What’s the Buzz about B Vitamins?
B vitamins aren’t just about revving up your energy levels, although let’s not play down that amazing benefit. They do also perform a myriad of other essential functions in the body. Most of the B vitamins act as coenzymes and cofactors for numerous biological processes, but overall they work synergistically and are part and parcel of a whole range of physiological activities in the brain and other bodily systems that influence many aspects of good health. As you age though, you may need to consider topping up with vitamin B supplements, as we humans become less efficient at absorbing nutrients with age.
In the meantime, make sure you factor into your daily diet, foods that are rich sources of vitamin B because they’re not stored like other vitamins and are used up rapidly for multiple processes. Being water-soluble vitamins, they are easily dissolved in liquid and bodily fluids such as urine, which means they are quickly flushed down the toilet! How long you store groceries and where you keep them is important too as exposure to light and air can reduce the B vitamin content. What’s more, some cooking methods reduce the availability of dietary B vitamins. For example: boiling milk for 15 minutes has been shown to destroy folic acid and reduce vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6 by up to 36%.3 B vitamins in roasted meat are also known to decline by as much as 40%.3 Steaming is one of the best methods of cooking for preserving water-soluble B vitamins. If you fall short of the recommended daily intake you may start to notice a change in your energy levels and brain function. Good vitamin B food sources include: whole grains, legumes, meat, fish, poultry and eggs.
Taking a daily supplement is an easy way of providing added nutritional support to help maintain healthy levels if you are concerned you may not be getting enough B vitamins from food. To enjoy the enormous range of vitamin B complex benefits, nutrition experts recommend liposomal encapsulated B vitamins. These microscopic nutrient filled phospholipid bubbles are shown to offer far superior delivery to the cells.
So let’s talk about the clever ways B vitamins are involved in your health …
Heart health and B Vitamins
Most people think that high cholesterol levels are the only risk factor in developing heart disease but maintaining healthy homocysteine levels is also essential for reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems. This is because, high levels of homocysteine are thought to damage blood vessel walls and reduce their flexibility as well as promote the development of inflammation.1 So, how can B vitamins help? Concentrations of homocysteine are largely determined by the body’s levels of B vitamins, in particular vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid, which are known to contribute to normal homocysteine levels.1 Vitamin B1 is also a key player in cardiovascular health, as along with other nutrients it has been shown to contribute to the normal function of the heart.
Vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, B12, niacin, and biotin contribute to normal energy-yielding metabolism working collectively to convert food into fuel. They help to generate the energy you need for all your daily functions, however, ageing slows this process down. Lack of energy as we grow old is a common complaint and may be due to a B12 deficiency. Older people tend to produce less stomach acid which is essential for releasing B12 from the proteins in food. Vitamin B12 along with B6, is also involved in normal red blood cell formation, which is hugely important for supplying much needed oxygen to the millions of cells in your body. Chronic fatigue is often a sign that you’re simply not getting enough oxygen. To find out more about how each B vitamin functions in the body go to our blog... Benefits of B Vitamins
Maintaining optimal brain health throughout every life stage is probably top of most people’s wish list. This can be achieved with good nutrition and regular exercise. Certain nutrients like vitamin B6, B12, folate and niacin are particularly important because they contribute to normal psychological function, whilst vitamin B5 contributes to normal mental performance. If you’re interested in learning more about the importance of B vits and brain health, take some advice from this blog by expert nutritionist Susie Debice.. Vitamin B: Helping to Banish the Moody Blues
One of the best known B vitamin for hair health is biotin. In fact research evidence indicates that 38% of women complaining of hair loss have a deficiency of biotin.2 Hanging onto your hair may be governed by an adequate intake of several nutrients, but there’s no mistaking how important B vitamins are. Hair follicles have a high turnover and both folate and vitamin B12 are thought to support this process, this may be due to their combined roles in the process of cell division. Nutritional therapist Jacqueline Newson explains more about hair loss and the B vitamins in this blog...Vitamin B Could Help You Reduce Hair Loss
During times of stress the B vitamins work extra hard to help you hold it together – physically, emotionally and mentally! The adrenal glands orchestrate many of the stress responses in the body and rely on a whole range of nutrients to do this which includes many B vitamins. Research has established that key B vitamins such as B1, B2, B6, B12, niacin, biotin and folate contribute to normal functioning of the nervous system, which works in tandem with the adrenal glands to help you adapt to stress and cope with anxiety. As a group working together the B complex vitamins are far more effective than individual B vitamins alone. If you’d like more support for stress go to our in-depth blog: Reduce Stress With Vitamin B Complex & 3 Pillars Technique
To optimise brain function and cognitive health you need a good range of B vitamins as collectively they are important for supporting memory and learning . It is known that vitamin B5 contributes to normal mental performance but studies also show that a whole range of B vitamins including B1, B2, niacin, B6, biotin, folate and B12 are involved in contributing to normal functioning of the nervous system. Vitamin B12 is one of several biological
compounds that help to preserve the the myelin sheath surrounding and protecting the nerves. If vitamin B12 diminishes, concentration and memory may suffer. Vitamin B1 is also needed for brain function as its essential for normal carbohydrate metabolism, bringing much needed glucose - the fuel brains like best. A severe deficiency in nutrients such as these may result in mental confusion, often referred to as brain fog. Young adults are in particular need of adequate B vitamins during their educational years to support learning. Nutritional Therapist, Jackie Newson, shares her nutrition and lifestyle tips for students that want to enhance focus, concentration and cognitive function in this blog: How Vitamin B Helps With Exams & Concentration
Some of your common vitamin b questions answered...
