B vitamins are a group of essential, water-soluble vitamins. There are a total of eight B vitamins that together form what is often referred to as B-complex. They include Vitamin B1 (thiamine), Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (niacin), Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), Vitamin B7 (biotin), Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid), and Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin). Amongst their many functions, B-vitamins are important for maintaining the health of hair, skin, nails, blood cells, and the nervous and immune systems.
B vitamins are essential
Essential vitamins cannot be made by the body, so must be consumed in the food we eat. Essential vitamins, which include the B vitamins, are needed for the body to work properly and carry out its basic day-to-day tasks.
B vitamins are water-soluble
Water-soluble vitamins like B vitamins, do not get stored in fat and can be filtered out of the body by the kidney into the urine. To understand how your body gets rid of extra water-soluble vitamins, think of how the urine can turn a very bright color when you start taking a multivitamin. The kidneys help the body filter out many things, including extra and unnecessary vitamins.
What does Vitamin B do to your body?
The B vitamins are important for energy and help covert the food we eat into the energy we use for life. These functions are often collectively called “cellular metabolism” by scientists and clinicians. Each of the eight essential B vitamins serves different functions in the body. Often, one B vitamin must be present to convert another B vitamin into its usable form. It is helpful to think of B vitamins as if they are a family, one helping another to assist with day-to-day activities. In addition to helping release energy from the food we eat, there are many other important functions for the essential B vitamins.
Name and function of the different Vitamins B in the Vitamin B Complex
Thiamine: Convert carbohydrates into energy, nervous system health.
Vitamin B1 is also referred to as thiamine. It assists in maintaining the health of the nervous system.
Riboflavin: Red blood cell function, assists B3 and B6, eye health, helps release energy from food
Vitamin B2 is also called riboflavin. Vitamin B2 is necessary for red blood cell production (red blood cells help to carry oxygen throughout the body). Riboflavin is also important in the formation of Vitamin B3 and conversion of Vitamin B6 into its usable form.
Niacin: Helps release energy from food, produce and repair DNA, hormone production, digestive system health, nervous system health, skin health
Vitamin B3 or niacin can also be referred to as nicotinamide. Vitamin B3 has numerous functions, including assisting in DNA production and repair and hormone production (specifically stress and sex hormones). It is also necessary for digestive health and the health of the nervous system and the skin.
Pantothenic Acid: Helps release energy from food, adrenal gland hormone production, neurotransmitter production, assists B5, cholesterol production
Vitamin B5 is important for hormone production in the adrenal gland and making neurotransmitters in the brain. B5 is necessary to help the body use riboflavin (B2) as well as for cholesterol production.
Pyridoxine: Helps store sugar in liver (glycogen), hemoglobin production, neurotransmitter production, involved in sleep-wake cycle, mmune system function
Vitamin B6 is a super busy vitamin, assisting as a co-factor for over one hundred different reactions. Some notable ones include the production of hemoglobin, neurotransmitters, and specialized hormones involved in the sleep and wake cycle. B6 is needed to help store sugar from food in the liver to be used later while fasting (in a storage form called glycogen). Many patients on a medication called Isoniazid also take B6, as it often becomes deficient.
Biotin: Helps body break down fat, promotes hair health, bone growth
Vitamin B7 is commonly known as biotin. It is most well known for promoting hair health, but is also necessary for the growth of bone and to help the body break down fat. Biotin is also produced by the healthy bacteria that live in the gut (or bowels) of humans.
Folic Acid: Red blood cell production, produce and repair DNA, reduced birth defects (spina bifida)
Vitamin B9 is better known as folic acid. Folic acid is extremely important in the production of red blood cells and is also involved in DNA production. Many people become familiar with B9 during pregnancy, when it is supplemented to reduce birth defects like spina bifida.
Cyanocobalamin: Nervous system health, red blood cell production, helps release energy from food, protein metabolism
Vitamin B12 is often called by its numbered name, but doctors can prescribe it in injectable form as cyanocobalamin. B12 is most well known for its role in nervous system health, but is also important for producing red blood cells.
What vitamin has all the B vitamins?
There are eight different B vitamins in the B complex family. While all of these B vitamins share the letter B in their name, they each have different chemical structures and serve different functions. These eight B vitamins can be taken together in over-the-counter supplements called B complex. The individual B vitamins can also be taken on their own.
What is high in Vitamin B?
The eight different B vitamins are often found in similar foods. This means that by eating foods high in one B vitamin, the food will also contain some of the other B vitamins as well. Kind of like a buy one, get one free sale. B vitamins are found naturally in meats, dairy, beans, green leafy vegetables, eggs, and whole grains. Many processed grains (like those found in commercially baked goods)are fortified (or have vitamins added) with B vitamins. Vitamin B12 cannot be obtained from vegetable or grain sources. Vegetarians and vegans must supplement Vitamin B12 with either a supplement or soy-based fortified foods.
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