Vitamin B

Vitamin B Complex – what you need to know!

The vitamin-B complex is a group of natural compounds that are essential for how the body produces energy from the diet. Each individual B vitamin is involved in a variety of key metabolic processes, which in their absence the human body would not function.

The vitamin B-complex is a family of eight vitamins that together are essential for optimal health and wellbeing. These include: thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine hydrochloride (B6), biotin (B7), folic acid (B9), and cyanocobalamin (B12).

Each of the B vitamins has unique, yet closely related, functions associated with energy production. This includes functioning as a co-factor or co-enzyme in cellular reactions that either produce energy or assist in the creation of precursors for other equally important reactions.

Anabolic and Catabolic Reactions

Metabolic reactions in the human body can either be referred to as catabolic or anabolic. Catabolic reactions are how the body breaks down complex molecules into simpler compounds. Anabolic reactions on the other hand refer to chemical reactions that combine simpler molecules into more complex compounds.

Each metabolic reaction, whether it is anabolic or catabolic, is catalyzed by specific enzymes that help the reaction to take place in the correct manner. Many of these enzymes also require co-factors or co-enzymes to help drive the reaction forward.

For example, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid are all essential co-enzymes that are absolutely critical in most catabolic energy production reactions. Without these vitamins there are therefore serious and broad negative health consequences.

Vitamin B Complex Supplement Health Benefits

Vitamin B complex supplements help catalyze important cellular reactions that ensure the optimal functioning of the body. This is of particular importance in organs such as the brain, heart, and muscles, which have a very high-energy demand.

Vitamin-B complex also comes with the following benefits:
  • Supports the ageing brain
  • Reduces stress
  • Supports overall cardiovascular health
  • Stroke prevention
  • Maintain strong and healthy bones
  • Improves hair, skin and nails
  • Increases optimal athletic output

B-Vitamins are recommended for:

  • Stomach and intestinal disorders
  • Increased alcohol consumption
  • Problems during pregnancy and menstruation
  • If you are taking antibiotics and undergo an estrogen therapy
  • If you are taking Antidepressants
  • Haarausfall
  • Nervousness, increased irritability and insomnia
  • Poor Nutrition
  • High stress
  • Regular sports
  • Lack of concentration
  • Trembling
  • Smokers

Vitamin B1 – Thiamine

Thiamine is commonly known as vitamin B1 and is a nutritional requirement necessary for normal growth and development. It is a water-soluble vitamin that is found in many foods but is particularly enriched in foodstuffs such as pork, liver, cereals, yeast extract and some green vegetables.

Thiamine is fundamental in helping the body convert carbohydrates and proteins into energy and is active in many different cellular reactions associated with energy metabolism. In fact, energy metabolism is absolutely dependent on the amount of thiamine present in the body and a deficiency in vitamin B1 will result in disease.

The classic syndrome associated with thiamine deficiency is beriberi, a reversible disease that is characterized by autonomic dysfunction (sweating, unstable pulse, attention issues). Thiamine cannot be stored in the body and therefore it is recommended to consume this vitamin on a daily basis to prevent this disease.

Vitamin B1 has also been observed to have a positive impact on emotions and mood. Low vitamin B1 levels can result in irritability, anxiety and other mood problems. In addition, studies have also shown that thiamine treatment can be used to treat patients with mild anxiety disorders.

Although vitamin B1 deficiency is rare in developed countries, it is a common problem in alcoholics. Drinking too much alcohol can prevent the absorption of vitamin B1 in the gut, which can result in serious nervous, gut and muscular problems.

Thiamine

  • Helps the body produce energy from the diet
  • Supports healthy brain function
  • Improves emotional state
  • Helps maintain a positive mood
  • Improves eye health
  • Supports cardiac function
  • Supports healthy gut
  • Prevents thiamine deficiency in diabetes

Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin

Riboflavin is known as vitamin B2 and is an essential B vitamin that also plays a major role in cellular energy production. Riboflavin is a major component of two co-enzymes that catalyze multiple reactions. This includes energy production, cell growth and development as well as the metabolism of fat.

The major source of riboflavin is from the diet, with beef, fish, cereals, dairy, mushrooms, and almonds all being enriched in riboflavin. However, vegans who do not consume any meat or diary are at risk of being deficient in riboflavin. This is also true for athletes, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers where the need is greater than normal.

Bacteria in the gut do produce some riboflavin, which is then subsequently absorbed into the bloodstream. However, the amount of riboflavin produced will depend on the diet. Here, studies suggest that more riboflavin is produced by this bacteria if the diet is enriched in vegetables rather than meat.

Riboflavin is also necessary in how the cell produces vitamin B3, or niacin. The conversion of the amino acid tryptophan into niacin requires riboflavin and without it, this reaction will not take place.

