The B vitamins are vital for so many functions in the body it would be hard to maintain optimum health without them. They are heavily involved with supporting brain function and the nervous system, and during times of stress these vitamins work extra hard to help you hold it together – physically, emotionally and mentally!
Risk factors for B vitamin deficiency
If you’re eating a healthy varied diet you should be getting all the B vitamins you need, but for all sorts of reasons that might not be always possible. Lifestyle choices, personal food preferences, certain medications and various health conditions can all affect your B vitamin status and, in some cases, even interfere with the absorption of B vitamins.
Because B vitamins are water-soluble substances, they are easily lost during some cooking methods. You need a daily intake of B vitamins because they are not stored in the body, are used quickly for many body processes and are readily eliminated via the urine. So, taking a daily supplement makes sense to help avoid a deficiency.
How to spot a B Vitamin…
You may be familiar with their numerical nicknames but here’s how to spot their scientific names on the nutritional information of a supplement packed or food label.
Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
Niacin (Vitamin B3)
Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5)
Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)
Biotin (Vitamin B7)
Folic acid (Vitamin B9)
Cobalamine (Vitamin B12)
The many functions of B vitamins
Thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, and biotin each play a crucial part in the metabolism of energy, not just during exercise but also at rest. Vitamin B5 and B6 are involved in the manufacture of adrenal (stress) hormones and are critical for maintaining hormone balance. B5 is particularly important for optimal adrenal function and is often referred to as the ‘anti-stress’ vitamin. Folate and B12 are essential for red blood cell production and tissue repair as well as protein and DNA synthesis. These combined functions mean that when working effectively together the B vitamins exert significant effects on energy, metabolism, cell repair and regeneration and cognitive function.
The Top Five Health Benefits of B vitamins
1. Feeling happy!
Vitamin B12 and folic acid play key roles in the manufacture of neurotransmitters such as serotonin (the happy hormone), epinephrine, norepinephrine, acetylcholine and dopamine. These brain messengers contribute to your mood, memory, focus, attention and understanding.
Together vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid help reduce the risk of raised homocysteine, known to damage the tiny blood vessels and cells in the brain. It is clear from studies that low levels of B vitamins, which would normally help to keep homocysteine in check, are linked to depression and a decline in cognitive function.
Scientists have found that deficiencies of vitamin B6 and folic acid are common in depression. On a positive note, clinical evidence suggests that supplementing with B6 is particularly beneficial for addressing depression in pre-menopausal women.
2. Supporting heart health
Some observational studies have identified that individuals with higher intakes of folate have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Numerous clinical trials have confirmed that niacin is remarkably effective for lowering total blood cholesterol levels. Supplements have also been shown to increase levels of HDL – a lipoprotein that helps to transport excess cholesterol from the body. What’s more niacin impedes production of a compound that transports and deposits cholesterol into damaged areas of within the arteries and inhibits the breakdown of clots. Evidence suggests that niacin may even be more effective at lowering cholesterol levels than prescribed drugs and has none of the toxic side effects.
3. Keep your engines running!
B-complex vitamins act first and foremost as co-enzymes, working hand in hand with enzymes that regulate numerous life-sustaining chemical reactions, most notably energy metabolism. Based on this it would be true to say that the B vitamins play a vital role in extracting energy from carbohydrate, fat and protein in the food you eat. This energy powers both muscle contractions and cellular functions.
Little wonder then, that deficiencies create lethargy and fatigue. Lack of adequate B vitamins do appear to be implicated in extreme tiredness. This is confirmed by results from research, which found that sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome have reduced B status, particularly vitamin B6. Some of the obvious signs of a B vitamin deficiency include cracked lips, sores at the corners of the mouth and a sore tongue. This is due to decreased cellular energy production, which affects the cells that have a high turnover such as those in the mouth.
4. Hormone Balance
Vitamin B6 is frequently recommended for the reduction of premenstrual problems. This is based on increasing scientific evidence regarding the important role B6 plays in hormone balance, nervous system function and normal brain chemistry, all of which are relevant to many of the common experienced premenstrual symptoms. Early research identified that B6 supplementation could relieve a range of premenstrual symptoms including depression, bloating and breast tenderness more effectively than a placebo. More recently, trials report that supplementing with B6 during early pregnancy reduces the severity of hormone related nausea.
5. Stress Resilience
The B vitamins are vital for stress tolerance, as well as being essential to normal nervous system function. Specific B vitamins are also needed for adrenal function and hormone manufacture, so deficiencies in these are often associated with anxiety and nervous disorders. Low levels of vitamin B6 and B12 have been observed in those suffering with panic attacks and anxiety. Scientific studies have also shown that supplementing with a B vitamin complex has a significant influence on reducing workplace stress.
Choosing the right B Complex
Liposomal supplements such as Altrient, are microscopic in size giving them a distinct advantage over standard oral supplements when it comes to crossing cell walls. What’s more, their size also makes them less likely to be destroyed by the immune system. These benefits are further enhanced by the phospholipid outer layer that protects the contents from being degraded by digestive juices on route to the target cells and tissues. The remarkable technology responsible for liposomal supplements like Altrient vitamin B and mineral complex, ensures a product that is highly absorbable, virtually indestructible, fast acting and much longer lasting.
Jacqueline Newson BSc (Hons) Nutrtitional Therapy
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