B vitamins are essential for maintaining a healthy body, mind, and heart.
Vitamin B allows your body to utilize energy. What is confusing, however, is that there are eight different types of vitamin B. According to a recent study in Nutrients, the body must have adequate levels of each of these micronutrients to function at its best.
They are also known as B12 (cobalamin), B12 (folic or folate), B9, B9a (biotin), and B12b (thiamine). These vitamins work with enzymes to produce energy from food. They are essential for releasing energy out of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. According to MedlinePlus B vitamins can also help reduce the risk of heart disease. They do this by lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) and increasing good cholesterol (HDL).
Anemia is caused by a deficiency of vitamin B. MedlinePlus notes that a simple urine or blood test can determine if you are vitamin B deficient.
Many vegetarians and vegans lack Vitamin B because it is derived from animal products. The only way to get the daily recommended allowance of Vitamin B is by taking supplements.
According to Colorado State, all B vitamins are water-soluble. This means they can be absorbed immediately into the body. These nutrients are excreted through urine and must be replenished constantly. While fat-soluble vitamins like A, D E and K dissolve in fat, they are absorbed into the tissue and used by the body as needed.
Dietary Supplement Fact sheets from the National Institutes of Health provide information on the recommended daily intakes of B vitamins and their food sources. B vitamins are not only good for energy, but they also have many other benefits.
1. Vitamins B6, 9 and 12 May Reduce Stroke and Heart Disease Risk
Mount Sinai Medical experts say that B6, along with B12 and B9, may boost heart health. Medical experts at Mt. B vitamins are essential for the production of new red blood cells that carry oxygen to organs and tissues.
In a study published in Nutrients, researchers examined 9,000 Korean men that completed regular surveys about their food intake. They found that an increased intake of vitamin B6 is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Researchers published a 2018 analysis in Critical Reviews of Food Science and Nutrition that examined 11 previous studies on coronary heart diseases risk and B vitamins. They concluded that higher intakes of folate and Vitamin B6 are associated with lower heart disease risks. The study included more than 5,000 heart disease cases.
Eat Right to Prevent Heart Disease
Harvard University says that some foods rich in B6 include beef liver, salmon, chicken, chickpeas, and tuna. Other sources of the vitamin are dark leafy vegetables, papayas and oranges as well as bananas.
B vitamins have also been associated with a reduced stroke incidence. Researchers found in a 2021 review in Neural degeneration Research that lower levels of vitamin B12 increased the risk of ischemic stroke in older adults. In 2018, an analysis published in Stroke & Vascular Neurology showed that taking vitamin B9, B12 and B6 reduced blood homocysteine levels by 25 percent, and the relative risk of stroke by 10 percent.
Vitamins B12, folate and B6 are essential for maintaining healthy blood vessels and preventing the accumulation of homocysteine. Homocysteine can cause damage to blood vessels, increase the risk of blood-clots and lead to strokes when levels are too high.
Research suggests that vitamin B3 (niacin) can improve cholesterol levels and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Most people obtain their daily vitamin intake through a healthy and balanced diet. A healthcare provider may recommend supplements if they determine that the patient is deficient.
2. Avoid Anemia with B12
Vitamin B12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and blood cells. Your body will not function properly if you do not have enough red blood cells. This is because your organs and tissues will not receive enough oxygen. Anemia, or a lack of healthy blood cells, can make people feel weak and tired. B12 deficiency can also cause constipation and weight loss. It may also lead to a loss of appetite.
A blood test is the best way to determine if you are deficient. However, people who are B vitamin deficient complain of a severe energy deficit even before their blood results are known. Vitamin deficiency can cause severe nausea and vomiting in some cases.
The likelihood of older adults not having enough B12 is higher. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 6 percent of Americans aged between 60 and 60 have a deficiency in vitamin B12; however, this number increases to around 20 percent for those over 60. Low socioeconomic status individuals, women and non-Hispanic Black people are more likely to have low B12 intake.
For more B12, people can eat vitamin-rich foods like dairy products, meats, fish and, in particular, beef liver and clams. Fortified foods like nutritional yeast and breakfast cereals also contain this type of vitamin.
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3. Increased Vitamin B1 intake may help prevent Beriberi
Vitamin B1 is essential for the conversion of food to energy. B1 can be found in meats, whole grain cereals, beans, nuts, and yeast. MedlinePlus states that too little vitamin B1 can cause beriberi. This is a disease of the heart, nervous system, and digestive system. Beriberi can be found in malnourished people, and in heavy drinkers of alcohol. Beriberi symptoms include walking difficulties, loss of feeling in the hands and legs, and paralysis in the lower legs. It can even cause congestive cardiac failure.
A B-complex, which contains all of the B vitamins, may be your best choice. Consult your doctor before starting any new vitamin regimen.
4. Give your immune system a boost with Vitamin B2
Vitamin B2, or riboflavin as it is also called, has powerful antioxidant activity that allows the immune system to function normally, according to a 2020 study in the International Journal of Molecular Science. National Cancer Institute says antioxidants destroy “free radicals”, unstable molecules that can increase the risk of developing cancer and other diseases. In 2015, a lab analysis of macrophages (cells which play a major role in immunity) published in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology suggested that riboflavin deficiencies impair proper immune response while riboflavin enhancement decreases inflammation.
B2 can also help the body produce antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that fight infection and prevent future infections.
It is still necessary to do more research in order to fully understand how vitamin B2 affects immune function.
