The vitamin B complex consists of eight water soluble vitamins. The B vitamins work together to boost metabolism, enhance the immune system and nervous system, keep the skin and muscles healthy, encourage cell growth and division, and other benefits to your body. Brewer’s yeast is one of the best sources of the B vitamins.
B1, known as thiamine, serves as a catalyst in carbohydrate metabolism and helps synthesize nerve-regulating substances. Deficiency can cause heart swelling, leg cramps, and muscular weakness. Rich food sources high in thiamine include liver, heart, and kidney meats, eggs, leafy green vegetables, nuts, legumes, berries, wheat germs, and enriched cereals. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 1.5 mg. Some believe thiamine helps protect against alcoholism and that it is good for depression, stress, and anxiety. It is also said to improve mental ability and to help indigestion.
B2, or riboflavin, helps metabolize fats, carbohydrates, and respiratory proteins. A deficiency can result in skin lesions and light sensitivity. Riboflavins are abundant in mushrooms, milk, meat, liver, dark green vegetables, and enriched cereals, pasta, and bread. The RDA is 1.3 mg for adults. The vitamin is good for the skin, nails, eyes, mouths, lips, and tongue, and it is believed to help protect against cancer.
B3-also known as niacin, vitamin P, or vitamin PP-helps release energy from nutrients. It can reduce cholesterol and prevent and treat arteriosclerosis, among other benefits. Too little B3 can result in pellagra, a disease with symptoms that include sunburn, diarrhea, irritability, swollen tongue, and mental confusion. Too much B3 can result in liver damage. Food sources rich in niacin are chicken, salmon, tuna, liver, nuts, dried peas, enriched cereals, and dried beans. The RDA is 14-18 mg per day for adults.
B5, or Pantothenic acid, has a role in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. It is most abundant in eggs, whole grain cereals, legumes, and meat, although it is found in some quantity in nearly every food. The RDA is 10 mg. Deficiency can result in fatigue, allergies, nausea, and abdominal pain.
Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, helps the body to absorb and metabolize amino acids, to use fats, and to form red blood cells. Deficiency in the vitamin may result in smooth tongue, skin disorders, dizziness, nausea, anemia, convulsions, and kidney stones. Whole grains, bread, liver, green beans, spinach, avocadoes, and bananas are rich food sources that are high in this vitamin. The RDA ranges from 1.3 to 2 mg depending on age and gender.
B7-also known as Biotin or vitamin H, helps form fatty acids and assists in the release of energy from carbohydrates. There have been no cases of deficiency among humans. The RDA is 30 .
B9, or folic acid, sometimes goes by the name of vitamin M or vitamin B-c. Folic acid enables the body to form hemoglobin. It helps treat anemia and sprue. Good food sources include leafy green vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and organ meets. However, bear in mind that folic acid is lost when foods are stored at room temperature or cooked. Deficiency is rare, although folic acid is particularly important in pregnancy. Consuming adequate folic acid before and during pregnancy helps prevent neural tube defects in newborns, including spina bifida. The RDA for both men and women is 400 micrograms, but women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should consume 600 micrograms a day. When breastfeeding, the recommendation is 500 micrograms.
“Vitamin B” was once thought to be a single nutrient that existed in extracts of rice, liver, or yeast. Researchers later discovered these extracts contained several vitamins, which were given distinguishing numbers. Unfortunately, this has led to an erroneous belief among non-scientists that these vitamins have a special relationship to each other. Further adding to confusion has been the “unofficial” designation of other substances as members of the B-complex, such as choline, inositol, and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), even though they are not essential vitamins.
Each member of the B-complex has a unique structure and performs unique functions in the human body. Vitamins B1, B2, B3, and biotin participate in different aspects of energy production, vitamin B6 is essential for amino acid metabolism, and vitamin B12 and folic acid facilitate steps required for cell division. Each of these vitamins has many additional functions. However, contrary to popular belief, no functions require all B-complex vitamins simultaneously.
Human requirements for members of the B-complex vary considerably-from 3 mcg per day for vitamin B12 to 18 mg per day for vitamin B3 in adult males, for example. Therefore, taking equal amounts of each one-as provided in many B-complex supplements-makes little sense. Furthermore, there is little evidence supporting the use of megadoses of B-complex vitamins to combat everyday stress, boost energy, or control food cravings, unless a person has a deficiency of one or more of them. Again, contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence indicating people should take all B vitamins to avoid an imbalance when one or more individual B vitamin is taken for a specific health condition.
Most multivitamin-mineral products contain the B-complex along with the rest of the essential vitamins and minerals. Since they are more complete than B-complex vitamins alone, multiple vitamin-mineral supplements are recommended to improve overall micronutrient intake and prevent deficiencies.