Vitamin B can be confusing because it is not just one vitamin, technically it is a group of 8 vitamins. That is what leads us to having a “B complex” instead of just taking vitamin B. Because the different B vitamins are so closely related they work in synergy together, the want to be with their other B friends, so take them all together as a B complex and keep them working together for you. You will be happy that you did. Read below for a list of 10 important roles B vitamins play in your health and excellence. Attention vegetarians and vegans, you are probably not getting enough of some of the B’s. I am not picking on you, but your dietary choice does not provide optimum nutrition for the human body.
B vitamins are all water soluble, meaning they are absorbed into body for immediate use. Because these nutrients are eliminated through urine, they need to be constantly replenished. Try to look for foods rich in B to incorporate into every meal and pick a time released vitamin B complex to supplement your diet.
Now lets take a look at a few points of interest with Vitamin B benefits:
1. Vitamins B6, B9, and B12 May Lower Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke
Medical experts at Mt. Sinai say that B6, along with B12 and B9, may boost heart health. B vitamins help your body produce new red blood cells that deliver oxygen to your tissues and organs, benefiting your circulation.
Research published in the journal Nutrients in 2019 looked at 9,000 Korean men who filled out regular surveys of their food consumption, and discovered that increased intake of B6 was associated with a lower risk of heart disease. In another analysis, published in 2018 in Critical Reviews of Food Science and Nutrition, researchers looked at 11 prior studies regarding coronary heart disease risk in relation to B vitamins and concluded that a higher intake of folate and vitamin B6 is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. More than 5,000 cases of heart disease were represented in the study.
Some food sources rich in B6 are beef liver, tuna, salmon, poultry, and chickpeas, as well as some fruits and vegetables, such as dark leafy greens, bananas, papayas, oranges, and cantaloupes.
B vitamins also have been linked to a lower incidence of stroke. In a review published in 2021 in Neural Degeneration Research, which included more than 5,000 older adults (age 60 and up), researchers found that low levels of vitamin B12 put them at a higher risk for ischemic stroke. An analysis in Stroke and Vascular Neurology published in 2018 showed that taking vitamins B9, B12, and vitamin B6 lowered blood homocysteine concentrations by about 25 percent and reduced the relative risk of stroke overall by about 10 percent.
“Vitamin B12, B6, and folate are important for keeping blood vessels healthy and preventing the buildup of a substance called homocysteine in the blood,” says Venuka Wick, MD, an assistant clinical professor in the department of family medicine at UW Medicine in Seattle. “When homocysteine levels are high, it can damage the blood vessels and increase the risk of blood clots, which can lead to a stroke.”
Some Mayo Clinic research suggests that vitamin B3 [niacin] can help improve cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular events, adds Dr. Wick.
In general, she advises that most people get their daily vitamin B intake from a balanced and healthy diet. If a healthcare provider, however, determines that a patient is deficient, a regimen of supplements may be recommended to improve levels.
But only take supplements under the guidance of a healthcare provider, as too much of certain vitamins can be harmful, warns Wick.
2. Avoid Anemia With B12
Vitamin B12 is essential for building blood cells and maintaining healthy nerve cells in the body. Without enough red blood cells, your tissues and organs don’t get enough oxygen, and your body just doesn’t work as well as it should. People can sometimes develop anemia (a lack of healthy red blood cells) and feel tired and weak. Other symptoms of B12 deficiency include constipation, weight loss, loss of appetite, rash, shortness of breath, diarrhea, tingling or burning of hands or feet, cracked lips or mouth sores, and mood changes.
“The best way to know if you have a deficiency is through a blood test, however, many people who are deficient in B vitamins complain about a severe lack of energy even before those blood results are available,” says Kaufman. “In some severe cases, the vitamin deficiency may lead to severe nausea or vomiting.”
Older adults are more likely not to have enough B12. The National Institutes of Health estimate that about 6 percent of adults younger than 60 in the United States and United Kingdom have a vitamin B12 deficiency, but that number jumps to about 20 percent in those older than 60. People of low socioeconomic status, women, and non-Hispanic Black individuals are also likely to have low vitamin B12 intakes.
To get more B12 in their diets, individuals may turn to vitamin-rich natural sources, such as dairy products, fish, meat, and — in particular — beef liver and clams. This type of vitamin B can also be found in fortified items like breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast.
3. Upping Your Vitamin B1 Intake May Help Prevent Beriberi
Vitamin B1 plays a major role in metabolizing food into energy. B1 is found in whole-grain cereals, yeast, beans, nuts, and meats. As MedlinePlus notes, too little vitamin B1 causes beriberi, a disease affecting the heart, digestive system, and the nervous system. Beriberi is found in people who are malnourished, as well as in those who are heavy alcohol drinkers. Symptoms of beriberi include difficulty walking, loss of sensation in the hands and feet, and paralysis of the lower legs — and it may even lead to congestive heart failure.
Taking any one of the B vitamins for a long period of time can result in an imbalance of other important B vitamins, so a B-complex vitamin, which includes all the B vitamins, may be the best option. When starting any vitamin regimen, however, be sure to consult with your doctor.
4. Give Your Immune System a Boost With Vitamin B2
Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, produces powerful antioxidant activity so the immune system can function properly, according to a study published in 2020 in the International Journal of Molecular Science. Antioxidants destroy “free radicals,” unstable molecules that may increase the risk of cancer and other diseases, per the National Cancer Institute. Lab analysis published in 2015 in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology of macrophages (cells that play a significant part in immunity) suggests that riboflavin deficiency impairs proper immune response, while riboflavin enrichment decreases inflammation.
