Most of you are familiar with Vitamin B12 and perhaps vitamin B6, but did you know there are eight other B vitamins that keep you healthy? Vitamins are organic compounds needed in small quantities to help with normal cell function, growth, and development. It is crucial to get these vitamins from food because your body does not make vitamins or produce negligible amounts.
What is Vitamin B?
The term “vitamin B” refers to a set of eight vitamins, often referred to as “B complex vitamins” or “B complex.” B vitamins are water-soluble and are never stored in the body, unlike vitamins A and E, which are fat-soluble vitamins stored in the liver and fatty tissues. The following are the eight B vitamins and their principal functions in the body.
B-5 (pantothenic acid)
B-9 (folate also called folic acid in its synthetic form)
The most valued among the benefits of vitamin B complex is their ability to convert food into energy. B vitamins are a part of enzymes that participate in the breakdown of nutrients into energy.
Ensuring enough B vitamins in your diet from food and supplements helps your body to cope with stress. B vitamins play a vital role in energy metabolism, hence they are often recommended as supplements for people with chronic stress or adrenal fatigue syndrome.
Benefits of vitamin B in your body
B-1 (thiamine): Thiamine is involved in the release of energy from nutrients. Vital organs like the brain and the heart need a constant supply of energy. Hence, a deficiency of this nutrient leads to issues with energy needs to vital organs. Memory loss, poor immunity, fatigue are some of the signs of thiamine deficiency.
B-2 (riboflavin): A small amount of riboflavin is produced in the gut but not enough. It is a crucial component of coenzymes involved in the breakdown of fat, steroids, and medications. It is also important for cell growth and energy production from food. A deficiency of vitamin B2 manifests as skin rash, hair loss, anemia, swollen tongue, and cracked lips.
B-3 (niacin): Niacin is crucial to keep your digestive system, nervous system, and your skin healthy. Niacin is a major component of NAD and NADP, two coenzymes involved in cellular respiration. Niacin also acts as an antioxidant and aids DNA repair. The deficiency of niacin leads to depression, memory loss, fatigue, and increased risk of heart disease. A severe deficiency leads to a condition called pellagra, characterized by a dark, scaly rash on the skin when exposed to the sun.
B-5 (pantothenic acid): Pantothenic acid aids in the breakdown of fats and carbohydrates. It keeps your eyes, skin, and hair healthy. The most important role of B5 is that it is present in every cell as coenzyme A ( CoA). Pantothenic acid is necessary to make red blood cells, process other nutrients specifically vitamin B2, synthesize cholesterol to make reproductive hormones, and maintain a healthy digestive system. Deficiency of vitamin B5 leads to restlessness, irritability, sleep issues, muscle cramps, headache, and fatigue.
B-6 (pyridoxine): This nutrient is important to produce neurotransmitters, which are chemicals in the brain that participate in nerve signaling. B6 also aids in regulating the use of energy in the brain; hence it is crucial for brain and nerve health. Deficiency of B6 leads to depression, cognitive decline, dementia, confusion, lowered immunity, microcystic anemia, and lowered immunity. B6 also plays a crucial role in maintaining normal levels of homocysteine (high levels of homocysteine lead to heart problems).
B-7 (biotin): Biotin plays a vital role in producing energy from food. It specifically assists enzymes in breaking down fat, carbohydrates, and proteins in the food. Biotin is good for hair and is also necessary to keep your eyes, skin, liver, and heart-healthy. Biotin is important for fetal development; hence pregnant women are recommended to increase biotin-rich foods. Deficiency of biotin leads to thinning hair, brittle nails, development delays in infants and children, mild depression, chronic muscle pain, and paresthesia (tingling, prickling sensation in arms, hands, legs, or feet)
B-9 (folate also called folic acid in its synthetic form): Folate is important in protein metabolism and helps form DNA and RNA material. Folate is also vital for breaking down homocysteine and reduce the harmful effects of high levels of homocysteine. Folic acid benefits fetal growth and development, red blood cell production; it is also used to maintain and repair blood vessels. Deficiency of vitamin B9 leads to neural birth defects in unborn babies, increased risk of heart disease, depression, and impaired immune function. Women of reproductive age and women trying to conceive are recommended folate-rich food and supplement to prevent birth defects.
