Vitamin B Complex is not a single vitamin but instead is a collective term that refers to eight essential B vitamins; vitamin B-1 or Thiamine, B-2 or Riboflavin, B-3 or Niacin, B-5 or Pantothenic acid, B-6 or Pyridoxine, B-7 or Biotin, B-9 or Folic acid, and B-12 or Cobalamin. These vitamins are needed for maintaining muscle tone, cardiovascular health, cell health, the production and growth of red blood cells, good eyesight, proper energy levels, neurological functioning, gastrointestinal health, and the healthy production of hormones and cholesterol.
Vitamin B-1 (Thiamine)
Thiamine or Vitamin B-1, is named as such because this is the first B-vitamin that was discovered. It is an essential water-soluble vitamin that is involved in the generation of ATP, the cell’s energy currency. Its involvement in energy production also makes it important for proper cell functioning, and cell growth and development. The body gets its Thiamine from food and dietary supplements. When taken in from food, the body would spend some energy to absorb the thiamine. However, when taken in higher doses such as those in food supplements, it is absorbed passively. Since Vitamin B-1 is water soluble, it does not linger too long in the body. Thus, everyone needs a continuous supply of this vitamin.
Health Benefits of Vitamin B-1
The body needs Thiamine as a cofactor to carry out some of its processes. Having adequate Thiamine means that every cell in your body can carry out its function properly.
Aside from this, a study involving type 2 diabetic patients revealed that high doses of Thiamine supplements given for three months can reverse their microalbuminuria. In other words, thiamine is a viable therapy for the early stages of kidney damage that is brought about by diabetes.
Recommended Intake of Vitamin B-1
The Food and Nutrition Board of National Academies’ Institute of Medicine developed intake recommendations for the various vitamin Bs. Today, we use their Recommended Dietary Allowance or RDA as a reference on how much of a certain vitamin we should consume. For Vitamin B-1, the average adult male needs 1.2 milligrams. The average adult female needs 1.1 milligrams, a pregnant woman needs 1.4 milligrams, and lactating women need 1.4 milligrams as well.
The Best Thiamine Containing Food
One food that could exceed the Recommended Daily Allowances of Vitamin B-1 is the long grain white rice. Just half a cup of this grain could supply 1.4 milligrams of Vitamin B-1. To put this into a better perspective, let us look for the Percent Daily Value. Simply divide the amount of the vitamins present in the food item by the amount of vitamins needed in a single day then multiply the result by 100. In the case of long grain white rice and vitamin B-1; we divide 1.4, the amount of vitamin B-1 present in the rice, by 1.2, the amount of vitamin B-1 needed by the average adult. Solving the equation we get 117%, this is what is referred to as the Percent Daily Value. All of these means that when you eat half a cup of long grain white rice, you get enough vitamin B-1 from it to supply 117% of your Recommended Daily Allowances for the said vitamin.
Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin)
There are several water soluble B vitamins; Riboflavin or Vitamin B-2 is another one of them. This vitamin is essential for the breakdown and processing of fats, drugs, and steroids, and for proper cell function and growth. On top of this, Riboflavin is also involved in the processes of other B vitamins like Vitamin B-3 and B-6. Vitamin B-6 needs flavin mononucleotide (FMN) for its activation while the production process of Niacin or Vitamin B-3 from the amino acid tryptophan needs flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD). High levels of the amino acid homocysteine have been linked to heart disease; however, Riboflavin helps keep this amino acid at normal levels. The body only absorbs enough riboflavin to meet its needs. In cases wherein there is excess riboflavin intake, sometimes the body can absorb more than what it needs. When it does, the body eliminates the excess riboflavin through urination or stores small amounts of it in the liver, heart, and kidneys. Our main source of riboflavin is food; however, the good bacteria that is present in our large intestine could also produce riboflavin which is readily absorbed in this area of the gastrointestinal tract. Studies have shown that a vegetable-based diet encourages these riboflavin-producing-bacteria to produce Vitamin B-2. To detect adequate Vitamin B-2 intake two laboratory tests are available, the Erythrocyte Glutathione Reductase Activity Coefficient or EGRAC and the 24-hour riboflavin urine excretion.
Health Benefits of Vitamin B-2
Having enough Vitamin B-2 in the body means that the fats, the drugs and the steroids present are properly processed. Aside from this, the cells in your body will grow and function properly, your vitamin B-6 gets activated, and your tryptophan is converted to vitamin B-3.
