Symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency

What are the symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency?

Vitamin B-12 is an essential nutrient that keeps the body functioning properly. Symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency include fatigue, low mood, and nerve problems.

The human body does not create vitamin B-12, so people must get this nutrient from their diet. It is crucial for making DNA and red blood cells, and it helps support the nervous system.

Vitamin B-12 plays a vital role in the production of blood cells.

Many of the symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency arise because it causes a lack of healthy blood cells. The body needs plenty of these cells to get oxygen around the body and keep the organs in good health.

A vitamin B-12 deficiency can lead to both physical and psychological problems. In this article, we explore 11 symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency and explain why they occur.

What to know about vitamin B-12 deficiency

Vitamin B-12 deficiency may affect between 1.5 and 15.0 percent of people.

This deficiency can cause a wide range of symptoms that affect a person’s mental and physical health.

It is important to consume foods that contain vitamin B-12 on a regular basis. Adults need around 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B-12 each day.

Vitamin B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is present in animal-based foods, such as:

  • red meat
  • poultry
  • eggs
  • dairy
  • fish

If a person does not eat animal products, they will need to add vegetarian and vegan sources of vitamin B-12 to their diet. These include fortified cereals, plant milks, bread, and nutritional yeast.

As vitamin B-12 deficiency shares many symptoms with other nutritional deficiencies and health conditions, it is possible that people may neither notice it nor get a diagnosis.

Being aware of all of the signs can help people identify the deficiency and seek treatment.

Below, we look at the symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency and their causes.

1. Tingling hands or feet

Vitamin B-12 deficiency may cause “pins and needles” in the hands or feet. This symptom occurs because the vitamin plays a crucial role in the nervous system, and its absence can cause people to develop nerve conduction problems or nerve damage.

In the nervous system, vitamin B-12 helps produce a substance called myelin. Myelin is a protective coating that shields the nerves and helps them transmit sensations.

People who are vitamin B-12 deficient may not produce enough myelin to coat their nerves. Without this coating, nerves can become damaged.

Problems are more common in the nerves in the hands and feet, which are called peripheral nerves. Peripheral nerve damage may lead to tingling in these parts of the body.

2. Trouble walking

Over time, peripheral nerve damage resulting from vitamin B-12 deficiency can lead to movement problems.

Numbness in the feet and limbs may make it hard for a person to walk without support. They may also experience muscle weakness and diminished reflexes.

3. Pale skin

Pale or yellow skin, called jaundice, may be a symptom of vitamin B-12 deficiency.

Jaundice develops when a person’s body is not able to produce enough red blood cells. Red blood cells circulating under the skin provide it with its normal color. Without enough of these cells, the skin may look pale.

Vitamin B-12 plays a role in the production of red blood cells. A vitamin B-12 deficiency can cause a lack of red blood cells, or megaloblastic anemia, which has an association with jaundice.

This type of anemia can also weaken the red blood cells, which the body then breaks down more quickly. When the liver breaks down red blood cells, it releases bilirubin. Bilirubin is a brownish substance that gives the skin the yellowish tone that is characteristic of jaundice.

4. Fatigue

Megaloblastic anemia due to vitamin B-12 deficiency may lead to a person feeling fatigued.

Without enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around their body, a person can feel extremely tired.

5. Fast heart rate

A fast heart rate may be a symptom of vitamin B-12 deficiency.

The heart may start to beat faster to make up for the reduced number of red blood cells in the body.

Anemia puts pressure on the heart to push a higher volume of blood around the body and to do it more quickly. This response is the body’s way of trying to ensure that enough oxygen circulates through all of the body’s systems and reaches all the organs.

6. Shortness of breath

Anemia that results from vitamin B-12 deficiency may cause a person to feel a little short of breath. It is possible to link this to a lack of red blood cells and a fast heartbeat.

Anyone who is experiencing real difficulty breathing should see a doctor straight away.