B-12 (cobalamin): Vitamin B12 is necessary for red blood cell formation, brain and nerve cell formation. Although required in small quantities, about 2.4 micrograms per day, vitamin B12 benefits are manifold for human health. Deficiency of B12 leads to depression, pernicious anemia, tingling and numbness in feet, arms, and legs, nervousness, dementia, confusion, seizures, chronic fatigue, and weakness. Like folate and B6, B12 also plays a crucial role in keeping the homocysteine levels in control; hence it reduces the risk of heart diseases, and stroke.
Choosing your B vitamin supplements
Quality: A high-quality B complex supplement takes care of your daily B vitamin needs. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not evaluate the quality, effectiveness, or safety of the dietary supplements in the market. Hence, it is important to choose your B vitamin supplement from reputed manufacturers that follow strict standards.
Type of B vitamin: Choosing your B vitamin based on your individual needs is another crucial point to consider. In general, a B complex vitamin provides all eight B vitamins; however, if you need a specific B vitamin in higher levels, it is best to choose a supplement that offer individual nutrients. For instance, most people are low in vitamin B12; thus, taking a dietary supplement that exclusively provides vitamin B12 ensures that you are getting enough to improve B12 levels. It is important to read supplement labels carefully and follow the directions from the manufacturer or your healthcare provider on dosage.
Here are our recommendations for high-quality and safe B vitamin supplements:
Pure Encapsulations B-Complex Plus: This is a gluten-free, hypo-allergenic, non-GMO supplement that offers broad-spectrum, B complex vitamins in a capsule. A special feature of this supplement is that it provides vitamin B 9 (folate) in the form of L-5 MTFH which is better absorbed by the body. Since the product is hypoallergenic, it is suitable for patients with a sensitive digestive system.
B-Complex by Douglas Laboratories: The B-complex formulations from Douglas Laboratories offers all eight B vitamins, with two of them in special forms. The folate is offered as L-methylfolate, Metafolin and the B12 is provided in the form of methylcobalamin, an active form of the vitamin B12. Metafolin contains the MTHF isomer of folate, the only form of folate that can cross the blood-brain barrier. Another advantage of this formulation is that it offers the IF (Intrinsic Factor). This protein binds vitamin B12 in the stomach and moves it through the small intestine to be absorbed by the bloodstream. Intrinsic Factor is naturally secreted by your stomach; however, aging and other factors may cause a decrease in its levels. A supplement that offers a combination of B12 and Intrinsic Factor may boost the absorption of B12 significantly.
B12 Folate by Pure Encapsulations: This formulation is for those who are looking for specific B12 and folate combinations in their Vitamin B supplement. Vitamin B12 and folate are interrelated in function. Folate is provided in this formula as Metafolin L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate (L-5-MTHF), the naturally occurring form of folate. The vitamin B12 is in methylcobalamine form the best bioavailable form of this nutrient.
Stress B-Complex by Thorne Research: Thorne Stress B complex supplement offers all eight B vitamins with extra vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) for adrenal support to combat stress. The formulation offers the B vitamins in their active form, which facilitates better absorption in the body. The suggested use is to take one capsule one to three times a day or as recommended by a healthcare provider. A huge plus about this supplement is that it supplies choline which is a nutrient that works with B vitamins like B12 and folate which affects cell health and gene expression.
B-vitamins act like the building blocks of cells and are essential for the majority of the energy metabolism. Besides, they have a direct impact on your brain health and cell metabolism. Certain conditions like celiac disease, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and specific health problems can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb B vitamins. Using high-quality and appropriate B-complex supplements can help mitigate the harmful effects by reducing the risk of diseases and promoting better health.