Some studies showed that when taken in high amounts Vitamin B-2 may provide health benefits such as alleviating Migraine and Headaches. In one study involving 55 adults, researchers found out that 400 milligrams of riboflavin taken each day can lower the number of times the participants experienced migraine. In a different study involving 41 children around the age of 13, participants reported that their migraine attacks decreased, from an average of 27 to 13, and that the intensity of their headaches diminished after taking in 400 milligrams of riboflavin each day.
Although the results of the studies regarding Vitamin B-2’s ability to alleviate migraine and headaches are still not conclusive enough; the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society still recommended Riboflavin supplements to those who experience migraine and headaches frequently. Another group of experts, The Canadian Headache Society, recommends 400 milligrams of Riboflavin per day for preventive purposes.
Recommended Intake of Vitamin B-2
The average adult male needs 1.3 milligrams of Vitamin B-2. The average adult female needs 1.1 milligrams of Vitamin B-2, 1.4 milligrams during Pregnancy and 1.6 milligrams when they are lactating.
The Best Riboflavin Containing Food
A 3-ounce-pan-fried beef liver contains 2.9 milligrams of Vitamin B-2 which is 223% of the Recommended Daily Allowance.
Vitamin B-3 (Niacin)
Another water soluble B vitamin is Vitamin B-3 or Niacin. Niacin has some relationship with Riboflavin because the latter can convert tryptophan to Niacin. Vitamin B-3 is the inactive form of the essential coenzyme Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide or NAD. ‘Essential’ may be an understatement as NAD is required in 400 or more enzymatic reactions within the body. Aside from NAD, Niacin also has a different active form, the NADP or the Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide Phosphate. Both coenzymes, NAD and NADP, are needed in the majority of the metabolic reduction-oxidation processes within our body’s cells. Furthermore, NAD is needed in the transfer of biochemical energy present in carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to the cell’s foremost energy source, the adenosine triphosphate or ATP. The enzymes responsible for maintaining genome integrity, controlling gene expression and ensuring proper cellular communication cannot function properly without NAD as well. Free radicals such as reactive oxygen species are harmful to the cell; fortunately, our body has NADP to counter these harmful molecules. Aside from this, NADP enables enzymatic reactions that are capable of creating products which aid in the proper synthesis of cholesterol and fatty acids. Niacin enters the body through the food that we consume in the form of nicotinic acid and nicotinamide. Some foods could contain the active form of Niacin, the NAD and NADP, these are also readily absorbed by the body. The amino acid tryptophan, as previously discussed, can be converted to niacin; thus this amino acid along with nicotinic acid, nicotinamide, NAD, and NADP are referred to as Niacin Equivalents. The body absorbs Niacin Equivalents easily, especially when taken in very high doses. As long as a person gets enough Niacin from their food, they are highly unlikely to develop any deficiency. Speaking of deficiency, determining a person’s niacin status through laboratory tests can be done by measuring the metabolic byproducts of niacin in urine. An adult with sufficient niacin intake excretes 17.5 micromol per day of niacin’s metabolic byproducts. Excreting less than 5.8 micromol means that the adult has Niacin deficiency. Niacin status could also be determined through a person’s NAD levels. If an adult is Niacin deficient then they should have low NAD levels. NAD levels are assessed by comparing it with the combined levels of NAD and NADP; this is referred to as the ‘niacin number’. If an individual has a niacin number of 130% or lower, then they are Niacin deficient. Currently, there are no laboratory tests for measuring Niacin directly, that is why laboratorians measure Niacin indirectly through the two methods mentioned previously.
Health benefits of Vitamin B-3
When there is Sufficient NAD and NADP the 400 or more enzymatic processes that are dependent on them can occur without any hitch. Furthermore, when these enzymatic processes are allowed to occur without problems then the bodily processes that are reliant on these enzymatic processes can also occur without problems as well which ultimately leads to better health.
Like Vitamin B-2, high doses of Niacin has been shown to have health benefits as well. In Vitamin B-3’s case, high doses of the vitamin can treat dyslipidemia. Ever since the 1950’s, several studies on Vitamin B-3’s ability to correct abnormal lipid profiles have been conducted. Upon review of these studies, results show that Vitamin B-3 can improve the levels of the cardioprotective ‘good’ cholesterol, High-Density Lipoprotein or HDL, by up to 10 to 30%. On top of this, Vitamin B-3 can lower the amount of low-density lipoprotein or LDL, by up to 10 to 25%, triglycerides by up to 20-50%, and lipoprotein (A) by up to 10-30%.
