B – COMPLEX
WHAT IS B – COMPLEX???
The vitamin B-complex refers to all of the known essential water-soluble vitamins except for vitamin C. These include
- thiamine (vitamin B1),
- riboflavin (vitamin B2),
- niacin (vitamin B3),
- pantothenic acid (vitamin B5),
- pyridoxine (vitamin B6),
- biotin (vitamin B7),
- folic acid (vitamin B9) and the
- cobalamins (vitamin B12).
“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 multi vitamin 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.
THE BENEFITS OF VITAMIN B COMPLEX
Referred to as vitamin B complex, the eight B vitamins — B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12 — play an important role in keeping our bodies running like well-oiled machines.
These essential nutrients help convert our food into fuel, allowing us to stay energized throughout the day. While many of the following vitamins work in tandem, each has its own specific benefits — from promoting healthy skin and hair to preventing memory loss or migraines.
So is it time to start stockpiling B complex? Not necessarily, says registered dietitian, Tanya Zuckerbrot. “Taking a B complex vitamin will not create heightened alertness or energy the way caffeine does,” says Zuckerbrot, author of The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear — with Fiber. The good news? “Chances are the average person is already getting plenty of B vitamins from the food they eat.” Read on to find out why each B vitamin is so important, and make sure you’re eating the right foods to get plenty of them in your diet.
B1 helps the body make healthy new cells. It’s often called an anti-stress vitamin because of its ability to protect the immune system. When carbo-loading (either to prepare for a big race or just because pizza tastes that good), studies say this vitamin is necessary to help break down those simple carbohydrates.
Get it from: Whole grains, peanuts, beans, spinach, kale, blackstrap molasses and wheat germ
This B vitamin works as an antioxidant to help fight free radicals (particles in the body that damage cells) and may prevent early aging and the development of heart disease. Riboflavin is also important for red blood cell production, which is necessary for transporting oxygen throughout the body. Several studies suggest B2 can help stave off migraines, but more research is needed to be sure. And be careful, while sunlight does the body good, ultraviolet light reduces the riboflavin content in food sources. Milk, for instance, is best purchased in opaque containers in order to keep this vitamin from breaking down.
Get it from: Almonds, wild rice, milk, yogurt, eggs, Brussels sprouts, spinach and soybeans
One of the primary uses for niacin is to boost HDL cholesterol (i.e. the good cholesterol). And the higher a person’s HDL, the less bad cholesterol he or she will have in their blood. Vitamin B3 deficiency is very rare in developed countries, though alcoholism has been shown to lower B3 levels in some individuals. Niacin, used topically and ingested, has also been found to treat acne.
Get it from: Yeast, red meat, milk, eggs, beans and green vegetables
B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Small amounts of vitamin B5 are found in just about every food group — its name even says so. Pantothenic comes from the Greek word pantothen, meaning “from everywhere.” In addition to breaking down fats and carbs for energy, it’s responsible for the production of sex and stress-related hormones including testosterone. Studies show B5 also promotes healthy skin with the ability to reduce signs of skin aging such as redness and skin spots.
Get it from: Avocados, yogurt, eggs, meat and legumes
Along with fellow B vitamins 12 and 9, B6 helps regulate levels of the amino acid homocysteine (associated with heart disease). Pyridoxine is a major player in mood and sleep patterns because it helps the body produce serotonin, melatonin and norepinephrine, a stress hormone. Some studies suggest vitamin B6 can reduce inflammation for people with conditions like rheumatioid arthritis.
Get it from: Chicken, turkey, tuna, salmon, lentils, sunflower seeds, cheese, brown rice and carrots
Because of its association with healthy hair, skin and nails, this B vitamin also goes by “the beauty vitamin.” It may help people with diabetes control high blood glucose levels, too. This B vitamin is especially important during pregnancy because it’s vital for normal growth of the baby.
Get it from: Barley, liver, yeast, pork, chicken, fish, potatoes, cauliflower, egg yolks and nuts
You may have heard another name for B9 — folic acid — which is the synthetic form used in supplements and fortified foods like cereal and bread. Studies suggest folate may help keep depression at bay and prevent memory loss. This vitamin is also especially important for women who are pregnant since it supports the growth of the baby and prevents neurological birth defects.
Get it from: Dark leafy greens, asparagus, beets, salmon, root vegetables, milk, bulgur wheat and beans
This B vitamin is a total team player. Cobalamin works with vitamin B9 to produce red blood cells and help iron do its job: create the oxygen carrying protein, hemogloblin. Since vitamin B12 is only found in animal products, studies show higher rates of non-meat eaters with a deficiency. “But unless you are a strict vegan or vegetarian,” Zuckerbrot says, “it’s not hard to get enough of this vitamin in your diet.” For those who are deficient, it may be necessary to supplement the diet with B12.
Get it from: Fish, shellfish, dairy, eggs, beef and pork
SIDE EFFECTS OF VITAMIN B COMPLEX
Vitamin B is used to help maintain proper cell metabolism. It is a water soluble vitamin that the body breaks down through digestion to promote proper bodily function. Originally scientists believed that there was only one B vitamin, but research has shown that there are 8 vitamins in the B vitamin complex: B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic Acid), B6 (Pantothenic Acid), B7 (Biotin), B9 (Folic Acid), and B12 (Cyanocobalamin). Each of these vitamins plays a distinct role in maintaining the human body. Many take vitamin B complex supplements to enhance these natural effects.
Side effects of taking a B vitamin complex are not common, especially if the patient takes the medication as prescribed amount. Taking excessive amounts of a vitamin B complex can cause side effects. An overdose is signaled by: dizziness, frequent urination, change in the color of the urine, black stools, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, redness of the skin and itching.
In severe cases, patients may develop an allergic reaction to their vitamin B complex. If you are taking a B vitamin complex and suddenly experience itching, a rash, kidney stones, swelling, wheezing or hives stop taking the complex right away. If your symptoms persist or you feel as though your reaction is life threatening, contact your physician as soon as possible.