7. Mouth pain

Vitamin B-12 affects oral health. As a result, being deficient in vitamin B-12 may cause the following mouth problems:

  • glossitis, which causes a swollen, smooth, red tongue
  • mouth ulcers
  • a burning sensation in the mouth

These symptoms occur because vitamin B-12 deficiency causes a reduction in red blood cell production, which results in less oxygen reaching the tongue.

8. Problems thinking or reasoning

Vitamin B-12 deficiency may cause problems with thinking, which doctors refer to as cognitive impairment. These issues include difficulty thinking or reasoning and memory loss.

One study even linked low vitamin B-12 levels to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.

The reduced amount of oxygen reaching the brain might be to blame for the thinking and reasoning problems.

9. Irritability

Being deficient in vitamin B-12 can affect a person’s mood, potentially causing irritability or depression.

There is a need for more research into the link between vitamin B-12 and mental health. One theory is that vitamin B-12 helps break down a brain chemical called homocysteine. Having too much homocysteine in the brain may cause mental health problems.

10. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

Vitamin B-12 deficiency can affect the digestive tract.

A lack of red blood cells means that not enough oxygen reaches the gut. Insufficient oxygen here may lead to a person both feeling and being sick. It may also cause diarrhea.

11. Decreased appetite and weight loss

As a result of digestive problems, such as nausea, people with vitamin B-12 deficiency may lose their appetite. A decreased appetite can lead to weight loss in the long term.

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Vitamin B complex sources and deficiencies

Thiamin (B1)

Thiamin is also known as vitamin B1. It helps to convert glucose into energy and has a role in nerve function.

Good sources of thiamin

  • wholemeal cereal grains
  • seeds (especially sesame seeds)
  • legumes
  • wheatgerm 
  • nuts
  • yeast 
  • pork.

In Australia, it’s mandatory that white and wholemeal flour used for bread is fortified with thiamin. 

Thiamin deficiency 

Thiamin deficiency is generally found in countries where the dietary staple is white rice. Deficiencies in the Western world are generally caused by excessive alcohol intake and/or a very poor diet. Symptoms include – confusion, irritability, poor arm or leg (or both) coordination, lethargy, fatigue and muscle weakness.

Beriberi is a condition caused by thiamin deficiency and affects the cardiovascular, muscular, gastrointestinal and nervous systems. It can be classified as ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ beriberi. ‘Dry’ beriberi affects the nervous symptom while ‘wet’ beriberi affects the cardiovascular system. 

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (also called ‘wet brain’) is another thiamin-deficiency disease linked to alcohol excess and a thiamin-deficient diet. Alcohol reduces thiamin absorption in the gut and increases its excretion from the kidneys. 

Riboflavin (B2)

Riboflavin is primarily involved in energy production and helps vision and skin health.

Good sources of riboflavin

  • milk
  • yoghurt
  • cottage cheese
  • wholegrain breads and cereals
  • egg white
  • leafy green vegetables
  • meat
  • yeast
  • liver
  • kidney.

Niacin (B3)

Niacin is essential for the body to convert carbohydrates, fat and alcohol into energy. It helps maintain skin health and supports the nervous and digestive systems. Unlike other B-group vitamins, niacin is very heat stable and little is lost in cooking.

Good sources of niacin

  • meats
  • fish
  • poultry
  • milk
  • eggs
  • wholegrain breads and cereals
  • nuts
  • mushrooms 
  • all protein-containing foods.

Niacin deficiency (pellagra)

People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol or live on a diet almost exclusively based on corn are most at risk of pellagra. Others causes are associated with digestive problems where the body does not absorb niacin efficiently.

The main symptoms of pellagra are commonly referred to as the three Ds – dementia, diarrhoea and dermatitis. This disease can lead to death if not treated.

