Wheat Belly . . . and vitamin B6

If we were to believe the claims of conventional diet advice, such as those being echoed by wheat industry groups like the Grain Foods Foundation in their SixServings Blog (where, by the way, you’ve GOT to read the over 70 comments!), eliminate wheat from your diet and you will lose your job, the neighbors will make fun of you, your mother-in-law will move into your house for an indefinite stay, and you will become constipated and malnourished and suffer multiple nutritional deficiencies.

Not true. In fact, I will argue in these posts that nutrition improves with elimination of wheat due to increased absorption of multiple nutrients once the digestive disruption of wheat (gluten and lectins) are removed; pancreatic release of digestive enzymes improves due to the increased intestinal release of cholecystekinin; and improved absorption of vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats results when the dysbiosis or bacterial overgrowth associated with wheat consumption reverses, among other effects.

So I thought I’d tackle each nutrient one by one. Let’s talk about vitamin B6. B6 is essential, as it is not synthesized in the body; it must come from diet. B6 deficiency leads to rashes like seborrheic dermatitis, atrophy of the tongue and mouth sores, and central nervous system impairment. I begin with B6 since it is often cited as a nutrient that has been shown to be deficient in 20% of people with celiac disease on a gluten-free diet (Hallert et al 2002).

The adult RDA for vitamin B6 is 1.3-1.7 mg per day for adults, though many argue (and I agree) that higher quantities are beneficial. According to the USDA, two slices of whole wheat bread contain 0.117 mg of vitamin B6.

What other sources of B6 are there? Here’s a partial list:

Salmon, 4 oz: 0.64 mg
Spinach, 1 cup cooked: 0.44 mg
Chicken breast, 4 oz cooked, 0.68 mg
Tuna, 4 oz, cooked: 1.18 mg
Flaxseed, 2 tablespoons: 0.18 mg
Pistachios, 1/4 cup shelled: 0.408 mg
Sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup hulled: 0.484 mg
Avocado, 1 cup: 0.41 mg

Herbs and spices, such as garlic, paprika, turmeric, oregano, and chile powder, are also rich sources of B6. Just two cloves of garlic, for instance, contain 0.074 mg B6, or 63% of that contained in two slices of whole wheat bread.

So 4 oz of chicken breast provides nearly 6-fold more vitamin B6 than two slices of whole wheat bread, 4 oz of tuna over 10-fold more. Even two tablespoons of flaxseed–very easy to obtain–handily exceeds the B6 content of wheat products.

So, sure, if wheat is replaced with Skittles and lemon ice, you will likely become vitamin B6-deficient. But if wheat is replaced with whole foods like fish, meat, nuts, flaxseed, and avocado no vitamin B6 deficiency develops . . . B6 intake actually increases.

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. Betsy J

    I believe that no matter what your health status is, you should take a multi vitamin daily – you are sure to make up the difference on what you are lacking.

  2. skaai

    The problem with vitamin recommendations is that most are based on the typical (read: high carbohydrate, high processed food) American diet, and such a diet is a different nutritional environment in comparison to diets that eliminate excess calories or refined carbohydrates and carbohydrate-rich foods. Unfortunately, very little research has been done on populations that eat very few carbohydrates (like the Greenland Inuit and Lapland Sami) but we know that these traditional cultures do not consume vitamins, and their diet provides very low levels of vitamins we consider critical, yet they do not appear to suffer ill effects at levels that would destroy us (consider Geraci et al., 1979, Arctic, Vol 32, No. 2, P 138 who cites a daily intake of Inuit of 15 mg of vitamin C from foods was sufficient to prevent scurvy, a level that industrialized consumers could never remain healthy on). The point I am trying to make from such observations is that eating a diet that is richer in meats and vegetables and lower in grains and dairy is likely to provide all the vitamins any relatively healthy (and a few unhealthy) folks could need and then some. It would make sense: many water and fat soluble vitamins are oxidized at a faster rate when in a hypercaloric environment ( consider PMID:17045079 which discusses tocopherol oxidation in a hypercaloric environment)(consider PMID: which suggests that ascorbate, tocopherol, and beta-carotene are all consumed more rapidly in an LDL-oxidizing environment, such as a hypercaloric one). None of these is definitive proof that vitamins are oxidized more rapidly when you eat milk and wheat, but they are suggestive… as a matter of fact, i think i’m getting an idea about a research proposal! moral: I don’t think you should need vitamin supplementation if you cut the wheat and milk, not unless you are somehow very sick, pregnant (only for insurance), or somehow predisposed to such deficiencies.

  3. skaai

    sorry, the second PMID was 8252691. to search by PMID, just google “PMID XXXX” where XXXX is teh number you are looking for. most of you probably figured it out, but i put it there for those not familiar with PubMed identifiers.

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  5. I enjoyed your article very much on vitamin b6 and foods that contain them. I did not know that wheat hinders nutrition absorbing capabilities in our bodies. I do like to eat sandwiches on whole wheat bread and have a glass of milk so hearing this makes not very happy. I will have to buy wheat belly and read about why wheat is not good in our diets.


  6. Vance

    I am a Diabetic is there a multi vitamin that does not can wheat or wheat bi products that I can use.