The Complete Guide to B Complex Supplements

Updated on September 5th, 2020
Best B complex Supplements

Vitamins naturally are found in food and are required in minimal amounts for various bodily functions such as making red blood cells and energy production. Our body requires thirteen vitamins, eight of which form the B-complex or (B-group) vitamins.

The B-group vitamins do not offer the body with fuel for energy, even though supplement advertisements often market them so. However, it’s true, though, that without B-complex vitamins, the body lacks strength.

This is because the B-group vitamins are required to help the body to use the energy-yielding nutrients (such as fat, carbohydrates, and protein) for fuel. Other B-group vitamins are necessary to help cells to multiply by making new DNA [1].

Vitamin B supplements

Although vitamin supplements are easily available and might sound like a great idea to take them just in case, it’s essential always to see your physician or a dietitian for advice before beginning. The body only requires meager amounts of vitamins, and most of these needs can be met by taking a nutritious diet.

Taking vitamins that your body does not require can mean, in a best-case scenario, that your body expels out the excess through your urine (so you waste your money). But few vitamins can also be toxic if taken improperly, so you could also be harming your body instead of benefiting it. 

Some B-complex vitamins also work together in the body (for instance, vitamin B12 and folic acid or folate). This means using supplements can sometimes hide deficiencies of other vitamins, which can also cause health issues.

Types of Vitamin B

There are eight types of vitamin B:

  1. B1 (thiamin)
  2. B2 (riboflavin) 
  3. B3 (niacin)
  4. B5 (pantothenic acid) 
  5. B6 (pyridoxine) 
  6. B7 (biotin) 
  7. B9 (‘folic acid’ or folate)when included in supplements 
  8. (B12) cyanocobalamin.

1. Thiamin (B1)

Thiamin is also called vitamin B1. It supports converting glucose into energy and has a role in nerve function [2].

Good sources of thiamin

  • seeds (especially sesame seeds)
  • wholemeal cereal grains
  • wheatgerm 
  • legumes
  • yeast 
  • nuts

[Read: Benefits of Thiamine]

2. B2 (riboflavin) 

B2 is majorly involved in energy production and helps skin health and vision [3].

Good sources of riboflavin

  • yogurt
  • milk
  • wholegrain cereals and bread 
  • cottage cheese
  • leafy green vegetables
  • egg white
  • yeast
  • meat
  • kidney
  • liver.

Ariboflavinosis (Riboflavin deficiency)

Ariboflavinosis or riboflavin deficiency is rare and is usually seen along with other B-complex vitamin deficiencies. People at risk include those who do not drink milk or milk products and consume excessive amounts of alcohol. 

3. B3 (niacin)

B3 is essential for the body to convert fat, carbohydrates, and alcohol into energy. It supports the digestive and nervous systems and helps maintain skin health. Unlike other B-complex vitamins, niacin is very heat stable, and nothing is lost in cooking [4].

Good sources of niacin

  • fish
  • meats
  • milk
  • poultry
  • cereals and wholegrain bread 
  • eggs
  • mushrooms 
  • all protein-containing foods
  • nuts.

Excessive niacin intake

Huge doses of niacin produce a drug-like effect on blood fats and the nervous system. While favorable changes in blood fats are seen, side effects include – itching, flushing, nausea, and potential liver damage.

4. B5 (Pantothenic acid) 

Pantothenic acid is required to metabolize proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and alcohol and produce steroid hormones and red blood cells.

Good sources of pantothenic acid

Pantothenic acid is widespread and found in many foods, but some good sources include meats, liver, kidneys, milk, yeast, eggs, legumes, peanuts.

5. B5 Deficiency

Because pantothenic acid is found in such an array of foods, a deficiency is very rare. 

6. Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) 

Pyridoxine is required for carbohydrate and protein metabolism, including certain brain chemicals and red blood cells. It influences brain development and processes, steroid hormone activity, and immune function [5].

Good sources of pyridoxine

  • legumes
  • cereal grains 
  • fish and shellfish
  • green and leafy vegetables
  • nuts
  • meat and poultry
  • fruit
  • liver.

Pyridoxine Deficiency

Pyridoxine deficiency is rare. People with thyroid disease, who drink too much alcohol, the elderly, and women (particularly those on the contraceptive pill), are the most at risk. 

Excessive Pyridoxine Intake

Pyridoxine toxicity is mainly due to supplementation and can lead to harmful levels in the body that can destroy the nerves. 

[Also Read: How Effective is Vitamin B6 for Morning Sickness]

7. B7 (Biotin) 

B7 Biotin is required for fat synthesis, energy metabolism, glycogen synthesis, amino acid metabolism. High biotin intake can lead to raised blood cholesterol levels

Good sources of biotin

  • cauliflower
  • liver
  • peanuts
  • egg yolks
  • yeast 
  • mushrooms
  • chicken

8. B9 Folic acid or folate   

Folic acid or folate  (the synthetic form of folate used extensively in food fortification and dietary supplements) is needed to form RBC, which transport oxygen around your body. It supports the development of the fetal nervous system, as well as cell growth and DNA synthesis. Women of child-bearing age require a diet dense in folate for this reason. 

If, in the first trimester of pregnancy or planning a pregnancy, you should visit your physician to ensure you’re getting adequate folate. This is vital to minimize the risks of neural tube defects like spina bifida in babies. 

Good sources of folate

  • legumes
  • seeds
  • green leafy vegetables
  • poultry
  • eggs
  • liver
  • citrus fruits.
  • cereals

9. B12 (cyanocobalamin) 

Vitamin B12 or cyanocobalamin helps to maintain and produce the myelin surrounding nerve cells, red blood cell formation, mental ability, and the breaking down of some amino acids and fatty acids to produce energy. Vitamin B12 has a close link with folate, as both depend on each other to work correctly.

Good sources of B12

  • liver
  • meat
  • milk
  • cheese
  • eggs 
  • almost anything of animal origin.

[Also Read: Benefits of Vitamin B12]

Vitamin B12 deficiency

Because vitamin B12 is only found in foods from animal sources, people following strict vegan diets and breastfed babies of vegan mothers, tend to be most commonly affected. Absorption of B12 from the gut also tends to decrease with age, so the elderly are another group who are more at risk of deficiency.

Bottom Line

From regulating the digestive and nervous system, making new cells in our body, reducing the risk of congenital disabilities to promoting red blood cells, B-complex vitamin-enriched supplements should be included in your daily diet.

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