- Q: What is a B vitamin Complex?
A: A B vitamin complex, is a dietary supplement that usually contains: Vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine) biotin, folic acid and B12 (cobalamin).
- Q: How many b vitamins are there?
A: There are actually eight B vitamins.
- Q: What does vitamin B do?
A: Like all vitamins, B vitamins in all their forms are cofactors to enzymes, they interact with enzymes to allow them to function more effectively. B vitamins are not consumed in metabolism, but are vital for the process of metabolism.
- Q: What foods contain vitamin B?
A: There are a good range of vitamin b complex food items these include: brown rice, millet, barley, eggs, beans, lentils, citrus fruits, avocados, meat, poultry, fish, liver. What’s more, because B vitamins are water-soluble substances, they are easily lost during some cooking methods and can be destroyed by light and exposure to air.
- Q: What is vitamin B good for?
A: Vitamin b function, is not down to a single B vitamin but the group of B vitamins collectively. The benefits are varied and complex ranging from energy metabolism to blood cell formation. You can read more about their specific functions in the following blog: Benefits of B Vitamins
- Q: Can lack of B vitamins cause anxiety?
A: Because vitamins B6, B12, folate and niacin are known to contribute to normal psychological function, it is possible that low vitamin B levels may lead to an imbalance in mood.
- Q: How to know if you have a vitamin b deficiency?
A: There are several signs of low vitamin B levels, some of the more common include: fatigue, pale/yellow skin, headaches, low mood, difficulty concentrating (brain fog), pain or sores on the tongue, lips or inside of the mouth, pins and needles sensation in the hands and feet.
- Q: Does vitamin B complex help with sleep?
A: Because many of the B vitamins are involved in generating energy, it is normally recommended that they are taken before midday as taking them later in the day may interfere with sleep.
- Q: How much vitamin B complex should I take daily?
A: It depends on the product you buy. All B complex supplements will state the recommended dose on the label, which should always be followed as not all capsules and tablets contain the same levels of each B vitamin. For more specific guidelines check out our regularly updated Ultimate Guide to Vitamin B
- Q: Can you take too much vitamin B?
A: Most B Vitamin Complex supplements provide doses of each B vitamin in amounts that are suitable to meet daily recommended levels but do not exceed the upper safe limit. When taken at appropriate doses they are generally considered safe. However, you need to be cautious with the following:
- Vitamin B6 – more than 200mg/d in the long term can lead to numbness in the arms and legs
- Folate – doses higher than 1mg/d can mask the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency
- Niacin - also known as nicotinic acid can cause skin flushes and liver damage if high doses are consumed over a long period of time
1. Almohanna HM, Ahmed AA, Tsatalis JP, Tosti A. The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2019;9(1):51-70. doi:10.1007/s13555-018-0278-6.
2. Asadullah, Khair-un-nisa, Tarar OM, Ali SA, Jamil K, Begum A. Study to evaluate the impact of heat treatment on water soluble vitamins in milk. J Pak Med Assoc. 2010 Nov;60(11):909-12. PMID: 21375192.
3. Clayton P. Health Defence (2nd edition) 2004. Accelerated Learning Systems: Bucks UK.
4. Alam SF and Ganguly P. Role of homocysteine in the development of cardiovascular disease. Nutrition Journal 2015; 14, 6:1-10. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-14-6.
5. NHS. B Vitamins and folic acid. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-b/[Accessed 17.2.22].