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Understanding Your B-Complex Vitamins

Understanding Your B-Complex Vitamins

Of the 13 vitamins required by our body, Vitamin B complex is a cluster of 8 vitamins that plays a huge role in keeping us healthy. Vitamin B complex is a water-soluble vitamin that is not stored in the body and as such needs to be replenished on a regular basis. The body absorbs the required vitamins and discards the excess through urine. 

Vitamin B complex is a collection of 8 vitamins - Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic Acid (B5), Pyridoxine (B6), Biotin (B7), Folate (B9) and Cobalamin (B12). Though each of these vitamins has unique functions, they generally help your body produce energy and make important molecules in your cells. 

  1. Vitamin B1 - Also known as Thiamine, this vitamin
  • Boosts immune system
  • Aids healthy skin, hair, and muscles
  • Improves the nerve function
  • Helps release energy from foods 

Vitamin B1 is stored in the body for a short time before excretion, and as such a regular dietary intake is necessary to maintain proper blood levels.1

 The recommended daily intake (RDI) for adults over eighteen years of age is 1.2 mg/day for men and 1.1 mg/day for women.1

 Deficiency of Vitamin B1 can cause Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) and beriberi.

Nuts, brown rice, whole grains and pulses, soybeans, cereals, vegetables, oranges and meat products - beef, pork, poultry are high in Vitamin B1.

 Vitamin B2 - Also known as Riboflavin, this vitamin

  • Boosts immune system
  • Improves absorption of iron in the body, thereby reducing the chances of anemia
  • Reduces the risk of various forms of cancer
  • Reduces the risk of cataract
  • Reduces the risk of PMS2

 The body absorbs riboflavin and stores only small amounts of it in the liver, heart, and kidneys. When excess amounts are consumed, they are either not absorbed or the small amount that is absorbed is excreted in the urine. 

The recommended daily intake (RDI) for adults over eighteen years of age is 1.3 mg/day for men and 1.0 mg/day for women.3

 Deficiency of Vitamin B2 can cause endocrine abnormalities, increase the risk of cancer and cataract.

Milk, yogurt, cheese, banana, vegetables such as green beans, lady’s finger and asparagus, meat, fish, eggs are some good sources of Vitamin B2.

  1. Vitamin B3 - Also known as Niacin, this vitamin
  • Converts food to energy
  • Increases metabolism
  • Guards against neurodegenerative diseases
  • Helps lower cholesterol4

 Niacin is absorbed primarily in the small intestine, but some of it is absorbed in the stomach as well. Sometimes, a little more niacin is taken up by red blood cells to form a circulating reserve pool.  The rest is, however, is excreted through urine.

 The recommended daily intake (RDI) for adults over eighteen years of age is 16 mg NE*/day for men and 14 mg NE/day for women.4

 Deficiency of Vitamin B3 can cause pellagra, a disease characterized by a pigmented rash or brown discoloration on skin exposed to sunlight.

 Milk, whole grains and pulses, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, asparagus, carrot, broccoli, mushroom and meat - liver, heart, kidney, chicken, beef, fish are some good sources of Vitamin B3.

 Vitamin B5 - Also known as Pantothenic Acid, this vitamin

  • Converts food to energy
  • Maintains a healthy nervous system and liver
  • Aids in healthy skin, hair, and eyes
  • Aids digestion

 The recommended daily intake (RDI) for adults over eighteen years of age is 5mg/day for both men and women.5

The deficiency of Vitamin B5 is very rare and is usually seen in people with severe malnutrition. However, if someone does have a Vitamin B5 deficiency, it is usually accompanied by deficiencies in other nutrients, making it difficult to identify the effects that are specific to Vitamin B5 deficiency.

Mushrooms, legumes and lentils, avocados, milk, white and sweet potatoes, whole-grain cereals, cabbage, organ meats such as liver and kidneys, eggs, and yeast are some good sources of Vitamin B5. 

  1. Vitamin B6 - Also known as Pyridoxine, this vitamin
  • Improves immune function
  • Reduces heart diseases
  • Aids in regulating mood 

Vitamin B6 is not stored by the body and so has to be taken every day. Just like the other vitamins, B6 is also excreted in the urine. The recommended daily intake (RDI) for adults over eighteen years of age is 1.3mg/day for men and 1.2 mg/day for women.6

The deficiency of Vitamin B6 can lead to anemia and depression. 

Vitamin B6 is widely present in many foods, including meat, fish, nuts, beans, grains, fruits, and vegetables. 

  1. Vitamin B7 - Also known as Biotin, this vitamin
  • Converts food to energy
  • Aids in the metabolism of fats and proteins
  • It helps the eyes, liver, and nervous system function properly. 

The recommended daily intake (RDI) for adults over eighteen years of age is 25mcg/day for both men and women.7

Deficiency of Vitamin B7 can lead to skin rashes, hair loss, and brittle nails, seizures, skin infection, depression, and developmental delays in infants. Seeds, nuts, and certain vegetables - sweet potatoes, organ meats, eggs, fish, meat are some food sources that contain Vitamin B7. 

  1. Vitamin B9 - Also known as Folate, this vitamin
  • Converts food to energy
  • Aids in new cell creation
  • Reduces heart diseases and cancer
  • Produces DNA and RNA

 Folate is absorbed by the small intestine and excess is excreted in the urine. It is mostly prescribed as a supplement during periods of rapid growth such as pregnancy, infancy, and adolescence. 

The recommended daily intake (RDI) for adults over eighteen years of age is 400mcg DFE**/day for both men and women.8

 Vitamin B9 deficiency causes anemia and birth defects in children.

 Spinach, liver, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts have the highest folate levels. Dark green leafy vegetables, fruits and fruit juices, nuts, beans, peas, seafood, eggs, dairy products, meat, poultry, and grains are some food sources that contain Vitamin B9. 

  1. Vitamin B12 - Also known as Cobalamin, this vitamin
  • Reduces heart diseases
  • Helps make RBC
  • Breaks down amino acids and fatty acids

 The recommended daily intake (RDI) for adults over eighteen years of age is 2.4 mcg/day for both men and women.9

 Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to megaloblastic anemia, numbness, and tingling in the hands and feet, depression, and dementia.

 Vitamin B12 is generally not present in plant foods, but fortified breakfast cereals are a readily available source of vitamin B12. It is naturally found in animal products - fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products. 

 While a balanced diet is always the best way to keep your vitamin B complex in check, there are many supplements available for one to reap the benefits. The supplements/tablets for Vitamin B complex, are available in any pharmacy/medical store and contain all the above-mentioned vitamins in one single tablet. However, it is a good idea to supplement one’s diet with a dose of these tablets after a consultation with your doctor. 

Ref:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482360/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7037471/
https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Riboflavin-HealthProfessional/#en3
https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Niacin-HealthProfessional/
https://www.livescience.com/51640-b5-pantothenic-acid.html
https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional/
https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Biotin-HealthProfessional/
https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/#h5
https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/#h5 

     *NE - Niacin Equivalent

    **DFE - Dietary Folate Equivalents 

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