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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Vitamin B and Its Types

Vitamin B are a class of water-soluble vitamins that play important roles in cell metabolism. Though these vitamins share similar names, they are chemically distinct compounds that often coexist in the same foods. In general, dietary supplements containing all eight are referred to as a vitamin B complex. Types of Vitamin B are mentioned below.

If you want to keep your body healthy, strong, and feeling good, you can’t ignore B vitamins. These essential nutrients play a ton of important roles in keeping our bodies running smoothly—they help with digestion and metabolism; convert carbohydrates, fats, and protein into energy; maintain a healthy nervous system, and a much more. You’ve likely heard of vitamins B6 and B12, but there are actually eight B vitamins essential to human health. To find the food sources of vitamin B click here

B1 (Thiamin)

Thiamin helps the body’s cells grow, function, and turn carbohydrates into energy. It’s also important for nerve, heart, and muscle function. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adult women is 1.1 mg/day (and 1.4 mg/day if pregnant or lactating), and the RDA for adult men is 1.2 mg/day.

B2 (Riboflavin)

Riboflavin helps the body metabolize other B vitamins, convert food into energy, and produce red blood cells. Adult women need about 1.1 mg/day (1.4 mg/day when pregnant and 1.6 mg/day when lactating) and adult men need 1.3 mg/day.

B3 (Niacin)

Niacin helps the body digest food, convert food to energy, and maintain a properly functioning nervous system. The RDA for women is 14 mg (17 mg if breastfeeding and 18 mg if pregnant), and 16 mg for men.

B5 (Pantothenic acid)

Like many other B vitamins, pantothenic acid is important for converting food (particularly fats) into energy. Adult men and women need around 5 mg/day, whereas pregnant teens and adults need 6 mg/day and breastfeeding teens and adults require 7 mg/day.

B6 (Pyridoxine)

Pyridoxine, commonly known as B6, helps the body with various aspects of metabolism, supports immune and nervous system function, helps the body fight infection, and is crucial to healthy development of a baby’s brain during pregnancy and infancy. The recommended daily intake for adult women is 1.3 mg for adults ages 19-50, 1.5 mg for women 51+, 1.7 mg for men 51+, 1.9 mg for pregnant teens and women, and 2.0 mg for breastfeeding teens and women.

B7 (Biotin)

Biotin helps the body metabolize food and is also important in maintaining healthy nails, hair, and skin. The RDI for adults is 30 mcg (including during pregnancy), and a slightly higher 35 mcg for breastfeeding teens and women.  

B9 (folate)

Folate plays an important role in cell growth and metabolism, and is crucial in helping pregnant women produce DNA and other genetic material. The recommended daily intake is 400 mcg for adults, 500 mcg for breastfeeding women, and 600 mcg for pregnant women. “Folate is an especially important nutrient for women who are pregnant because folate is essential for the formation of the baby’s neural tube.”

B12 (cobalamin)

Cobalamin, which you’ve likely heard referred to more simply as B12, is crucial to keeping your nervous system functioning properly and creating healthy red blood cells. It also helps the body create DNA and break down proteins. B12 is abundant in foods that come from animal sources, but hard to obtain from plant-based foods. For this reason, people who do not consume animal products will need to eat B12-enriched products or B12 supplements to maintain the recommended intake of B12. Adults need around 2.4 mcg/day, whereas pregnant women need 2.6 mcg/day and breastfeeding women need 2.8 mcg/day. 

So what kind of foods should you be eating for your B vitamins? Animal-based foods such as red meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, eggs and dairy are all great sources, Rueven says, as are plant-based foods like dark leafy greens, legumes, nuts and seeds.

You’ll want to consume foods containing B vitamins regularly, as these vitamins are water soluble. This means they dissolve in water and are absorbed directly into the body for use, with excess amounts excreted through urine rather than stored in the body. To get the most out of these foods, you’ll want to be mindful of how you cook them. 

Note: “Boiling vegetables high in B-vitamins will result in much of B-vitamin content escaping into the cooking water, rather than remaining in the food,” explains Anna Hartman, RDN. “To conserve vitamin content, you could steam, roast, bake, or grill the vegetables to cook them without immersing them in water.” 

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