What is vitamin B complex?

Vitamin B family has more than 12 types, human body must have 8 of them which are essential B vitamins, are referred to as a vitamin B complex. Individual B vitamins are grouped by specific names and numbers (e.g. B1, B2, Folic acid etc.).

B vitamins are water-soluble; they dissolve in water and are not stored by the body. Since they are eliminated in urine, we require a continuous daily supply in our diet. B vitamins function as coenzymes that help the body obtain energy from food, they are important for metabolic processes (lipid metabolism, protein metabolism, sugar metabolism). They also play vital roles for skin health, liver health, red blood cell formation, nervous system, and good appetite.

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List of B vitamins and their functions:

Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)

Thiamin was one of the first organic compounds to be recognized as a vitamin in 1930s. It is associated with the metabolism of carbohydrates and branched-chain amino acids (protein); help release energy from foods, promote normal appetite, and support proper nervous system.

Thiamin deficiency: Low calorie diets and diets in high refined and processed carbohydrates may risk vitamin B1 deficiency, as well as alcoholics. Symptoms include bad appetite, muscle weakness, edema, and different types of beriberi.

Daily recommended intake for optimum health: 55mg

Food sources of thiamin: whole grains, eggs, milk, corn flour, spinach, legumes, seeds, lean meat

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Riboflavin is the precursor of the coenzymes which firstly isolated in 1933. It is involved in oxidation-reduction, cellular energy production and numerous metabolic pathways. Benefits include boost energy levels, prevent free radical damage, protect skin and eye health, and keep down homocysteine level which lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Riboflavin deficiency: Not very common in developed countries. Signs of a deficiency can include Anemia, mouth and lips sores or cracks, skin inflammation and disorders, light sensitivity and cataracts.

Daily recommended intake for optimum health: 45mg

Food sources of riboflavin: whole grains, eggs, milk, spinach, legumes, salmon, broccoli, asparagus

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Niacin has been studied extensively and shows positive results treating a wide range of commonly occurring health problems. It is an important vitamin to support digestive health and nervous system, treat pellagra, and boost levels of good HDL cholesterol levels which lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Niacin deficiency: Not very common in developed countries. Signs of a deficiency can include pellagra, digestive disturbances, poor concentration, fatigue, depression, inflammation of the mouth and tongue.

Daily recommended intake for optimum health: 28mg

Food sources of niacin: chicken, tuna, salmon, beef, animal livers, peanut, whole grain, mushrooms

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)

Like the other B vitamins, pantothenic acid plays a vital role in energy metabolism, act as a precursor of coenzyme which required for many biochemical reactions that sustain life. It maintains healthy nerve function, improves mental performance, reduce bad LDL cholesterol, and support immune system.

Pantothenic acid deficiency is very rare, it is ubiquitously found in foods of plant and animal. Symptoms can include headache, fatigue, insomnia, numbness and tingling of hands and feet.

Daily recommended intake for optimum health: 75mg

Food sources of pantothenic acid: high amounts in whole grains, egg yolk, avocado, animal livers, mushrooms

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine, pyridoxal, pyridoxamine)

Vitamin 6 has several derivatives and they are all important compounds involved in essential biological processes, such as sugar and protein metabolism, nervous system function, red blood cell formation, and production of chemicals such as insulin and hemoglobin.

Vitamin B6 deficiency: Alcoholics are thought to be most at risk, signs of a deficiency can include depression, confusion, inflammation of the tongue, and sores or ulcers of the mouth.

Daily recommended intake for optimum health: 40mg

Food sources of vitamin B6: chicken, beef, tuna, salmon, turkey, spinach, banana, hazelnut, potato

Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

Biotin is necessary for cell growth, acts as a coenzyme for the metabolism of amino acids, fatty acids and glucose. It may also be helpful in controlling blood sugar level, maintaining hair, skin and nail health, and protecting brain function.

Biotin deficiency: Although it is very rare, when it does occur symptoms can include hair loss, depression, chronic fatigue, muscle pains, and tingling in the limbs.

Daily recommended intake for optimum health: 250μg

Food sources of biotin: eggs, salmon, cheese, animal livers, avocado, yeast, pork, cauliflower

Vitamin B9 (Folate/Folic acid)

Folate is the natural form found in foods, folic acid is the synthetic form of folate which found in supplements and fortified foods. It is an essential vitamin required for copying and synthesizing nucleic acids (DNA & RNA), producing new cells, support metabolism of amino acids. Pregnancy is a time when the folate requirement is greatly increased to sustain rapid cell replication and growth.

Folate deficiency: Often associated with alcoholic and smoker, signs of a deficiency can include inflammatory bowel diseases, celiac disease, birth defects, anemia, poor digestion, and sores in mouth and tongue.

Daily recommended intake for optimum health: 600μg

Food sources of folate: whole grains, breakfast cereals, beans, asparagus, spinach, spaghetti, salmon

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

Cobalamin has a key role in the production of normal red blood cells, maintenance of the nervous and cardiovascular system, and it is involved in the metabolism of every cell of the body.

Cobalamin deficiency: Cobalamin is found primarily in meat and dairy products, people who are on a strict vegan diet and over age 60 are at risk of deficiency. Symptoms include pernicious anemia, chronic fatigue, neurological disorders, numbness and tingling.

Daily recommended intake for optimum health: 175μg

Food sources of cobalamin: eggs, cheese, milk, fish, meat, animal livers

B vitamins and exercise

Vitamin B complex is needed in greater quantities by those who exercise frequently and in a progress of losing weight. This is due to a variety of bad eating habits, such as eating refined, excessive stew, stir fried and deep fried foods which will lead to many valuable vitamins losses.

Different B vitamin plays a different role in metabolism. For example, vitamin B1 supports the body to convert glucose into energy, accelerate the consumption of glycogen. Vitamin B2 can help fat burning. Vitamin B6 can work together with vitamin B1, which strengthen the muscles, to avoid muscle loss during exercise. Vitamin B12 promotes metabolism; improve fat, sugar, and protein metabolic utilization.

In addition, exercise requires a lot of water consumption, which is likely to cause loss of water soluble vitamins including B vitamins and vitamin C. And during long time aerobic exercise can increase oxidative stress, so it is very important to keep up the antioxidants intake to avoid cellular damages.

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