Vitamin B Complex – Its role and why we need them
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are essential to staying alive and having a healthy body. We need about 13 different vitamins and at least 10 minerals to stay alive. This may be the reason why every year people spend money on vitamins, minerals, and other supplements just to ensure they are receiving the right amounts of vitamins the body needs. These vitamins and minerals are also required to ensure that the enzymes, hormones and other substances in the body that produce energy and defend the body are working perfectly.
A vitamin is an organic chemical compound that is required in the body in very small amounts for normal growth, metabolism, and good health. Vitamins also play an important role in producing enzymes and hormones which are important substances the body uses to make all the chemical reactions need to remain alive.
Types of Vitamins
Vitamins can be grouped into two categories,
- Fat-soluble vitamins
- Water-soluble vitamins
The fat-soluble vitamins are A, E, D, and K. These vitamins are stored mostly in the fatty tissues and in the liver. Excess doses of these vitamins can be toxic to the body.
The water-soluble vitamins include all the B vitamins and vitamin C. These are not mostly stored in the body for long periods and any excesses are carried out of the body. Because these vitamins are not stored in the body for long periods, there is the need to regularly supply the body on a daily basis with these vitamins.
Vitamin B Complex
The B vitamins or vitamin b complex are a group of vitamins that work closely together in the body. They are made up of B1 Thiamin, B2 Riboflavin, B3 Niacin, Biotin, B5 Pantothenic Acid, B6 Pyridoxine, Folate and B12 Cobalamin. All of these vitamin b complex vitamins are needed to help the body cells grow and reproduce properly. The primary role of vitamin B is to assist in the production of energy in the body from carbohydrates, fats and protein. Other known functions of vitamin b complex include the conversion of amino acids, synthesis of fatty acids and hormones and provision of antioxidant protection in the body.
Vitamin B1 or Thiamin
This vitamin is required to keep all body cells but more importantly the nerves working right. It is also required for healthy mental functions in addition to its role in energy metabolism. Vitamin B1 helps the heart beat strongly and regularly and also keeps the heart muscles elastic. A deficiency of this vitamin can lead to Beriberi which can cause damage to the nervous system, heart and muscles. Vitamin B1 can be found in pork, liver, fish, oranges, peas and whole grains. High alcohol intake can negatively impact Thiamin in the body.
Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin
Riboflavin functions as a coenzyme in a wide variety of reactions that take place in the body. This plays a critical role in releasing energy from food and also vital for normal growth and development. The body excretes excess riboflavin in urine and does not pose any real toxic threat to the body. Milk, meat, beans, nuts, green leafy vegetables and avocados are good sources of riboflavin.
Vitamin B3 or Niacin
This vitamin also plays an active role in releasing energy from food and detoxifying chemicals in the body. Because it is tied to the release of energy, niacin requirement is related to the amount of energy consumed. Niacin may be linked to lowering high cholesterol levels in the body. Chicken, fish, beans, peas, milk, butter can all be great sources of niacin. Excess doses of niacin (over 1000mg) from supplements can be harmful to the body. Vitamin B3 is not toxic when obtained from foods. It is also known to be heat resistant and is not depleted when exposed to normal cooking.
Vitamins B5 or Pantothenic acid
Together with other B vitamins, Vitamin B5 plays an important role in the breakdown of fats, proteins and carbohydrates into energy. Vitamin B5 can be found in meat, fish, chicken, whole grains and beans.
Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine
Its main role is to work with the amino acids to make proteins that are required by the body to run properly. The Institute of Medicine reports that pyridoxine is needed as a coenzyme in the transamination process, for the decarboxylation and racemization of amino acids, and as the essential coenzyme for glycogen phosphorylase.
Vitamin B7 or Biotin
Biotin helps in the breakdown of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into fuel to be used by the body. It is made by the bacteria living in healthy large intestines and the wall of the large intestines has a specialized process for the uptake of biotin. Liver, oatmeal, eggs, peanut butter, salmon, and bananas are all good sources of biotin. Biotin supplements are good for ensuring healthy levels of biotin in the body.
Click here to read about the Proven Health benefits of biotin
Vitamin B9 or Folic acid
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate. It is used in supplements and for food fortification. Its main job is helping the body cells grow and divide properly. It is an important vitamin required in the prevention of birth defects. There is a strong recommendation that all women of childbearing age who are planning to get pregnant take a daily supplement as it is difficult to achieve the recommended dose from diet alone. Green leafy vegetables, brown rice, peas, and oranges are good sources of folate.
Vitamin B12 or Cobalamin
Vitamin B12 contains cobalt and is also involved in processing carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into energy. It is necessary for healthy red blood cells and may help prevent heart diseases. Red blood cells are required in carrying oxygen and nutrients around the body. Vitamin B12 is also essential for the maintenance of the nervous system and is involved in the synthesis of molecules involved in fatty acid biosynthesis. Low Vitamin B12 or the lack of absorption of Vitamin B12 is usually the main cause of deficiency but not from a lack of intake. Meat, chicken, and fish are all good sources for vitamin b12. To preserve the vitamin in these foods, it’s best not to overcook them as Vitamin B12, for example, is destroyed by microwave cooking. High vitamin b12 levels have been reported to promote healthy heart conditions and reducing the risk of heart attacks. Click here to learn more about the benefits of vitamin b12
The right dietary supplement is a safe, easy and inexpensive way of ensuring that you are getting the right amounts of vitamins and minerals the body requires to perform at optimum levels.
DISCLAIMER: THIS SHOULD BE USED FOR INFORMATION AND EDUCATION PURPOSES. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO TREAT, DIAGNOSE OR PREVENT ANY DISEASE. WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO MAKE YOUR OWN HEALTH CARE DECISIONS BASED ON RESEARCH AND ADVICE FROM A QUALIFIED HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL
Blake, S. (2008). Vitamins and minerals demystified. New York: McGraw-Hill.
nhs.uk. (2019). B vitamins and folic acid. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-b/ [Accessed 1 Apr. 2019].
Pressman, A. and Buff, S. (1997). The complete idiot’s guide to vitamins and minerals. New York: Alpha Books.