Riboflavin

  • helps produce cellular energy
  • supports niacin synthesis
  • may help with severity of migraines
  • helps protecting DNA from carcinogenic damage

Vitamin B3 – Niacin

Niacin, also known as nicotinic acid and more commonly known as vitamin B3, is an essential micronutrient that is naturally present in some foods, fortified in others and available as a dietary supplement. It can be found in many foodstuffs, including meat, fish, and eggs as well as fortified foods such as some cereal or grain products.

The function of niacin is predominantly to be part of two coenzymes that catalyze key cellular metabolic reactions. These coenzymes are NAD and NADP and are vital for producing energy in the cell. These coenzymes are also vital for many biochemical reactions including DNA repair among many others.

Vitamin B3 is a water-soluble vitamin meaning that it is not stored in the body and therefore requires daily intake to meet dietary requirements.

Supplements of vitamin B3 come as nicotinamide or nicotinic acid and can help provide the following health benefits:

  • Helps support cellular energy production
  • Supports cardiovascular health by lowering bad cholesterol levels
  • Helps preventing cancer through maintaining DNA repair

Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic Acid

Pantothenic acid, or as it is more commonly known as, vitamin B5, is a water-soluble vitamin that is also essential for the breakdown of food into energy. More specifically, vitamin B5 is required to make the precursor coenzyme A, which is required for a variety of biochemical reactions.

Pantothenic acid as a precursor for coenzyme A plays a major role in the synthesis of fatty acids, which is how the body generates energy from the metabolism of dietary fat. Coenzyme A is also necessary for other important biochemical reactions such as the production of steroid hormones, vitamin A, vitamin D and cholesterol.

Naturally occurring vitamin B5 is found in many foodstuffs, including meat, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes and root vegetables. Whole grains are also a good source of vitamin B5, however, processing and refining processes strip these foodstuffs of many nutrients, including vitamin B5.

Vitamin B5 supplements often come stabilized with minerals such as calcium and sodium, however, once absorbed, these supplements are rapidly converted into pantothenic acid.

Vitamin B5 supplements come with the following natural health benefits:

  • Helps support optimal cellular energy production
  • Helps to regulate cholesterol and lipid levels in the blood
  • May help speed up skin wound healing

Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine

Pyridoxine , and its derivatives, are known as vitamin B6, and are one of the most essential vitamins required for the human body to function. Vitamin B6 plays a critical role as a coenzyme for over 100 enzymes that are crucial for many different types of biochemical reactions.

Essential biological processes in the human body that use vitamin B6 as a co-enzyme include: the biosynthesis of hemoglobin, the release of glucose from glycogen, the generation of glucose from amino acids, and amino acid and fatty acid metabolism.

Vitamin B6 is also a very important co-enzyme in the brain where it is necessary for the biosynthesis of many important neurotransmitters, including: dopamine and serotonin. This is important considering that vitamin B6 levels are low in people with different mental disorders and is therefore likely to be a significant risk factor.

Vitamin B6 supplementation has been successfully used to help improve treatment of people with depression as well as reduce symptoms associated with schizophrenia.

In addition, supplementation with vitamins such as B6, B12 and folate have been suggested to improve cognitive function in people with neurodegenerative disorders. Although more studies are required, B-vitamin deficiencies are common in the elderly and this may contribute to age-associated cognitive decline.

Pyridoxine

  • supports proper metabolism of amino acids and glycogen
  • supports the brain
  • supports red blood cell formation
  • improves cognitive performance
  • may help reduce the risk of developing depression in later life
  • may benefit women in the management of PMS

Vitamin B7 – Biotin

Vitamin B7, or biotin as it is more commonly known, is an essential micronutrient that cannot be synthesized by humans or animals. As biotin is a water-soluble vitamin, it also cannot be stored in the body, however, it is widely found in a variety of foods including cereals, vegetables, and eggs.

Biotin’s function in the body is to bind, or biotinylate, important proteins and acts as a cofactor that gives these modified proteins their biological activity. The biotin attachment is known as a prosthetic group and is an important step in many biochemical reactions.

Biotin-containing enzymes include various carboxylases that are involved in the metabolism of amino acids, fatty acids and cholesterol. These metabolic pathways are crucial in how the body converts food into energy. In addition, studies have observed that biotin is an important and necessary factor in glucose metabolism.

The process of biotinylation is also a necessary step in the modification and regulation of how DNA is packaged in the nucleus of the cell. Biotinylation occurs at very specific sites and is a known factor in how the cell is able to regulate gene expression.

Many scientists suggest that in addition to folic acid, biotin should be provided in adequate amounts to pregnant women so as to ensure there are no malformations in the developing fetus.

