Benefits and uses of B-complex vitamins

Vitamin B refers to not one, but eight different vitamins. All B vitamins play a role in converting food into energy in the body. Each vitamin also has a unique role in a person’s health. Benefits and uses of B-complex vitamins.

Vitamin B-complex supplements include all of the essential B vitamins in one pill. Some contain 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of every B vitamin. Others contain higher doses of some or all of these vitamins.

Many people get all the vitamin B they need from a varied, healthful diet, but others benefit from taking a vitamin B-complex supplement.

Vitamin B-1 – thiamin

Vitamin B-1 is vital to the healthy growth and function of organs, including the brain and heart.

Vitamin B-2 – riboflavin

The body needs vitamin B-2 to break down fats and drugs.

Vitamin B-3 – niacin

The body needs niacin to maintain healthy skin, nerves, and digestion. Doctors sometimes prescribe high doses of niacin to help improve cholesterol levels.

Vitamin B-5 – pantothenic acid

Vitamin B-5 is essential for the health of the brain and nervous system.

Vitamin B-6 – pyridoxine

Vitamin B-6 helps the body make new red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. It also helps keep the immune system strong.

Vitamin B-7 – biotin

Biotin is essential for healthy hair, nails, and nerve function.

Vitamin B-9 – folic acid

The body uses folic acid — or folate, its natural form — to make DNA and genetic material. During pregnancy, folic acid may reduce the risk of certain birth defects.

Vitamin B-12 – cobalamin

The body’s nerve and blood cells require vitamin B-12. Adequate levels of B-12 also prevent pernicious anemia, which is a deficiency of this nutrient.

Daily recommendations

Many B-complex supplements contain about 100 percent of the RDA of each of the eight B vitamins.

However, some contain very high levels of certain B vitamins. Before taking a high-dose supplement, talk with a clinician.

The following are RDAs for each of the B vitamins, in milligrams (mg) or micrograms (mcg), according to The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Older adults may require higher dosages of some B vitamins.

MalesFemalesDuring pregnancyDuring breastfeeding
Vitamin B-11.2 mg1.1 mg1.4 mg1.4 mg
Vitamin B-21.3 mg1.1 mg1.4 mg1.6 mg
Vitamin B-3 or dietary equivalents16 mg14 mg18 mg17 mg
Vitamin B-55 mg5 mg6 mg7 mg
Vitamin B-61.3 mg1.5 mg1.9 mg2.0 mg
Vitamin B-730 mcg30 mcg30 mcg35 mcg
Vitamin B-9 or dietary equivalents400 mcg400 mcg600 mcg500 mcg
Vitamin B-122.4 mcg2.4 mcg2.6 mcg2.8 mcg

Benefits and uses

Vitamin B-complex supplements may help with certain health problems. If a person has any of the conditions listed below, they may benefit from taking a supplement that contains B vitamins:

Migraine episodes

Some research suggests that certain B vitamins could help prevent migraine with aura, specifically:

  • vitamin B-6
  • vitamin B-9
  • vitamin B-12

The researchers also suggest that vitamin B-2 could help prevent migraine by influencing mitochondrial dysfunction, which occurs at the cellular level.

Authors of a review study from 2017 looked at the effects of vitamin B-2 on migraine. They report that this vitamin is well-tolerated and effective at reducing migraine frequency in adults, though they recommend further research.

Depression and anxiety

Authors of a study from 2018 state that vitamin B-12 levels play an important role in the development and presentation of depression and anxiety. They report that participants with depression or anxiety had lower levels of B-12 than their control counterparts.

A meta-analysis found that B vitamins could help with depression in certain cases. The researchers said that taking some B vitamins regularly for several weeks to years could reduce the risk of depression relapse.

A small-scale study in India also suggested that B-9 and B-12 deficiencies play a role in depression and anxiety.

Skin wounds

B vitamins may help the skin heal.

One study found that, when applied to the skin, these vitamins helped wounds heal more effectively. Another study found that B-12 improved wound healing in mice with diabetes.

Canker sores

Vitamin B-12 may be helpful in treating canker sores, also known as oral ulcers. A double-blind study found that a B-12 ointment relieved pain better than a placebo.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Some evidence suggests that taking a combined supplement of B-6 and calcium improves symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

A systematic review and meta-analysis also found vitamin B-6 to be helpful in controlling physical and psychological PMS symptoms.

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