Health benefits of Vitamin B complex

What is vitamin B complex?

Vitamin B complex is composed of eight B vitamins:

  • B-1 (thiamine)
  • B-2 (riboflavin)
  • B-3 (niacin)
  • B-5 (pantothenic acid)
  • B-6 (pyridoxine)
  • B-7 (biotin)
  • B-9 (folic acid)
  • B-12 (cobalamin)

Each of these essential vitamins contributes to your overall bodily function. Read on to learn more about how these nutrients benefit you, how much you need, whether you should take supplements, and more.

What are the benefits?

B vitamins play a vital role in maintaining good health and well-being. As the building blocks of a healthy body, B vitamins have a direct impact on your energy levels, brain function, and cell metabolism.

Vitamin B complex helps prevent infections and helps support or promote:

  • cell health
  • growth of red blood cells
  • energy levels
  • good eyesight
  • healthy brain function
  • good digestion
  • healthy appetite
  • proper nerve function
  • hormones and cholesterol production
  • cardiovascular health
  • muscle tone

In women

B vitamins are especially important for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding. These vitamins aid in fetal brain development as well as reduce the risk of birth defects.

And for expectant mothers, B vitamins may boost energy levels, ease nausea, and lower the risk of developing preeclampsia.

In men

B vitamins are thought to increase testosterone levels in men, which naturally decrease with age. They may also help men build muscle and increase strength. However, human studies confirming these claims are lacking.

How much vitamin B complex do you need?

The recommended daily amount of each B vitamin varies.

For women, the recommended daily intake is:

For men, the recommended daily intake is:

Older adultsTrusted Source and women who are pregnant require higher amounts of B vitamins. Your doctor can provide dosage information tailored to your individual needs.

Certain underlying health conditions can prevent your body from properly absorbing vitamin B. You should also talk to your doctor about your vitamin B intake if you have:

  • celiac disease
  • HIV
  • Crohn’s disease
  • alcohol dependence
  • kidney conditions
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • ulcerative colitis
  • inflammatory bowel disease

How can you tell if you’re deficient?

Most people get enough B vitamins by eating a balanced diet. However, it’s still possible to be deficient.

The following symptoms may be a sign that you’re not getting enough B vitamins:

  • skin rashes
  • cracks around the mouth
  • scaly skin on the lips
  • swollen tongue
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • anemia
  • confusion
  • irritability or depression
  • nausea
  • abdominal cramps
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • numbness or tingling in the feet and hands

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms and aren’t sure why, make an appointment to see your doctor.

Although it’s possible that you’re experiencing a vitamin B deficiency, these symptoms also overlap with many other underlying conditions. Your doctor can make a diagnosis and advise you on any next steps.

Can being deficient increase your risk of certain conditions?

If you’re deficient in B vitamins you may experience a range of symptoms depending on which B vitamins you’re lacking.

If left untreated, deficiency could increase your risk of developing:

  • anemia
  • digestive issues
  • skin conditions
  • infections
  • peripheral neuropathy

Vitamin B-12 deficiency, in particular, may increase your risk of neuropsychiatric disorders. Researchers are also investigating its role in hyperhomocysteinemia and atherosclerosis.

Babies born to women who were deficient in folic acid during pregnancy are more likely to have birth defects.

What foods is it found in?

Lots of foods contain B vitamins, which makes it easy to get enough from your diet. It’s best to get your B vitamins from a wide variety of food sources. This helps to ensure you’re getting enough of each type.

You can find vitamin B in:

  • milk
  • cheese
  • eggs
  • liver and kidney
  • meat, such as chicken and red meat
  • fish, such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon
  • shellfish, such as oysters and clams
  • dark green vegetables, such as spinach and kale
  • vegetables, such as beets, avocados, and potatoes
  • whole grains and cereals
  • beans, such as kidney beans, black beans, and chickpeas
  • nuts and seeds
  • fruits, such as citrus, banana, and watermelon
  • soy products, such as soy milk and tempeh
  • blackstrap molasses
  • wheat germ
  • yeast and nutritional yeast

What happens if you get too much vitamin B complex?

You’re unlikely to get too much vitamin B complex from your diet. That’s because B complex vitamins are water soluble. That means they aren’t stored in your body but are excreted in your urine daily.

You’re also unlikely to get too much vitamin B if you’re taking any supplementation as directed.

That said, overdose is possible — especially if you’re taking a supplement without receiving a deficiency diagnosis from your doctor.

Symptoms of a vitamin B complex overdose include:

  • excessive thirst
  • skin conditions
  • blurry vision
  • abdominal cramps
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • increased urination
  • diarrhea
  • skin flushing

Seek immediate medical attention if you think you’re experiencing symptoms of a vitamin B complex overdose.

You should also check in with your doctor if you’ve been taking supplements without having a diagnosed deficiency. Taking too much vitamin B complex long-term can lead to nerve damage. This could result in losing control of your bodily movements.

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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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