Vitamin B6 Important for Developing Infants, Mothers
The amount of vitamin B6 in a woman's breast milk may influence the development of her infant, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (2002;102:1433–8). The mother's vitamin B6 intake affects the amount found in her breast milk, and higher amounts in the milk are associated with improvements in learning capacity and central nervous system function.
In this study, transitional breast milk (the milk produced 8 to 11 days after delivery) was collected from 25 lactating women from ages 15 to 26 and measured for levels of pyridoxal (the main form of vitamin B6). The women also completed a 24-hour diet recall, including nutritional supplement use, to determine the daily amount of vitamin B6 consumed. Each infant was assessed using the Brazleton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS), which measures behavior patterns and neurological development. Higher NBAS scores represent better capability of the infant to deal with their environment.
The average intake of vitamin B6 by the mothers was about 3.5 mg per day, which exceeds the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 2 mg per day for lactating women. Most of these women took a multivitamin that contained vitamin B6. Higher pyridoxal levels in breast milk were associated with higher scores on NBAS, specifically with a greater ability of the infant to perform a learning task that required screening out distracting stimuli and better control of autonomic nervous function (such as breathing and temperature regulation).
Vitamin B6 is an important nutrient for normal behavioral development in infants. Studies show that breast-fed infants have lower vitamin B6 levels than bottle-fed infants, which demonstrates the need for breast-feeding mothers to make sure they receive adequate amounts of vitamin B6. Breast-fed infants with suboptimal vitamin B6 status have more behavioral problems, such as increased crying and inconsolability; in cases of severe deficiency, they may experience seizures.
Some physicians recommend that pregnant and breast-feeding mothers take a prenatal vitamin to ensure their child is getting adequate amounts of vitamin B6 and other nutrients. Food sources of vitamin B6 include wheat germ, whole grains, cabbage, beets, and oranges. Pregnant and lactating women should consult a physician or nutritionist to ensure their nutritional supplement contains appropriate amounts of vitamin B6 and other essential nutrients.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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