Although adequate intake of Vitamin B-3 can treat dyslipidemias; exceeding the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) consistently for an extended period of time may lead to harmful side-effects. Even though studies have not shown any strong evidence that Vitamin B-3 can help lower the risk of Cardiovascular Diseases; since it can treat dyslipidemia, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association recommends adequate intake of the said vitamin to those who have problematic cholesterol levels.
Recommended Intake of Vitamin B-3
The average male adult needs 16 milligrams of Niacin Equivalents like nicotinic acid, nicotinamide, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate. The average female adult female needs 14 milligrams, 18 milligrams during pregnancy and 17 milligrams when lactating.
The Best Niacin Containing Food
6 ounces of grilled Chicken or Turkey Breast contains 20.6 milligrams of Niacin Equivalents which is 128 percent of the Recommended Daily allowance of the said Vitamin.
Vitamin B-6 Is another water soluble B vitamin. It is not a single vitamin but is actually a generic name for several compounds that have similar properties. Pyridoxamine, pyridoxal, pyridoxine, Pyridoxal 5’ phosphate, and pyridoxamine 5’ phosphate are the major compounds that are collectively known as vitamin B-6; they are also known as the vitamers of vitamin B-6. The coenzyme forms of vitamin B-6, Pyridoxal 5’ phosphate and pyridoxamine 5’ phosphate, are needed in more than a hundred enzymatic reactions; majority of which are related to protein processing. Furthermore, vitamin B-6 is involved in the production of neurotransmitters, regulation of homocysteine levels, immune function, hemoglobin formation, and gluconeogenesis and glycogenolysis. Vitamin B-6 is absorbed by the body easily so it does not need to spend energy when it does. Vitamin B-6, specifically its vitamers like the pyridoxal 5’ phosphate or PLP, are measured directly in a person’s plasma to determine their status. A PLP concentration of 30 nanomoles per liter of blood, or more, is the concentration that is considered to be adequate.
Health Benefits of Vitamin B-6
An individual with adequate Vitamin B-6 in their body can support adequate production of neurotransmitters, keep their homocysteine levels at a normal level, regulate their immune function, create enough hemoglobin, and carry out gluconeogenesis and glycogenolysis. All of these are important processes in various organs and tissues of the body. Still, there are other benefits of getting enough Vitamin B-6. Since vitamin B-6 is involved in the creation of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and gamma-aminobutyric acid, studies have been conducted regarding its ability to regulate mood. Research shows that sufficient vitamin B-6 intake can help regulate mood in those who have depression, however, it does not prevent or treat depression. Another study directed on anemic pregnant women who were not responsive to iron supplement treatments revealed that Vitamin B6 supplementation can alleviate their symptoms of anemia. Although anemia due to Vitamin B6 is rare, and that their anemia may not be due to Vitamin B6 deficiency; supplementation of the said vitamin worked for 56% of the respondents. This means that Vitamin B6 may be a good temporary treatment to anemia when the underlying specific cause is still under investigation.
Recommended intake of Vitamin B-6
The average adult male needs 1.3 milligrams of Vitamin B6 in a single day. The same is true for females; however, pregnancy increases their Recommended Daily Allowance to 1.9 milligrams and lactation increases it further to 2.0 milligrams.
The Best Vitamin B-6 Containing Food
The food that contains the most Vitamin B-6 is the Chickpeas. Just two cups of this legume contains 2.2 milligrams of Vitamin B-6 with a Daily Value of 130%.
Vitamin B-5 (Pantothenic acid)
Pantothenic acid is yet another water-soluble B vitamin that plays a role in the creation of coenzyme A or CoA and Acyl carrier protein. Coenzyme A is involved in a number of bodily processes, most notably in the breakdown and creation of fatty acids. The Acyl carrier protein also has a role in the creation of fatty acids. Pantothenic acid has various forms, in food they come as phosphopantetheine. This compound is not easy to absorb. Thus, the body spends some energy to absorb it. The body also spends some energy to convert its phosphopantetheine to the active form, Pantothenic acid. Deficiency in Vitamin B-5 is rare among people who have no underlying medical condition. However there are still practical laboratory tests to determine Vitamin B-5 status. Since this vitamin does not remain for too long in the body, they are more or less excreted at a high rate. Hence, medical professionals developed a way to measure the urinary excretion rate of Vitamin B-5. A healthy person urinates 2.6 milligrams of Vitamin B-5 in a single day; excreting less than 1 milligram per day is a sign of deficiency.