Excessive niacin intake

Large doses of niacin produce a drug-like effect on the nervous system and on blood fats. While favourable changes in blood fats are seen, side effects include – flushing, itching, nausea and potential liver damage.

Pantothenic acid (B5)

Pantothenic acid is needed to metabolise carbohydrates, proteins, fats and alcohol as well as produce red blood cells and steroid hormones.

Good sources of pantothenic acid

Pantothenic acid is widespread and found in a range of foods, but some good sources include liver, meats, milk, kidneys, eggs, yeast, peanuts and legumes.

Pantothenic acid deficiency

Because pantothenic acid is found in such a wide variety of foods, deficiency is extremely rare. 

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

Pyridoxine is needed for protein and carbohydrate metabolism, the formation of red blood cells and certain brain chemicals. It influences brain processes and development, immune function and steroid hormone activity.

Good sources of pyridoxine

  • cereal grains 
  • legumes
  • green and leafy vegetables
  • fish and shellfish
  • meat and poultry
  • nuts
  • liver 
  • fruit.

Pyridoxine deficiency

Pyridoxine deficiency is rare. People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol, women (especially those on the contraceptive pill), the elderly and people with thyroid disease the most at risk. 

Excessive pyridoxine intake

Pyridoxine toxicity is mostly due to supplementation and can lead to harmful levels in the body that can damage the nerves. 

Biotin (B7)

Biotin (B7) is needed for energy metabolism, fat synthesis, amino acid metabolism and glycogen synthesis. High biotin intake can contribute to raised blood cholesterol levels.

Good sources of biotin

  • liver
  • cauliflower
  • egg yolks
  • peanuts
  • chicken
  • yeast 
  • mushrooms.

Biotin deficiency

Biotin deficiency is very rare – it’s widely distributed in foods and only required in small amounts. Over-consumption of raw egg whites over periods of several months (by bodybuilders, for example) can induce deficiency because a protein in the egg white inhibits biotin absorption. 

Folate or folic acid (B9)

Folate, or folic acid (the synthetic form of folate which is used extensively in dietary supplements and food fortification) is needed to form red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. It helps the development of the foetal nervous system, as well as DNA synthesis and cell growth. Women of child-bearing age need a diet rich in folate for this reason. 

If planning a pregnancy or in the first trimester of pregnancy, you should visit your doctor to make sure you’re getting enough folate. This is important to reduce the risks of neural tube defects such as spina bifida in the baby. 

Good sources of folate

  • green leafy vegetables
  • legumes
  • seeds
  • liver
  • poultry
  • eggs
  • cereals
  • citrus fruits. 

Since 2009, all bread sold in Australia (except organic) has been fortified with folic acid.

Excessive folic acid intake

Although folic acid is generally considered non-toxic, excessive intakes above 1,000 mg per day over a period of time can lead to malaise, irritability and intestinal dysfunction. The main risk with excessive folate intake is that it can mask a vitamin B12 deficiency, so it’s best to consume these two vitamins within the recommended amounts.

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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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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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Best Food Sources of Vitamin B and signs of its deficiency

B vitamins 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. Here are 15 best sources of Vitamin B. Vitamin B is found in a variety of foods such as meat, wholegrains, and fruits. Here are Best Food Sources of Vitamin B and signs of its deficiency.

Best sources of Vitamin B

Get all eight B vitamins ​from a variety of foods:

  1. Whole grains (brown rice, barley, millet)
  2. Meat (red meat, poultry, fish)
  3. Eggs and dairy products (milk, cheese)
  4. Legumes (beans, lentils)
  5. ​Seeds and nuts (sunflower seeds, almonds)
  6. Dark, leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach, kai lan)
  7. Fruits (citrus fruits, avocados, bananas)

Signs of vitamin B deficiency

The most common signs of vitamin B deficiency, specific to individual B vitamins, are given below:

Vitamin B6 deficiency:

