotes from allegedly great men have been an important part of the foundation for all my own work.
Crusador: Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Chris. I’m sure many of our readers with diabetes or heart disease will be helped by what you’ve reported.