Table of Contents
Before we begin explaining the characteristics of B vitamins, we need to emphasize the following – B vitamins are interrelated – it is almost useless to take any one separate vitamin B supplement. B vitamins work together to deliver various health benefits.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
Vitamin B1 is important for turning carbohydrates into energy (especially in the brain). Apart from carbohydrates, B1 also metabolizes fats and proteins.
This vitamin is essential for the production of the neurotransmitter that is used to relay messages between the nerves and muscles in order to ensure a proper cardiac function. In a word, vitamin B1 is necessary to maintain normal heart function and proper formation of blood.
We need vitamin B1 in order to maintain a healthy nervous system. This vitamin regulates the transmission of particular nerve signals along the brain and the spinal cord.
Vitamin B1 is also necessary for the digestive system – it helps in the secretion of hydrochloric acid that aids in the complete digestion of food particles.
As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin B1 helps us protect the body from signs of aging and other age-related conditions.
Thiamine improves memory, concentration, and learning capacity.
Since it is expelled through urine, one needs to consume the necessary amount of this vitamin, and the minimum daily amount is 1.2 mg.
Food sources of vitamin B1 include brown rice, asparagus, kale, eggs, cauliflower, beans, peas, pork, oatmeal, and whole grains.
Deficiency of vitamin B1 causes a disorder of the nervous system and the heart.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Riboflavin plays an important role in the production of the energy. It helps with processing the amino acids and fats in the body, and it breaks down the carbohydrates.
As an antioxidant, it slows down the aging, maintain the healthy skin (prevents acne, eczema, dermatitis), and helps remove harmful free radicals from the body. It helps the wounds to heal more quickly as well.
Vitamin B2 is used as prevention against severe migraines and it plays a significant role in the treatment of anemia.
Riboflavin maintains healthy eyes, and clear vision, and it prevents cataracts.
It is essential for the protection of the immune system because it strengthens the antibody activities and body defenses.
Vitamin B2 regulates thyroid function and it is used in the treatment of anxiety, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Food rich in vitamin B2 include milk, cheese, oily fish, spinach, eggs, almonds, green peas, and organ meats (liver, kidneys, and heart). Recommended daily intake is 1.3 mg.
Deficiency of riboflavin causing burning and itching eyes, red and cracked lips, mouth and tongue sores, and dermatitis.
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
One of the most important health benefits of niacin is decreasing the risk of heart diseases and helping with lowering bad cholesterol.
Niacin can reduce the risk of type-1 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cataracts and osteoarthritis.
Studies showed that niacin is beneficial for the nervous and digestive system.
Food rich in niacin include whole grains, beans, tuna, salmon, mackerel, chicken, beef, lam, corn, and peanuts. The recommended daily intake is 16 mg for men and 14 mg for women.
Deficiency of niacin can cause diarrhea, dermatitis, and dementia. Symptoms include anxiety, confusion, tremors, weakness, and skin rash. Large doses (over 1,000 mg) can cause liver damage.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
Pantothenic acid is used in treatments of yeast infections, respiratory disorders, asthma, allergies, acne, baldness, colitis, conjunctivitis, and cystitis. Vitamin B5 can help treat depression, anxiety, physical stress, insomnia, and alcoholism.
Vitamin B5 is necessary for the proper use of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids.
Minimum daily intake is 10 mg. Food sources are raw mushroom, lentils, whole grains, avocado, peanuts, chicken, and yeast. The deficiency of this vitamin is extremely rare.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
We need vitamin B6 for healthy brain and nerve function, formation of red blood cells, and for breaking down and digesting proteins.
Deficiency of vitamin B6 includes depression, confusion, irritability, sore tongue, morning sickness, arthritis, anemia, and impaired nerves. Deficiency can also trigger heart disease and kidney stone formation.
Recommended daily intake is 1.7 mg, and foods rich in vitamin B6 include bananas, avocado, spinach, chicken, eggs, pork, fish, and eggs.
Doses over 300 mg per day for a long period can cause nerve damage.
Vitamin B7 (biotin)
Biotin is essential for the growth and replication of the cells. It provides benefits for metabolic activity, heart problems, and weight loss. One of the important roles is the maintenance of the healthy blood sugar level.
Food sources of biotin include cucumber, cabbage, cauliflower, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, onions, eggs, milk, raspberries, strawberries, and walnuts.
The daily intake is 30 mcg and the deficiency can include hair loss, muscle pain, loss of appetite and nausea, although deficiency is very rare.
Vitamin B9 (folate)
Consumption of vitamin B9 reduces the risk of a neural tube defect. It helps with the production of healthy red blood cells and prevents anemia.
Studies showed that folic acid also helps with digestion.
Vitamin B9 helps with depression, anxiety and strengthens the nervous system. It is used to lower the risk of heart diseases and lung cancer as well.
One can find vitamin B9 in spinach, lettuce, turnip greens, dried beans and peas, sunflower seeds, liver, peanuts, avocados and asparagus. The minimum recommended daily intake is 400 mg.
Deficiency of this vitamin can cause headaches, weakness, irritability, and loss of weight and appetite.
Toxicity is rare; however, one should avoid fortified foods because a large amount of folic acid (more than 1,000 mcg per day) can cause dementia, and serious damage to the nervous system.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
This vitamin helps reduce the depression and stress, thus maintain the nervous system healthy. Consumption of this vitamin will help the digestive system function properly. It is also essential for the protection against heart diseases and for healthy skin, nails, and hair – it helps with the production of the cells and renewal of the skin.
Food rich in vitamin B12 include fish, eggs shellfish, liver and organ meats and most dairy products. Minimum recommended amount per day is 2.4 mg.
Deficiency of this vitamin can cause anemia, and increased risk of heart diseases.
When consuming 20 mg per day one can experience rashes, diarrhea, and itching.
If you missed Part I of vitamins series you can click here: “What You Need To Know About Vitamins? Part I“.
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Bruning, N.P. & Lieberman, S. (2007). The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book. Avery Trade.
Silverman, H.M., Romano, J. & Elmer, G. (1999). The Vitamin Book. Bantam.