  1. Anaemia
  2. Skin disorders such as seborrheic dermatitis
  3. Inflammation of the mouth (oral ulcers)
  4. Soreness and cracks at the corners of the mouth, chapped lips
  5. Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
  6. Irritability, confusion and depression

Vitamin B9 deficiency (folate or folic acid):

  1. Anaemia
  2. Increased risk of birth defect (in pregnancy)
  3. Mood changes (irritability, forgetfulness)
  4. Sore mouth and diarrhoea

Vitamin B12 deficiency

  1. Anaemia
  2. Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
  3. Memory lapses
  4. Mood changes (mental confusion, agitation)
  5. Unsteadiness and poor muscle coordination

Vitamin B2

The signs and symptoms of riboflavin deficiency (also known as ariboflavinosis) include

  1. Skin disorders
  2. Hyperemia (excess blood) and edema of the mouth and throat
  3. Angular stomatitis (lesions at the corners of the mouth)
  4. Cheilosis (swollen, cracked lips)
  5. Hair loss,
  6. Reproductive problems
  7. Sore throat
  8. Itchy and red eyes, and degeneration of the liver and nervous system

While a vitamin B supplement may be beneficial in certain cases, it’s always best to seek dietary sources first and to discuss any supplements you want to take with your healthcare professional.

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15 Best sources of Vitamin B

B vitamins 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. Here are 15 best sources of Vitamin B.

1. Hard Boiled Eggs

Hard boiled eggs pack in all the B vitamins. One or two hard boiled eggs with breakfast or lunch will contain B12, B6, biotin, folate, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and niacin.

2. Milk

Looking to sip your B vitamins rather than chew? A cup of milk accounts for around 29% of the daily recommendation for riboflavin, nearly half the recommendation for vitamin B12, along with B6, biotin, niacin, thiamin, and pantothenic acid. (If you’re lactose-intolerant, oat milk is a great vitamin B-rich alternative.)

3. Beef Liver

Beef liver is a vitamin B12 powerhouse, containing around 1000 percent of the recommended daily intake in one serving. You’ll also get 75 percent of the recommended intake of niacin, along with pantothenic acid, folate, biotin, and B6.

4. Oranges

If you’re looking for fruit with a decent amount of B vitamins, oranges are a good choice. This citrus contains folate, B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid.

5. Beef

Beef is a great source for all your B vitamins: B12, B6, biotin, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, and pantothenic acid.

6. Chickpeas

Hummus lovers will be pleased to hear that chickpeas are packed with B vitamins, including vitamin B6, folate, thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin.

7. Dark Leafy Greens

Spinach and other dark leafy greens are a great source of numerous B vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, and folate.

8. Fortified Nutritional Yeast

A great option for non-meat eaters who are looking to up their B12 intake, fortified nutritional yeast contains up to 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin B12, though the actual amount will vary depending on the specific product. It also contains vitamin B6,  biotin, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.

9. Whole Grains

Containing thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate, whole grains like brown rice and barley are some of the most commonly recommended sources of B vitamins. Many whole grains are also fortified with folate, which is important during pregnancy.

10. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a great vegetarian source of various B vitamins, including folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, biotin, and vitamin B6.

11. Bananas

Bananas are an easy, on-the-go source of B6, folate, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.

12. Lentils

For tiny legumes, lentils contain a whole lot of B vitamins. Whipping up a pot for the week will help you maintain proper levels of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate.

13. Carrots

Raw carrots contain thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, and vitamin B6. Whether tossed in a salad or dipped in hummus, carrots are a pretty good way to consume some vitamin B, especially if you’re looking for something light.

14. Almonds

If your go-to snack of choice is nuts (and you’re also after some vitamin B), grab a handful of almonds, which contain riboflavin, biotin, thiamin, niacin, folate, and vitamin B6.

15. Avocado

Great news to everyone in the avocado toast fan club: Avocado is an excellent source of numerous B vitamins, including vitamin B6, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, biotin, and pantothenic acid.

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