Health Benefits of Vitamin B-5
Since Vitamin B-5 is indirectly involved in the breakdown and synthesis of fatty acids through its product Coenzyme A and Acyl carrier protein, getting enough of the said vitamin means that the fatty acids naturally present in the body and those that are taken in from our diet would be properly processed and could help maintain a normal lipid panel. In 2005, researchers reviewed this hypothesis and took a closer look at 28 small scale clinical trials. The 646 adult participants of the 28 clinical trials were given 900 milligrams of Vitamin B-5 for around 12 weeks. Results of the review on the clinical trials revealed that the participants’ triglyceride levels decreased by 14.2% in the first month and decreased by up to 32.9% after the fourth month of Vitamin B-5 supplementation. Total cholesterol decreased by 8.7% and 15.1%, and low density lipoprotein otherwise known as ‘bad cholesterol’ decreased by 10.4% and 20.1% in the first and fourth month respectively. On the other hand, high-density lipoprotein also known as ‘good cholesterol’ increased by 6.1% in the first month and 8.4% in the fourth month. Although studies have not shown strong evidence that links Vitamin B-5 supplementation to the reduction of the risk of cardiovascular diseases, having enough vitamin B-5 is still beneficial to our health in general.
Recommended Intake of Vitamin B-5
The recommended daily allowance of Vitamin B-5 for the average male is 5 milligram. The same goes for the females, however, pregnancy and lactation can increase their demand to 6 milligrams and 7 milligrams respectively.
The Best Vitamin B-5 Containing Food
The best food source of Vitamin B-5 is the Shitake Mushroom. One cup of Shitake Mushrooms contains 5.2 milligrams of Pantothenic acid with a Daily Value of 104%.
Vitamin B-7 (Biotin)
Biotin is another water-soluble B vitamin that is involved in enzymatic processes that produces new carbon-to-carbon bonds. These enzymatic processes are needed in the metabolism of glucose, fatty acids and amino acids. Aside from this, biotin is also involved in cell signaling, histone modification and gene regulation. Biotin in food is often bound to proteins. When ingested, the proteins that contain biotin undergo several enzymatic reactions that release the protein-bound biotin. The free biotin is absorbed in the small intestine without expending energy, and most of the biotin is then stored in the liver. Biotin can be measured through a person’s urine and serum. The concentration of Biotin in the serum of a healthy adult ranges from 133 to 329 picomol of Biotin in 1 liter of serum. The normal rate of Biotin excretion in the urine is 18 to 127 nanomoles per day.
Health Benefits of Vitamin B-7
Sufficient biotin intake does not carry any additional health benefits aside from the benefits that comes with the processes that it is involved in. Since it is involved in the processing of amino acids, fatty acids, and glucose; having enough biotin ensures that these processes are carried out properly. On top of this, genes are properly regulated, cells can communicate properly through signaling, and the processes of histone modification is made possible.
Recommended Intake of Vitamin B-7
The adult male needs 30 micrograms of Vitamin B-7 per day while the adult female needs 30 micrograms of the said vitamin. A female’s Recommended Daily Allowance for Biotin remains at 30 micrograms during pregnancy but increases to 35 micrograms when they start lactating.
The Best Vitamin B-7 Containing Food
Cooked Beef Liver is the best source of Vitamin B-7. 3 ounces of this food item contains 30.8 micrograms of Biotin with a Daily Value of 103%
Vitamin B-9, like B-6, does not refer to a single compound but is actually a generic term for folates that are present in food, fortified food or dietary supplements. The most common folate is folic acid, but there are also other folates aside from this. Folates’ most notable function is its involvement in the synthesis of nucleic acids, be it deoxyribonucleic acids (DNA) or ribonucleic acids (RNA), and the processing of amino acids. When DNA synthesis is impaired due to a deficiency in Folate, megaloblastic anemia occurs. That is why most health professionals would suspect either Folate Deficiency or Cobalamin (Vitamin B12) deficiency when a patient has Megaloblastic anemia. Folates that are naturally present in food are not absorbed easily, the body needs to spend some energy to absorb it through the intestinal walls. However, when there are high doses of Vitamin B12, such as in supplements, they are absorbed without having to spend some energy. To assess a person’s folate status, laboratory tests are available to measure them directly in their blood, specifically in their serum. If an individual has 3 nanograms of vitamin B12 per milliliter of their serum then they have sufficient Vitamin B12.