5. B2 may reduce migraines and improve vision
MedlinePlus says that riboflavin can help to prevent migraines and cataracts.
According to some studies, high-dose riboflavin can reduce migraine frequency and severity. In addition to vitamin B2, vitamin B12, and folate also play a key role in the prevention of age-related macular disease. This is a leading cause of blindness among older adults.
Researchers published a study in 2016 in International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research that looked at seven studies and concluded that adults taking B2 supplements may reduce the frequency and length of migraine attacks without any serious side effects. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke recommends riboflavin for natural migraine treatment.
Riboflavin can also boost energy, improve the immune system, and treat carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle cramps and acne.
6. Dementia may be linked to not getting enough B3 and B12.
A disorder called pellagra is caused by not getting enough niacin. According to the Cleveland Clinic, pellagra affects the entire body because the cells lack the energy needed to carry out bodily functions. The brain and nervous system will be affected. Pellagra symptoms include mental and physical difficulties, diarrhea, inflammation of mucus membranes and dementia.
Alcoholism can also cause pellagra. Niacin is also used to control high cholesterol. Niacin doses high enough to reduce cholesterol can cause several side effects. They should only be taken under the supervision of a doctor.
A lack of B12 can also be harmful to the nervous system, and is linked to depression, dementia, and confusion. In the journal Cureus, published in 2020, researchers found that low B12 can impair cognition and cause memory loss. It may also lead to tingling or numbness due to poor myelination. This study included 202 adults with mild cognitive impairment. Around 8 out of 10 people showed marked improvement following vitamin B supplementation.
7. Vitamin B5 Can Keep Certain Hormones Healthy
This type of B-vitamin is required for the production of hormones related to sex, stress, and adrenal glands. These small glands are located on top of the kidneys. B5 is often referred to as the “anti-stress vitamin” because it is thought to regulate the production cortisol, the stress hormone. Mount Sinai Hospital says there is no concrete proof to support this. It is also necessary for growth.
Vitamin B5 is found in foods such as avocados, whole grain cereals, dairy products, organ meats, broccoli, kale, and potatoes.
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8. It is essential to a healthy baby that they get enough folic acid
Vitamin B9 (also known as folic acid, folate or Folin) is an essential nutrient for growth and development. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, folic acids can help babies avoid major birth defects such as anencephaly and spina bifida.
The National Institutes of Health recommends that adults and teens get 400 micrograms of vitamin D daily. Breastfeeding mothers get 500 mcg per day. Teenagers and pregnant women get 600 mcg each day.
You can find folate in many foods, including dark-green vegetables, Brussels sprouts, and oranges. It is also found in fortified food such as breads and cereals.
Women who are pregnant, or plan to become pregnant, may have difficulty getting enough folate. However, this B vitamin is essential for the baby’s growth. Speak to your doctor about any supplements that you might need while pregnant.
9. B May Damage Your Skin
According to the University of Rochester, people with a B12 shortage may have pale skin or eyes that are slightly yellow (known as jaundice).
Skin improvement has been linked to other types of B vitamins.
Topical vitamin B3 can improve the skin barrier and reduce inflammation. This may improve conditions like acne, eczema, and rosacea. Niacinamide, a topical form of vitamin B3, is the topical version. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it is a substance that helps maintain skin health by building keratin. It has also been shown that it can reduce inflammation and make the skin smoother and brighter.
10. Mouth Sores May Develop if You’re Vitamin B Deficient
You may suffer from painful canker and mouth sores if you are low in vitamin B. Deficient B12 can cause abnormally large blood cells to form, which may lead to mouth ulcers.
In 2021, a paper in the Annals of Palliative medicine examined 16 studies (published from 2010 to 2021) that involved vitamin B and mouth ulcers. The papers included more than 1,500 cases. Researchers analyzed data to determine if vitamin B complex treatment had a positive impact on healing mouth ulcers. The researchers found that vitamin B treatment accelerated the healing of mouth ulcers and prevented them from returning. Scientists compared six studies to compare the healing time of ulcers and treatment times. They found that those who took B complex supplements had a healing time that was two days faster than control groups.
Get Your Vitamin Bs from Food
You can get the majority of your vitamin B needs through food. Here is how to increase your vitamin B intake.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin).
Food sources: whole grains, fortified cereals, breads, pastas, rice, meats (especially pork), fish, legumes like black beans, soybeans, seeds, and nuts
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Food sources: Lean meats such as organ meats like kidneys and liver, low-fat dairy products, some vegetables, including mushrooms and spinach, fortified grains, breads, and cereals.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Food sources: Fish, poultry, beef, and legumes; some nuts and grains. Enriched and fortified cereals and breads.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid).
Food sources: Beef and poultry; seafood and organ meats. Eggs and milk. Vegetables such as avocados, broccoli, potatoes, and mushrooms (especially Shiitakes). Whole wheat, brown and white rice. Peanuts, sunflower seeds, and chickpeas.
B6 (Pyridoxal Phosphate)
Food sources: Fish, poultry, organ meats, potatoes, starchy vegetables, fruit (except citrus).
Food sources: Fish, meat, organ meats, seeds, nuts, certain vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and spinach.
Food sources: Beef liver; vegetables (especially Brussels sprouts and dark green leafy veggies such as mustard greens and spinach); fruits (especially oranges) and fruit juices; nuts, beans, and peas.
Food sources: Fish, meats, poultry, eggs and dairy products, clams, beef liver, some breakfast cereals, and nutritional yeasts; and other fortified food products with vitamin B12.