What are B vitamins?
B vitamins are an essential set of eight nutrients that play a function in a variety of organs and body systems. Although they can collaborate to work for bodily functions, they each have their own distinct roles.
B vitamins are necessary for the normal functioning of the body's cells, where they assist the body in converting food into energy, maintaining healthy skin and brain cells, maintaining the health of other bodily tissues, and producing new DNA and blood cells.
There are eight different kinds of B vitamins that make up the vitamin B complex, and they're commonly found together in the same meals, and many individuals can receive enough B vitamins by eating a range of nutrient-dense foods. Those who don't get enough should take supplements to meet their body's requirements.
If people do not acquire enough B vitamins through their food or supplementation, they may develop B vitamin deficiencies. Certain diseases or medications may make a person’s body excrete too much B vitamins, leading to ineffective absorption by the body, followed by over excretion.
B vitamins from food vs supplements
You can get B vitamins both from food sources and supplements. But, due to their delicate nature, the nutritional gain may differ when consumed as food vs supplements.
Despite the fact that B-group vitamins are available in a wide variety of foods, they are water-soluble and typically fragile, and they are quickly destroyed, especially by alcohol and cooking.
While making white bread, white flour, and white rice, food processing can also lower the quantity of B-group vitamins in foods, either by destroying them or removing the areas that contain the most B-group vitamins, and one of the reasons these meals are less nutritious than whole-grain equivalents is because of this.
Except for B12 and folate, which are kept in the liver, the body has limited storage capacity for other B-group vitamins. A person with a bad diet for a few months may develop a shortage of B-group vitamins, therefore it's critical to consume enough levels of these vitamins on a regular basis as part of a well-balanced, nutritious diet.
Although vitamin supplements are widely available in the market and it may seem like a good idea to take them just in case, it's important to seek advice from your doctor or a dietitian before beginning, because the body only requires small amounts of vitamins, and the majority of these requirements can be met by eating a healthy diet.
If you take vitamins that your body doesn't require, your body may excrete the excess in your urine. Furthermore, certain vitamins can be harmful if taken wrongly, so you may be affecting your health rather than helping it.
Some B-group vitamins, such as vitamin B12 and folic acid, function synergistically in the body, and thus, taking supplements can sometimes mask vitamin shortages, which can lead to health concerns.
But, once you consult a health practitioner regarding supplements, it can actually prove quite beneficial to take B vitamin supplements if you have a deficiency. Your doctor will check the vitamin levels in your body and determine whether you need to take supplements or not.
Types of B vitamins - their sources and deficiencies
There are eight types of B vitamins and each has its own benefits and functions for your body.
Vitamin B-1 (thiamin)
Thiamin is abundant in the liver, heart, kidneys, and brain, and the body needs it to produce neurotransmitters, synthesise hormones, break down sugar molecules from meals, and produce fatty acids.
- Sources - Good sources of vitamin B-1 include pork, yeast, legumes, wheat germ, nuts, seeds and cereal.
- Deficiencies - Thiamin deficiency can cause memory loss, hunger issues, poor reflexes, muscle loss, heart problems, tingling in your hands and feet, and weight loss.
Vitamin B-2 (riboflavin)
Riboflavin is required for the conversion of vitamin B-6 into a coenzyme that the body requires, as well as for the breakdown of lipids, medicines, and steroid hormones, the production of energy, and the conversion of tryptophan to niacin. They help to maintain eye and skin health, among other functions.
- Sources - Foods rich in vitamin B-2 are mushrooms, oats, almonds, fortified cereals, cottage cheese, liver, milk, green leafy vegetables and egg whites.
- Deficiencies - Riboflavin shortage is uncommon, although it can arise when a person has an endocrine issue, such as thyroid difficulties, or other illnesses. Red, itchy eyes, hair loss, skin diseases, swelling of the throat and mouth, ulcers in the corners of the mouth, and cracked and swollen lips are all symptoms of a deficiency.
Vitamin B-3 (niacin)
Niacin is converted by the body into the coenzyme nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which is required for more than 400 enzyme processes in the body, which is the most abundant of the vitamin-derived coenzymes. These enzymes aid in the expression of DNA in cells, metabolic activities, cell communication and the conversion of energy from carbs, lipids, and proteins into a form that can be used by the body.
- Sources - Eat meat, poultry, mushrooms, nuts, eggs, milk, whole grains and fish to meet your vitamin B-3 requirements.
- Deficiencies - Pellagra is caused by a niacin shortage that can produce depression, tiredness, headaches, nausea, rough skin patches, discolouration of the skin, and a bright red tongue.
Vitamin B-5 (pantothenic acid)
Pantothenic acid is required for the production of new coenzymes, proteins, and lipids by the organism. Red blood cells transport pantothenic acid throughout the body, allowing it to be used in a range of energy and metabolic activities.
- Sources - Great sources of vitamin B-5 include avocados, chicken, tuna, beef, sunflower seeds, peanuts, eggs and legumes.
- Deficiencies - Pantothenic acid shortage is uncommon because it is found in many foods, although it can occur in persons who are severely malnourished. A lack of appetite and sleep, as well as headaches, irritability, and numbness or burning in your limbs, are all symptoms.
Vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine)
Pyridoxine is required for immunological function, glucose and fat breakdown, brain growth, and amino acid metabolism.
- Sources - The richest sources of vitamin B-6 are potatoes, poultry, chickpeas, green leafy vegetables, fish and legumes.
- Deficiencies - Developing depression, a swollen tongue, anaemia, a weaker immune system, cracks at the corners of the mouth, and scaling on the lips are all tell-tale symptoms of vitamin B-6 insufficiency.
Vitamin B-7 (biotin)
- Sources - In food, you will find biotin in chicken, pork, eggs, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, cauliflower and yeast. You can also find biotin in the form of supplements like in the Carmesi 100% Plant-Based Biotin which improves your hair health.
- Deficiencies - Hair fall, weak nails, depression, weariness, and a scaly rash on the face are all symptoms of biotin deficiency in your body.
Vitamin B-9 (folate or folic acid)
Folate is the natural form of vitamin B-9, whereas folic acid, which is found in fortified foods and some supplements, is a synthetic version. It is required by the body for effective cell division, DNA replication, amino acid and vitamin metabolism, and red blood cell creation.
- Sources - Foods with vitamin B-9 include beans, nuts, avocado, papaya, eggs, orange juice and dark green leafy vegetables.
- Deficiencies - Symptoms of folate deficiency include skin, hair, and nail changes, heart palpitations, headaches, irritability, and ulcers on the tongue or in the mouth, but thanks to the addition of folic acid to grain products, folate deficiency isn't common.
Vitamin B-12 (cyanocobalamin)
Vitamin B-12 is required by the body for fat and protein metabolism, red blood cell formation, brain and neurological function, and DNA synthesis.
- Sources - You can find vitamin B-12 in milk, yoghurt, cheese, meat and eggs.
- Deficiencies - Megaloblastic anaemia arises due to vitamin B-12 deficiency, which is characterised by numbness or a tingling sensation in the limbs, constipation, exhaustion, weight loss, depression, and unwillingness to eat anything.