Vitamin B Complex: Benefits, Deficiency Symptoms and Groups Who Need More

Vitamin B complex refers to a group of 8 water-soluble B vitamins and the supplement made from a compound of them. This vitamins work synergistically together and are vital for the human body.

Vitamin B complex can be quickly absorbed by the intestine and excreted through renal metabolism. It then acts as a coenzyme in many catabolic and anabolic enzymatic reactions, which play an integral role in cell function.

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A study published in Neural Regeneration Research in 2016 even showed that vitamin B groups help accelerate nerve regeneration in experimental rats.

What vitamins does vitamin B complex include? What are their specific functions? Who should take vitamin B complex? Should everyone take vitamin B supplements?

Types and Functions of Vitamin B

Vitamin B complex includes eight vitamin B types, each with an individual purpose.

1. Vitamin B1

Also known as thiamin, vitamin B1 aids in energy metabolism—it helps convert ingested food into energy required by the human body. Thiamine plays a vital role in the cell’s growth, development, and operation in the body.

2. Vitamin B2

Also known as riboflavin, vitamin B2 is a key component of two coenzymes, flavin mononucleotide and flavin adenine dinucleotide. Both coenzymes aid cell growth and energy production. They also help metabolize fats, steroids, and drugs.

3. Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3, or niacin, converts into the coenzyme nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide in the human body. More than 400 enzymes rely on niacin for various responses. Niacin acts as an antioxidant and transforms nutrients into energy, produces cholesterol and fat, and produces and repairs DNA.

4. Vitamin B5

Pantothenic acid, known as vitamin B5, is essential for the synthesis and maintenance of coenzyme A. Coenzyme A metabolizes fatty acid, making pantothenic acid indispensable to almost all life forms.

5. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, aids immune function and red blood cell (hemoglobin) formation.

6. Vitamin B7

Biotin, vitamin B7, aids enzymes in breaking down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins in food, regulates gene activity, and plays a key role in cell signaling.

7. Vitamin B9

B9, folic acid, or folate, forms DNA and RNA and generates protein metabolism. Folic acid is also essential to produce healthy red blood cells during rapid growth, such as during pregnancy and fetal development.

8. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is critical for normal blood formation and nerve function. Vitamin B12 is also a key component for the operation and development of the brain and nerve cells.

Symptoms of Vitamin B Deficiencies

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency: A common deficiency

Plants don't make vitamin B12. It's found only in meat, eggs, poultry, dairy products and other foods from animals. Vegetarians are often prone to low levels of vitamin B12. Older people are also at risk for a vitamin B12 deficiency due to their reduced ability to absorb it from food. The National Institutes of Health reports that up to 15 percent of the general population are deficient in B12.

Vitamin B12 deficiency often results in cognitive impairment, osteoporosis and depression. Other symptoms may include numbness or tingling sensation in hands, legs or feet; difficulty balancing and walking; anemia; red, swollen tongue; confusion or weakness; and fatigue.

Vitamin B12 deficiencies can also lead to megaloblastic anemia, a condition where the bone marrow produces large abnormally shaped red blood cells that do not function properly.

Symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency

Vitamin B6 deficiency is not common in the United States.

Insufficient amounts of B6 can result in anemia as well as skin disorders, such as an itchy rash or cracks around the mouth.

A lack of B6 can also cause:
  • depression
  • confusion
  • nausea
  • anemia
  • susceptibility to infections
  • skin rashes or dermatitis

Symptoms of vitamin B1 or B2 deficiency

Vitamin B1 deficiency is rare, and vitamin B2 deficiency is very rare, in the United States.

This is due to the fact that many foods, such as milk and whole-grain cereals, are fortified with these vitamins.

It can become an issue with people who misuse alcohol, however, presenting symptoms such as confusion and cracks along the sides of the mouth.

Symptoms of vitamin B3 deficiency

A lack of niacin can cause digestive issues, such as nausea and abdominal cramps. Severe deficiency may also cause mental confusion.

Vitamin B3 deficiency is very rare in the United States.

Severe deficiency can result in a condition called pellagra, with symptoms such as:
  • rough skin that turns red or brown in the sun
  • a bright red tongue
  • vomiting
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • aggressive, paranoid, or suicidal behavior
  • hallucinations

Vitamin B Deficiency and Depression

A deficiency of vitamins B6, B9 (folate) and B12 in the B-complex have been associated with depression and other psychiatric problems, according to University Health News. A clinical trial, published in The Open Neurology Journal, identified the link between vitamin B12 deficiency and depression. Results indicated that 22 percent of patients with depression had a high vitamin B12 deficiency, and 36 percent had a lower-than-normal level of B12.