“B2 may also improve the body’s ability to produce antibodies, which are proteins that help fight infections and protect against future infections,” says Wick.
She notes, however, that much more research is needed to fully understand the impact of vitamin B2 on immune function.
5. B2 May Reduce Migraine and Improve Vision
Beyond boosting the immune system, getting enough riboflavin may help prevent migraine headaches and cataracts, according to MedlinePlus.
“Some studies have found that high-dose riboflavin supplementation can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines,” says Wick. “[in addition to B2], vitamin B12 and folate have also been shown to play a role in the prevention of age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older adults.”
In research published in 2016 in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, researchers looked at seven previous studies and found that taking B2 supplements in adults may help reduce the frequency and duration of migraine attacks with no serious side effects. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke lists riboflavin as a possible natural treatment for migraine.
Riboflavin may also increase energy levels, boost the immune system, and treat acne, muscle cramps, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
6. Not Enough B3 and B12 May Be Linked to Dementia
Not getting enough niacin in your diet causes a disorder known as pellagra. As the Cleveland Clinic describes it, pellagra is a systemic disease, affecting the body as a whole because cells are deprived of the energy they need to perform bodily functions. This will eventually affect the brain and nervous system. Symptoms of pellagra include both physical and mental difficulties, diarrhea, inflamed mucus membranes, and dementia.
Pellagra can also result when the body is not able to absorb enough niacin because of alcoholism. Health benefits of niacin include its use as a treatment to help control high cholesterol. Doses of niacin high enough to lower cholesterol are associated with several side effects and should only be taken with a physician’s supervision.
Deficiency in B12 is also damaging to the nervous system and has been linked to dementia, as well as depression and confusion. Research in the journal Cureus in 2020 indicated that low B12 may impair cognition and memory and bring about a sensation of tingling and numbness because of poor myelination (the insulating layer, or sheath that forms around nerves). The investigation included 202 adults who had mild cognitive impairment. About 8 in 10 had marked improvement after receiving vitamin B supplements.
“We are in favor of screening for vitamin B12 deficiency, at least in the elderly population, to find and prevent the possible causes of this deficiency state, as this can be an easily preventable cause of impending dementia before the cognitive decline becomes irreversible,” concluded the authors.
Ten years prior to this paper, an analysis in the journal Neurology, that included 271 people age 65 to 79 who did not have dementia at the start of the study, found that over the course of seven years, concentrations of B12 in the blood were associated with incremental decreases in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
7. Vitamin B5 Could Keep Some Hormones Healthy
This type of B vitamin is needed for the production of sex and stress-related hormones produced in the adrenal glands, small glands that sit atop the kidneys. B5 has been called “the anti-stress vitamin” because it is thought to help regulate the production of the stress hormone cortisol — although Mount Sinai hospital says that there is no concrete evidence to support this. It’s also needed for growth.
You can find vitamin B5 in vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and avocado, as well as whole-grain cereals, potatoes, dairy, and organ meats.
8. Folic Acid Is Essential for a Healthy Baby
It’s no surprise that vitamin B9, also called folic acid or folate, is a nutrient that’s necessary for body growth and development. For babies, folic acid can also help prevent major birth defects of the brain (anencephaly) and spine (spina bifida), says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While the National Institutes of Health recommend that teens and adults get 400 micrograms (mcg) daily, breastfeeding mothers should get 500 mcg a day, and pregnant teens and women should get 600 mcg a day.
Naturally occurring folate can be found in dark-green leafy vegetables, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, oranges, nuts, beans, and peas. You can also find it in many fortified foods such as cereals and breads.
Teens and women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant may find it difficult to get enough folate, but this B vitamin is vital to a baby’s development. Talk with your healthcare providers about any dietary supplements you may need to take while pregnant.
9. A Lack of B May Wreck Your Skin
People with a B12 deficiency may have pale or slightly yellow skin and whites of the eyes (a condition known as jaundice), according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Other types of B vitamin have been associated with improving skin.
“Topical vitamin B3 (niacin) has been shown to improve skin barrier function and reduce inflammation, which may help improve conditions such as acne, eczema, and rosacea,” says Wick. Niacinamide is a topical version of vitamin B3. The Cleveland Clinic says that it helps build keratin, a protein that maintains skin health. It’s also been shown to ease inflammation and make skin stronger, smoother, and brighter.
10. Mouth Sores May Develop if You’re Vitamin B Deficient
If you’re low on vitamin B, you may experience painful mouth and canker sores. People who are deficient in B12 can produce abnormally large red blood cells that don’t function correctly, which can lead to a host of symptoms, including mouth ulcers.
A paper published in 2021 in the Annals of Palliative Medicine looked at 16 previous studies (published between 2010 and 2021) involving vitamin B and mouth sores, representing more than 1,500 patients. Investigators analyzed the data to see whether vitamin B complex treatment has a positive effect on healing mouth ulcers. They found that vitamin B therapy accelerated health of mouth ulcers and helped prevent them from coming back. In examining six studies that compared the ulcer healing time and treatment time, scientists found that both ulcer healing time and ulcer treatment time were reduced by an average of just over two days in those taking B complex supplements compared with control groups.
Stay Healthy & Stay Legit.
*portions of this article were written by Jennifer Brown, PhD and reviewed by Anurag Sahu, MD.
Side note: Studies from the Cleveland Clinic are mentioned in this article. The Cleveland Clinic is an unbiased research hospital that has made stunning finds recently regarding Covid mRNA vaccine efficacy and damage. I highly recommend the Cleveland Clinic and the excellent research the organization conducts.
Strictly opinion and not medical advice. Consult your doctor, pharmacist and/or nutritionist before starting/stopping any supplement or exercise program.