Vitamin B1, or thiamine, is a catalyst in carbohydrate metabolism and helps synthesize nerve-regulating substances. Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, helps metabolize fats, carbohydrates and respiratory proteins. Vitamin B3, or niacin, helps release energy from nutrients. Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid, plays a role in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, helps the body to absorb and metabolize amino acids, use fats and form red blood cells. Vitamin B7, or biotin, helps form fatty acids and assists in releasing energy from carbohydrates. Vitamin B9, or folic acid, enables the body to form hemoglobin—the oxygen-carrying pigment of red blood cells that gives them their red color and supplies oxygen to the tissues. Pregnant women need extra folic acid: it supports the growth of the placenta and fetus and helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spine. Vitamin B12, cobalamin or cyanocobalamin, assists in the function of the nervous system and the formation of red blood cells.
The B vitamins work together to boost metabolism, enhance the immune and nervous systems, keep the skin and muscles healthy, and encourage cell growth and division. Each B vitamin has a unique structure and performs a unique function in the body.
B vitamins are a group of water-soluble vitamins —meaning that our body does not store them so we need to obtain them from food or supplements. We need to regularly replenish most of the B vitamins, as our body excretes any excess through the urine. The B vitamins were once thought to be a single vitamin, but research has shown that it is actually a group of vitamins:
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B3
- Vitamin B5
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B7
- Vitamin B9
- Vitamin B12
Supplements that contain all eight of the B vitamins are generally called “Vitamin B Complex,” while individual B supplements are referred to by the specific name of each vitamin–Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, etc.
B vitamins work both independently and together to help specific conditions.
- Believed to help protect against alcoholism
- Used for depression, stress and anxiety
- Can help improve mental ability
- Can help indigestion
- Works with B5 to help in wound healing
- Works with B2 and B6 to fight recurrent canker sores
- Works with B1 and B6 to fight recurrent canker sores
- Good for skin, nails, eyes, mouth, lips and tongue
- Believed to help protect against cancer
- Can reduce cholesterol
- Can prevent and treat arteriosclerosis—thickening of the vessel walls and accumulation of calcium in the arteries
- Works with B1 to help in wound healing, especially after surgery
- Helps maintain a healthy digestive tract
- Helps the body use other vitamins, especially Vitamin B2
- Works with B1 and B2 to fight recurrent canker sores
- Works with B9 and B12 to control blood levels of homocysteine, which has been linked to increased risk of stroke, osteoporosis, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease
- Can help address high blood glucose levels for people with Type 2 Diabetes
- Has been used to treat alopecia, cancer, Crohn’s disease, hair loss, Parkinson’s disease, peripheral neuropathy, Rett syndrome, seborrheic dermatitis and vaginal candidiasis
- Can help treat anemia
- Used to prevent birth defects
- Can help with depression
- Has been used to treat gingivitis
- Works with Vitamins B6 and B12 to treat high homocysteine
- Works with Vitamins B6 and B19 to treat high homocysteine
- Has been used to treat anemia and pernicious anemia, if the person is found to have a B12 deficiency
- Can help treat people with depression, who are found to be B12 deficient
Vitamin B Complex
- Can help reduce alcohol cravings
- Can reduce the feelings of anxiety, perceived stress and tiredness
- Is needed to produce energy from carbohydrates
- People with inadequate B12 absorption, due to low stomach acid, can supplement with Vitamin B Complex to help with indigestion and heartburn
- Women with PMS can supplement with B Complex to get symptom relief
Signs of Vitamin B Deficiency
Vitamin B1 deficiency can cause heart swelling, leg cramps and muscular weakness. Vitamin B2 deficiency can result in weakness, throat swelling and soreness, swollen tongue, skin cracking (including cracked corners of the mouth), dermatitis and anemia. It can also affect vision and make eyes sensitive to light and easily fatigued. Too little Vitamin B3 can cause pellagra –a disease with symptoms that include sunburn, diarrhea, irritability, swollen tongue and mental confusion. Too much B3 can cause liver damage. Though it is rare to be deficient in Vitamin B5, it can cause fatigue, nausea, allergies, abdominal pain, insomnia, depression, vomiting and upper respiratory infections. Vitamin B6 deficiency can cause skin disorders, dizziness, nausea, anemia, convulsions, kidney stones, muscle weakness, nervousness, irritability, depression, difficulty concentrating and short-term memory loss. It is rare to be significantly deficient in Vitamin B6, but it is more common for people to be mildly deficient, especially children and the elderly. Vitamin B7 deficiency is rare, as daily requirements are relatively small, its food sources are abundant and the body efficiently recycles most of the vitamin that it has already used. Long-term use of certain anti-seizure medications, prolonged oral antibiotic use and eating raw egg whites on a regular basis can cause a B7 deficiency. Deficiency symptoms include seborrheic dermatitis, dry skin, brittle hair, hair loss, fatigue, intestinal tract issues, muscle pains and nervous system issues. Vitamin B9 deficiency is rare, but adequate folic acid is very important during pregnancy to help prevent neural tube defects in newborns, including spina bifida. It is also linked to low birth weight, pregnancy loss, depression, memory loss, cervical dysplasia and anemia. Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms include fatigue, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, numbness, heart palpitations, bleeding gums, mouth sores, nausea, poor appetite and diarrhea.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)of B vitamins for adults is as follows:
- Vitamin B1: 1.5 mg
- Vitamin B2: 1.3 mg
- Vitamin B3: 14-18 mg
- Vitamin B5: 10 mg
- Vitamin B6: 1.3 mg
- Vitamin B7: 30 mcg
- Vitamin B9: 400 mcg (pregnant women should consume 600 mcg)
- Vitamin B12: 2.4 mcg
Vitamin B1 food sources include liver, heart and kidney meats, eggs, leafy green vegetables, nuts, legumes, berries and wheat germ. Vitamin B2 is found in mushrooms, milk, meat, liver, dark green vegetables and enriched pasta and bread. Vitamin B3 food sources include chicken, salmon, tuna, liver, nuts, dried peas and beans. Vitamin B5 is most abundant in eggs, legumes and meat. Pantothenic acid (B5) gets its name from the Greek word “pantos,” meaning “everywhere” because the vitamin is available in a wide variety of foods. Much of the vitamin is lost when food is processed. Fresh meats, vegetables and whole, unprocessed grains have more B5 than refined, canned or frozen food. The best sources of B5 are corn, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, tomatoes, avocados, legumes, lentils, egg yolks, beef, turkey, duck, chicken, milk, split peas, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, whole-grain bread, lobster and salmon. Vitamin B6 is found in whole grains, liver, green beans, spinach, avocados and bananas. Foods rich in Vitamin B7 include organ meats, barley, corn, egg yolks, milk, avocados, broccoli, cauliflower, cheese, chicken, fish, legumes, mushrooms, nuts, pork, potatoes and spinach. Good sources of Vitamin B9 include leafy green vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes, organ meat, asparagus, bananas, melons, lemons and mushrooms, but the vitamin is lost when foods are stored at room temperature or cooked. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal sources like eggs, milk, fish, meat and liver so vegetarians are recommended to supplement this vitamin.
Miami dentists have long recommended that patients take time to learn about vitamin B, vitamin A, and other nutrients that are essential building blocks of overall wellness. For further reading, guests are invited to join the Miami Dentist Blog for this exclusive on What Does Vitamin A Do?