Vitamin B and Neurological Disorders

Vitamin B deficiency can also result in decreased cognitive ability. The journal International Psychogeriatrics reviewed 43 studies that investigated vitamin B intake and its effect on cognitive impairment and neurodegenerative disease. Findings suggest that low levels of vitamin B12 are associated with Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia and Parkinson's disease. Vegetarianism and medications to control blood sugar seemed to be contributing factors for this vitamin deficiency.

Vitamin B-Deficiency Anemia

Vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folate all play a role in creating red blood cells that deliver oxygen to cells throughout your body. A deficiency in any of these vitamins can be caused by poor nutrition, alcoholism or certain medications. Symptoms can include irritability, depression and confusion; inflammation of the tongue; and ulcers at the corners of the mouth. In acute cases, anemia may result.

4 Groups That Need More Vitamin B

Generally, vitamin B deficiency does not occur in a person who maintains good lifestyle choices and a balanced diet. However, certain types of people may experience a lack of vitamin B, and need to replenish themselves with supplements.

Here are four specific types of people who require additional intake of vitamin B to maintain overall health:

1. Elderly People

2016 research noted that up to 43 percent of older people may suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency.

Interestingly, a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology in 2012 found that more than 50 percent of surveyed older people who required ongoing care in nursing homes suffer from vitamin B1 deficiency.

2. Pregnant Women

Guidelines published by The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2017 point out that most women cannot get the recommended daily vitamin B9 intake solely from their diets. Vitamin B9 supplements for women of reproductive age can prevent infant neural tube defects.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all women who plan or can become fertile take supplements containing 0.4–0.8 milligrams of vitamin B9 daily.

3. Vegetarians

Since vitamin B12 is not naturally found in fruits, vegetables, or grains, vegetarians may not be able to consume enough vitamin B12 through their diets.

study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2014 shows that vegetarians are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is vital for the composition of nucleic acids, red blood cells, and the maintenance of myelin. Insufficient vitamin B12 leads to a variety of physical symptoms, some irreversible.

4. People With Unhealthy Lifestyles

Excessive alcohol consumption will lead to vitamin B deficiency. Studies confirm that up to 80 percent of participants with alcoholism have vitamin B1 deficiency due to decreased vitamin B1 absorption in the gastrointestinal tract and insufficient nutritional intake.

Sources and Amounts of Vitamin B Complex

England’s National Health Service recommends the following daily vitamin B supplemental and food sources for adult men and women between 19 and 64 years old:

Vitamin B1: 1 milligram for men and 0.8 milligrams for women.
Peas, fresh fruits (such as bananas and oranges), nuts, whole wheat bread, and liver are excellent sources of vitamin B1.

Vitamin B2: 1.3 milligrams for men and 1.1 milligrams for women.
Sources include: Milk, eggs, fortified breakfast cereal, mushrooms, and cheese.

Vitamin B3: 16.5 milligrams for men and 13.2 milligrams for women.
Sources include: Meat, fish, whole wheat flour, and eggs.

Vitamin B5: There is no clear indication of the appropriate intake.
Sources include: Chicken, beef, liver and kidney, eggs, mushrooms, and avocado.

Vitamin B6: 1.4 milligrams for men and 1.2 milligrams for women.
Sources include: Pork, poultry, chicken or turkey, fish, peanuts, soybeans, oats, bananas, and milk.

Vitamin B7: No more than 0.9 milligrams for both men and women.
Sources include: Meat, eggs, and whole grains.

Vitamin B9: Both men and women require 0.2 mg.
Sources include: Green leafy vegetables—such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and spinach—peas, chickpeas, and kidney beans.

Vitamin B12: Both men and women require 0.0015 mg.
Sources include: Meat, fish, milk, cheese, and eggs.

Choosing a Vitamin B Complex Supplement

There are a wide variety of vitamin B products available in the market. U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns the public that some dietary supplements may contain ingredients that can have a strong impact on the body. Some supplements may be contraindicated for certain medicines or conditions or various surgeries.

Before buying or taking supplements, consult your health care professionals and nutritionists about the pros and cons and the most appropriate ones for you.

References: 

https://www.theepochtimes.com/health/8-major-functions-of-vitamin-b-complex-and-4-groups-who-need-more_5185651.html

https://www.healthline.com/health/symptoms-of-vitamin-b-deficiency

https://www.livestrong.com/article/342433-vitamin-b-complex-deficiency-symptoms/

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