Vitamin B is another micronutrient – or group of micronutrients – important for keeping your body healthy.
From antioxidant power to converting food to energy in the digestive process to hormone production, B vitamins are involved in many processes of the body. This is why consuming B vitamins is an essential part of the daily diet.
What is Vitamin B
B vitamins, or the B-complex, are a group of eight vitamins that play important roles in several body processes. These include vitamins B-1, B-2, B-3, B-5, B-6, B-7, B-9, and B-12.
All B vitamins are water-soluble and not stored or produced by the body, meaning they must be consumed daily. They are found in several different foods, including meat, grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. B vitamins can also be consumed via dietary supplements.
Some of the benefits these vitamins provide to the body include antioxidant power, converting food to energy in the digestive process, cell growth and DNA repair, hormone production, and neurological function (1).
The 8 B Vitamins and Their Functions
As stated above, the B vitamin complex is made up of 8 individual vitamins. Each having a distinct function within the body.
Vitamin B-1 – also known as thiamine – is essential for producing energy. Specifically, this nutrient plays a role in metabolism to convert nutrients from the food you eat into energy that powers your body (1).
The recommended daily amount of vitamin B-1 is 1.2 mg for adult men and for adult women is 1.1 mg (1). And is naturally found in foods like pork, legumes, rice, and fortified whole grains (2).
B-2, or riboflavin, is plays a role in the breakdown of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates you eat, transforming them into smaller components that the body can use for energy production (3). It also supports red blood cell production and normal cellular function (3).
The recommended daily amount of vitamin B-2 is 1.3 mg for adult men and for adult women is 1.1 mg (1). The most vitamin B-2 rich foods are egg yolks and red meat (3).
Vitamin B-3 – niacin – can come in two active forms often used in vitamin B complex supplements: nicotinic acid or niacinamide/nicotinamide (4). Both derivatives have the same basic functions, which includes cellular signaling, metabolism and DNA production and repair (1).
The recommended daily amount of vitamin B-3 is 16 mg for adult men and for adult women is 14 mg (1). Fresh food sources for niacin are chicken, tuna, and lentils (4).
Vitamin B-5 is also known as Pantothenic Acid. Along with many other functions, this B vitamin plays and important role in the production of stress-related hormones in the adrenal glands (5).
The adrenal glands are small organs above the kidneys and are a key support system during times of stress, releasing hormones (like cortisol and/or adrenaline) in response.
The recommended daily amount of vitamin B-12 is 5 mg for both adult men and women (1).
A deficiency in pantothenic acid and adrenal fatigue may lead to tiredness, apathy, depression, irritability, or insomnia (5).
The B vitamin pyridoxine, or B-6, is involved in amino acid metabolism, red blood cell production and the creation of emotion regulating neurotransmitters – including serotonin, dopamine, and GABA (1, 6).
The recommended daily amount of vitamin B-6 is 1.3 mg for both adult men and women (1). Foods highest in pyridoxine include chickpeas, salmon, and potatoes (6).
Biotin – also known as vitamin B-7 – is essential for metabolism. It has also been called ‘vitamin H.’ B-7 is a key component of carbohydrate and fat metabolism while also regulating gene expression (1).
The recommended daily amount of vitamin B-12 is 30 mcg for both adult men and women (1). Yeast, eggs, salmon, cheese and liver are the food sources highest in biotin (7).
Folate is the naturally occurring form of vitamin B-9. This B vitamin is vital for cell growth, amino acid metabolism, the formation of red and white blood cells and proper cell division (1).
The recommended daily amount of vitamin B-9 is 400 mcg for both adult men and women (1). Folate can be found naturally in foods like leafy greens, liver, and legumes (8).
Vitamin B-12, also known as cobalamin, is a well-known B vitamin. B-12 is vital for neurological function, DNA production and red blood cell development (9).
The recommended daily amount of vitamin B-12 is 2.4 mcg for both adult men and women (1). This is a unique B vitamin, found exclusively in animal products and byproducts (9).
When to Consider Taking a B Complex Vitamin
Because B vitamins are vital micronutrients, it’s important to meet the suggested intake recommendations every day via diet or dietary supplement.
As mentioned, B vitamins can be found in a variety of meat, grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables (1). However, these foods may be minimal in your diet, making a vitamin B complex supplement necessary.
Consult with a healthcare professional to discuss if a supplement is the right move for your daily health.
Daily Requirements and Side Effects of B Vitamin Supplements
The recommended daily dosage, varies by each individual B vitamin. Taking a vitamin B complex supplement made by a reputable company should have the correct amounts of each B vitamin.
Because B vitamins are water-soluble, its difficult to overconsume the micronutrient to the point of toxicity. However, there is always the possibility of potential side effects, including (1):
- Bright yellow urine
- Light sensitivity
- Skin flushing or lesions
Is taking a B Complex Vitamin right for you?
If you are having difficulties meeting your B vitamin daily intake requirements through your diet, supplements are also recommended. This could assist in keeping your body at the peak of good health.
A vitamin B contains an adequate ratio of all 8 B vitamins, making it easier for you to reap all the benefits the supplement has to offer. Always insure you are using reputable companies to source your vitamin B complex supplement.
Author: Allison Lansman, RDN, LD