Health Benefits of Vitamin B-9
Vitamin B-9 supplementation is often associated with the improvement of anemia. But aside from this, Vitamin B-9 supplementation on pregnant women can reduce the risk of Autism in the developing child. In the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study involving 85,176 children aging 3 to 10 years old, results show that those mothers who took 400 micrograms of folic acid each day during pregnancy were 39% less likely to have a child with autism. A similar study was conducted in the United States involving 837 children, mothers who consumed 600 micrograms of folic acid each day during pregnancy were 38% less likely to give birth to a child with Asperger's Syndrome. On top of this, there is a connection between Vitamin B-9 supplementation in pregnant women and a decrease in Neural Tube Defects. A systematic review conducted in the United States in 2017 demonstrated this association which prompted the U.S. Preventive Services to Recommend folic acid supplementation to pregnant women. Vitamin B-9 supplementation can also reduce the likelihood of stroke. Several studies have explored the connection between Folic Acid, Homocysteine levels, and cardiovascular diseases. Although these studies weren't able to establish concrete evidence that associates Folic Acid supplementation and reduced occurrence of cardiovascular diseases, it did, however, show a correlation between Vitamin B-9 supplementation and a reduction in the occurrence of stroke.
Recommended Intake of Vitamin B-9
Bioavailability of Vitamin B-9 varies depending on the source. In whole food, they have lower bioavailability compared to fortified foods and supplements. That is why nutritionists developed the Dietary Folate Equivalents (DFE) to resolve this issue. 1 microgram of folates from whole foods is equal to 1 microgram of Dietary Folate Equivalents, 0.6 micrograms folic acid from fortified food or dietary supplements that are consumed with foods is equal to 1 microgram of DFE, and 0.5 micrograms folic acid from dietary supplements consumed on an empty stomach is equal to 1 microgram of DFE.
The average male needs 400 micrograms of DFE each day; the same is true for females. Pregnancy and Lactation increases the daily demand to 600 micrograms and 500 micrograms respectively.
The Best Vitamin B-9 Containing Food
6 ounces of Braised Beef Liver contains 430 micrograms of Vitamin B-9; this is 108% of the Recommended Daily Allowance for the said vitamin. Thus, Braised Beef Liver is the best source of Vitamin B-9.
Like Vitamin B-6 and B-9, Vitamin B-12 or ‘Cobalamins’ is also a collective term. This term refers to compounds that have similar activity and contain the mineral cobalt. One notable cobalamin compound that is active in human metabolic processes is the Methylcobalamin. Cobalamin is involved in maintaining proper neurological functioning, DNA synthesis and red cell formation. The hydrochloric acid and gastric protease present in the stomach are needed in the absorption of Vitamin B12; these release the vitamin B12 from the food proteins that bind it. Vitamin B12 can be measured in a person’s blood through laboratory methods and can be used to assess vitamin B12 status.
Health Benefits of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 can help regulate mood as it is needed in the production of the mood regulating hormone, serotonin. Studies have shown that those who have depression go through treatment better if their Vitamin B12 levels are also improved.
Other studies revealed that pregnant women with vitamin B12 deficiency were more likely to give birth to babies with birth defects. Furthermore, the greater their vitamin B12 deficiency, the greater their likelihood of birth defects. Thus, we could say that sufficient vitamin B12 intake is beneficial to the developing child and lowers the chance of developing birth defects.
Although vitamin B12’s role for promoting eye health is not yet fully understood, studies have shown that it can lower the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration since it can lower homocysteine, an amino acid associated with vision decline.
Deficiency in vitamin B12 is the prime cause of megaloblastic anemia. The low levels of vitamin B12 hampers DNA synthesis which leads to slower blood cell production. Thus, improving vitamin B12 levels leads to healthy blood cells and sufficient blood cell production.
Recommended intake of Vitamin B12
The adult male needs at least 2.4 micrograms of Vitamin B12 in a single day. Females need 2.4 micrograms of Vitamin B12 as well, however, pregnancy increases their Recommended Daily Allowance to 2.6 micrograms and increases it further to 2.8 micrograms when they begin lactating.
The Best Vitamin B12 containing food
Vegetarians run the risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency as there are currently no plant-based food that contains Vitamin B12 in its bioavailable form. Fortunately, there are nutritional yeasts that are fortified with Vitamin B12 to allow them to meet their Recommended Daily Allowance while keeping true to their plant-based diet.
Omnivores have no trouble getting a lot of Vitamin B12 for it is present in high amounts on a number of food items. 3 ounces of Cooked Clams contain 84.1 micrograms of Vitamin B12, 3 ounces of Cooked Beef Liver contain 70.7 micrograms, 3 ounces of Cooked Trout contain 3.5 micrograms, and 3 ounces of Tuna contain 2.5 micrograms; with a Daily value of 3504%, 2946%, 146%, and 104% respectively.