Biotin

  • Supports healthy skin, hair and nails
  • Supports carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism
  • Is associated with improvements in diabetes associated glucose intolerance
  • Prevents biotin-associated deformities during fetal development

Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid

Folic acid, or folate, is also known as vitamin B9 and is an important dietary nutrient for the metabolism of amino acids and DNA precursors. Poor folate status in pregnant mothers is infamously associated with its role in deformities in fetal development with neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

In addition to neural tube defects, cardiovascular problems such as congenital anomalies are also a major cause of infant mortality. However, it has also been indicated that the pregnant mother’s folate status may play a role in congenital heart defects developing later in the fetus’ life as an adult.

Folic Acids

  • Prevents and treats Folate deficiency
  • Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Reduces the risk of cancer such as colorectal cancers
  • Ensures proper brain development
  • Maintains optimal cognitive functioning

Vitamin B12 – Cyanocobalamin

Cyanocobalamin or vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin that plays a key role as a cofactor in cellular energy production and in the metabolism of folate. It is a complex compound that is unique due to the presence of the metal ion cobalt in its structure.

Vitamin B12 is synthesized in bacteria and is found in animal products but not plant products. Vitamin B12 is enriched in fish, shellfish, meat, dairy, and eggs. Vegans who remove dairy, milk and eggs from their diet are required to supplement with vitamin B12 to reach their recommended daily amount.

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency results in elevated levels of a compound called homocysteine, which has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Interventional studies with vitamin B12 show, that it can reduce the risk of stroke as well as improve the regulation of vasodilation—a biomarker for vascular health.

Cyanocobalamin

  • Supports cellular energy production
  • Is necessary for healthy red blood cell formation
  • Is necessary for healthy functioning of the digestive system
  • Reduces the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency

Who Should Use Vitamin B Complex Supplements?

  • People with B vitamin deficiencies
  • Pregnant and lactating women
  • The elderly
  • Everyone who is under high stress
  • Professionsl Athletes and those who work out on a regular basis
  • Vegetarians and vegans
  • People who are constantly tired
  • Those who have problem with the growth of their hair and nails
  • Smokers
  • People who drink too much alcohol

Vitamin B Complex Side Effects and Risks

Vitamin B complex supplements are generally considered to be safe and non-toxic with very few side effects reported.

  • May cause an upset stomach and nausea
  • May cause temporary flushing or itching of the skin

Vitamin B Complex Interactions

Drugs like Omeprazole and lansoprazole reduce the absorption of vitamin B12.

Vitamin B Complex Combinations

All of the B vitamins can be combined together to provide complimentary health support

Why Take Vitamin B Complex?

  • Improves energy and muscle performance
  • Supports stable emotions and mood
  • Supports healthy hair, skin and nails
  • To improve resistance to stress

References

  1. Hochman L, Scher R, Meyerson M. Brittle nails: response to daily biotin supplementation. Cutis. 1993; 51(4): 303-305

  2. Selhub J, Bagley L, Miller J, et al. B vitamins, homocysteine, and neurocognitive function in the elderly. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000; 71(2): 614S-620S

  3. Quinlivan E, McParlin J, Mcnulty H, et al. Importance of both folic acid and vitamin B12 in reduction of risk of vascular disease. Lancet. 2002; 359(9302): 227-228

  4. Schwammenthal Y and Tanne D. Homocysteine, B-vitamin supplementation, and stroke prevention: from observational to interventional trials. Lancet Neurol. 2004; 3(8): 493-495

  5. Cornish S and Mehl-Madrona L. The role of vitamins and minerals in psychiatry. Integr Med Insights. 2008; 3: 33-42

  6. Merete C, Falcon L, Tucker K. Vitamin B6 is associated with depressive symptomatology in Massachusetts elders. J Am Coll Nutr. 2008; 27(3): 421-427

  7. Mock DM. Marginal biotin deficiency is common in normal human pregnancy and is highly teratogenic in mice. J Nutr. 2009; 139(1): 154-157

  8. Stough C, Scholey A, Lloyd J, et al. The effect of 90 day administration of a high dose vitamin B-complex on work stress. Human Psychopharm: Clin and Exp. 2011; 26(7): 470-476

  9. Huang T, Chen Y, Yang B, et al. Meta-analysis of B vitamin supplementation on plasma homocysteine, cardiovascular and all-cause mortality. Clin Nutr. 2012; 31(4): 448-454

  10. Douaud G, Refsum H, de Jager C, et al. Preventing Alzheimer's disease-related gray matter atrophy by B-vitamin treatment. PNAS. 2013; 110(23): 9523-9528

  11. Famenini S, Goh C. Evidence for supplemental treatments in androgenetic alopecia. J Drugs Dermatol. 2014; 13(7): 809-812

  12. Kennedy D. B vitamins and the brain: mechanisms, dose and efficacy – a review. Nutrients. 2016; 8(2): 68