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Vitamin B complex is a group of B vitamins bundled into a single formula. Although you may see it sold as one supplement, there are eight different nutrients present, each with its own role in promoting health and wellness.
Below, you’ll find an overview of the vitamin B complex and the eight B vitamins that are bound together.
Why Do You Need Vitamin B?
Vitamin B complex has many functions and is vital to your health and wellbeing. Each B vitamin plays its own unique role. However, each one also shares similar features. For example, they are all involved in the metabolism of carbs and proteins, helping convert nutrients into energy.
This means that on the simplest level, B vitamins can influence how much energy you have or how tired you feel. They assist with cell metabolism and support the growth of healthy cells. They may also promote brain health and prevent infection by supporting immune function. Vitamin B12 is probably the best known of all the B vitamins and is crucial for brain function.
Different Types Of B Vitamins
Vitamin B complex isn’t a single vitamin as the name suggests. Instead, it includes the eight types of vitamin B, including:
- Thiamin (B1)
- Niacin (B3)
- Biotin (B7)
- Pantothenic acid (B5)
- Pyridoxine (B6)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Cobalamin (B12)
- Folate and folic acid (B9)
Every food will have its own type of B vitamins in a range of quantities. Some nutrients are lost during transportation. Furthermore, some vitamins, including B vitamins, are lost during the cooking process, as they are sensitive to heat. On the other hand, B complex supplements offer specific amounts of all eight B vitamins.
Where Can You Get Vitamin B
The good news is that vitamin B can be found in many types of foods. It is recommended to get vitamin B from as many sources as possible for the fullest benefit. B vitamins are found in:
- Green, leafy vegetables (such as kale and spinach)
- Vegetables (including potatoes, beets, and avocados)
- Fruit (including bananas, citrus, and watermelon)
- Nuts and seeds
- Fish (such as mackerel, tuna, and salmon)
- Shellfish (including clams and oysters)
- Liver and kidney
- Meat (including red meat and chicken)
- Beans (including chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans)
- Cereals and whole grains
- Wheat germ
- Soy products
- Yeast (including nutritional yeast)
The foods that contain B vitamins are wide and diverse. Enjoying a variety of foods, including fresh vegetables and some fruits, will also provide other vitamins, minerals, and plant chemicals (phytochemicals) that promote health and wellbeing.
People who have digestive problems may not absorb these nutrients well from food. For these people, your doctor may prescribe a specific course of treatment. If you suspect you have difficulty absorbing vitamin B complex, or you are not sure why you are deficient, book a visit with your doctor or pharmacist.
The vitamin B complex makes it simple to get a daily dose of all the eight vitamin B compounds in a single dose. If you have difficulty absorbing vitamin B complex, your doctor may prescribe a dose that is higher than the generally recommended intake.
As a general rule, for adults 18 years or older, the recommended daily intake levels for vitamin B complex are:
- B1 = 1.1 mg (women), 1.2 mg (men)
- B2 = 1.1 mg (women), 1.3 mg (men)
- B3 = 14 mg (women), 16 mg (men)
- B5 = 5 mg (women), 5 mg (men)
- B6 = 1.3 mg – 1.5 mg, (women) 1.3 mg – 1.7 mg (men)
- B7 = 30 mcg (women), 30 mcg (men)
- B9 = 400 mcg (women), 400 mcg (men)
- B12 = 2.4 mcg (women), 2.4 mcg (men)
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may need higher amounts, but your doctor can best advise you on what’s right for your circumstance. Children also have specific daily requirements.
Vitamin B Deficiency
If you don’t have enough vitamin B in your body, you may notice a range of symptoms. The exact nature of these will depend on the type of B vitamins that are deficient.
Some of the problems that can develop as a result of vitamin B deficiency include:
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Skin issues
- Digestive issues
Wholesome foods are the best source of B vitamins, and supplements should be used by anyone who is at risk to develop vitamin B deficiency. There are a few groups of people who may need to supplement more than others their diet.
Many of the best sources of vitamin B12 come from animal products. This means that vegans may be deficient. Other types of B vitamins can be found in great quantities in plant sources.
Pregnant women and more mature adults are also at risk of being deficient as their needs for vitamin B are much higher. Stress depletes the body of vitamins, particularly B and C vitamins.
Certain medical disorders can also reduce the body’s uptake of vitamin B. If you have a malabsorption condition such as Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or hypothyroidism, you will likely need to supplement your diet. This is often the case if you’ve had weight loss surgery, too.
If you take a proton pump inhibitor medication (a PPI) such as omeprazole, you might not have sufficient vitamin B12 due to lower stomach acid levels. Women on the oral contraceptive pill may find they don’t get enough B6 while high levels of alcohol consumption can affect B1 levels.
A wide and varied diet will give you the best chance of consuming Vitamin B in all its different forms. If you are unable to eat a diet that has plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, you are more likely to be deficient.
Vitamin B Overdose
Vitamin B in all its forms is water-soluble, which means that it’s much easier for the body to get rid of any surplus. It can circulate in the bloodstream, and the kidneys excrete any excess.
This means that it isn’t easy to consume so much that it becomes toxic, but it is possible. In particular, you may notice the following:
- B3 Excess = diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
- B9 Excess = disguises a B12 deficiency
- B6 Excess = over a prolonged period may damage the nerves
When buying Vitamin B Complex, make sure it contains sufficient levels of all eight compounds. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you may also want to check whether it uses any animal products. It is possible to buy Vitamin B Complex that is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Some of the most popular brands of Vitamin B Complex include: