Be Smart about Vitamin B

B vitamins or Vitamin B Complex refers to eight essential nutrients that play a vital role in converting food into energy.

Each B vitamin has specific benefits to improving and maintaining good health.

Key Benefits of B Vitamins:

  • Development of red blood cells
  • Energy boosting
  • Cognitive function
  • Appetite and digestion
  • Nervous system function
  • Balancing hormone levels
  • Muscle development

The B-complex Rundown:

  • B1 (thiamine): Important for organ function
  • B2 (riboflavin): Needed by the body to break down fats
  • B3 (niacin): Aids in maintaining healthy skin and supports digestion
  • B5 (pantothenic acid): Vital for brain health and the nervous system
  • B6 (pyridoxine): Supports immune health and production of red blood cells
  • B7 (biotin): Essential vitamin for healthy hair and nails
  • B9 (folate): Also called folic acid, it supports creation of genetic material and can reduce the risk of birth defects if taken while pregnant
  • B12 (cobalamin): Required for normal nerve and blood cell function

So what happened to B4, B8, B10 and B11?

The gaps in the list of B vitamins occur because these substances are no longer considered to meet the definition of a vitamin, i.e., not essential for normal growth and nutrition. Numbered in the order they were discovered, the remaining B vitamins are needed by the body to maintain good health.

B-Complex Sources

Meat products have the highest abundance of B vitamins, with particularly high concentrations in turkey, liver and tuna.

Carbohydrate-based foods also contain some B vitamins, but in much smaller quantities. This is why in many countries the B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid are required by law to be added to white flour, often called “enriched flour.”

Other vegetable sources of B vitamins include beans, whole grains, bananas, tempeh, potatoes, and nutritional yeast. While the yeast used to brew beer also contains B vitamins, the alcohol inhibits the absorption and therefore makes beer a poor dietary source of B vitamins.

While it is possible to get sufficient b-complex vitamins from a well-rounded diet, there are some groups that are at higher risk of B vitamin deficiency.

Vegetarians and Vegans

Considered by many to be the healthiest diet, Western vegetarians tend to have a lower body-mass index (a risk factor for diseases related to metabolic syndrome), lower blood cholesterol, and fewer instances of heart disease when compared to non-vegetarians. Unfortunately, as vitamin B12 in not naturally found in plant-based foods, vegetarians and vegans are also at higher risk of developing a B12 deficiency that can lead to memory loss and other cognitive defects, pernicious anemia, and even paralysis.

New Mothers and Mothers-to-be

Pregnant and breastfeeding women need more B-complex to support fetal development and breastmilk production. Specifically, deficiencies in folate or B12 have been linked with birth defects and neurological damage among newborns.

Adults over 50

As we age, it becomes more difficult for our bodies to absorb vitamin B12 from the foods we eat. This is because the absorption of vitamins from food is linked to the amount of stomach acid available to us, which decreases with age. Some studies estimate that up to 30% of people over the age of 50 are not getting enough B12.

As B vitamins are water soluble, they cannot be stored by the body and must consumed in foods or by supplements. Vitamin IV infusions with B vitamins are effective for addressing deficiencies as well as promoting healthy hair and nails, speeding up recovery from physical activity, boosting energy levels and improving mood.


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