As the Holiday Season commences it’s appropriate to settle down and reflect upon the little things in life that allow us to be the people that we are.
Most people think that means friends and family but they don’t know what they’re talking about. I spend all day thinking about them already so it makes no sense to go out of my way to do it even more on the holidays.
Before I sat down at my computer I was pacing around my living room for a half hour mulling over how I was going to handle the details of my social life and interact with various people in my life. It was a lot of work.
I don’t need anymore stress than I already have, so I say “cyanara!” to all those second cousins and in-laws you’re supposed to be paying attention to on the holidays but honestly just don’t care that much about. Learning to disregard these people will make your holiday season that much smoother.
However, while I advocate paying less attention to the people in your life around the holidays it’s a good idea to pay more attention to the food that’s used during the festivities.
Most holiday health articles are either the “13 Ways to Spice Up Your Holiday Meal” variety or the “This Is the Real Reason Turkey Makes You Sleepy” variety.
They all bore me to tears.
I suck at cooking and those Turkey articles are dumb because it’s the calories, not the turkey, that causes the sleepiness. Tryptophan has nothing to do with it.
For a holiday article I need to dig deeper.
Surely there must be some unobserved aspect of our holiday routine that’s worth discussing, right?
Like maybe……..the types of B vitamins found in poultry dishes?
Yes! Yes! Let’s talk about that, shall we?
Because you know……I don’t think it’s fully appreciated that the availability of B vitamins in Turkey and other holiday meats is much better than your alternatives.
Plant based B vitamins aren’t well absorbed because they’re reacted with a variety of molecules which make them hard to digest. Animal based B vitamins are more bio-available because they’ve already been broken down and incorporated into tissue.
And when it comes to B vitamins there’s one in particular that we ought to shine a light on, since it does so many little things for us but never gets the same media play as folate, B12, or niacin: B6, aka pyridoxal.
Pyridoxine HCL is the form of B6 most commonly used in supplementary form. That’s because it’s the most stable. B6 molecules come in three flavors – pyridoxine, pyridoxal, and pyridoxamine – and only pyridoxine is resistant to light and heat.
Pyridoxal is what’s found in your body, and 95% of the circulating B6 in your body comes as pyridoxal-5-phosphate. The fate of all other B6 is to eventually be transformed into this form of the molecule.
Most people have an aversion to cheap, synthetic forms of nutrients compared to their natural counterparts but B6 has 4 interesting facts about its absorption and manufacture you ought to consider before making judgments:
1). All supplementary forms of B6 are synthetic, including Pyridoxal-5-phosphate
2). All forms of B6 get broken down into their base molecules before leaving the small intestine. So even if you’re taking the real mccoy in P-5-P it gets taken apart in the gut before being put back together in the liver.
3). Pyridoxine HCL actually has the highest rate of absorption in the gut at around 90%. It’s very stable and the HCL moiety snaps right off in the stomach due to its acidity.
4). No, pyridoxine HCL doesn’t cause babies to keel over and die from organ failure or anal colitis. (That’s right, spammy clickbait titles for the win!).
So if pyridoxine hcl is harmless and well absorbed does it ever make sense to prioritize other forms of the vitamin?
For many people the answer is no. Pyridoxine HCL works just fine.
Where it gets interesting though is the process of conversion that takes place in the liver. It primarily depends on an enzyme called pyridoxal kinase, and nascent research suggests the rate of variability in its expression is pretty significant, with large gaps between people of african and european ancestry.
This effect isn’t as well studied as it is for other vitamins like folate (MTHFR) or B12 (Intrinsic Factor) but the majority of rate limiting enzymes usually have genetic and environmental factors that cause their expression to vary several fold between groups of people.
And in general liver health coincides with your ability to convert B6 vitamers into actual B6.
Most drugs eventually get processed in your liver. So if you’re heavily medicated, a drug addict, or one of those weird kids that spent too much time snorting rubber cement glue up your nose because you found TV too boring then you might want to consider upgrading your rotgut B vitamins with the more expensive activated kinds. You might not be very good at converting the pre-vitamin stuff into the real thing.
Alcoholics would also be well served to chase their bottle of Jack with a shot of P-5-P. They usually have impaired B6 status.
Friends, when we gather around the Thanksgiving table let’s shed the guilt and just ignore uncle Lenny. There’s really not much difference between talking to someone once a year and not talking to them at all. Try it…..you’ll see what I mean.
But let’s take it upon us to really examine the little things in life that need to come together in order to make our life work.
Like the pursuit of happiness, Wednesday night Game of Thrones marathons, your evening walk to CVS to pick up the shit you forgot to buy at the grocery store, and of course getting our vitamins right. These are the things in life that count.