Vitamin B: Best foods sources, benefits and deficiency

Category: Vitamins & Supplements Print

Vitamin B is the general term for the water-soluble vitamin group. In its entirety, it is classified in different groups such as Vitamin B12, B9 and B1. All Vitamin B types have different functions in our body. They can be found at adequate amounts in many foods. Therefore, vitamin B deficiency is not seen in individuals who are on a balanced and healthy diet. However, factors including age, sex, pregnancy, medication use and alcohol use may increase an individual’s need for Vitamin B. Vitamin B deficiency may present with symptoms like weakness, malaise, fatigue and forgetfulness. In this case, vitamin deficiency can be resolved by taking Vitamin B complexes recommended by the physician.

What is Vitamin B?

B vitamins have a crucial role for us to live a healthy and worry-free life. They are responsible for the health of our cellular and brain functions. They protect us from cardiovascular health problems. They increase muscle strength and help muscle formation in males. Especially pregnant women should consume vitamin B at adequate amounts. Vitamin B supplements taken by mothers-to-be alleviates nausea, increase energy and reduces the risk of preeclampsia.

What does Vitamin B do for you?

The common task of all B vitamins are to help converting the food we consume to energy. In other words, they provide our body with sustainable energy supplement. Other than energy production, each vitamin B has specific functions. For example, in addition to energy production, Vitamin B6 leads our body’s fight against infections. Vitamin B12 converts carbohydrates to energy and prevents our body to store excessive fat.

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Vitamin B types and folic acid

There are a total of eight main Vitamin B types, namely Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12. Deficiency of any type of B vitamins may result in serious health problems. Symptoms are based on the type of Vitamin B that is deficient. The patient may present with different symptoms including fatigue, confusion, anemia and forgetfulness.

Also named as Vitamin B9, folic acid is an important vitamin which has role in DNA synthesis and cell division. Reducing vessel stiffness, this vitamin minimizes the risk of heart attack, paralysis and stroke. It can be found more in green-leafy vegetables. It was discovered in 194 in spinach leaves. Folic acid also plays a role in the development of fetal nervous system. When it is deficient, the cells cannot be divided adequately. Folic acid deficiency in pregnant women may result in many types of congenital anomalies.

The benefits of Vitamin B

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Vitamin B1 (thiamine) enables the body use the carbohydrates as energy. It is necessary for glucose metabolism, and plays an important role in the nervous, muscular and cardiac functions. As with all the vitamins in B complex, Vitamin B1 is water-soluble. It helps prevent complications in nervous system, brain, muscles, heart, stomach and bowels. It also has role in internal and external transportation of the electrolytes from and to the muscle cells and neurons.

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Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) contributes the conversion of foods to energy. It also acts as antioxidant and cleanse the body from toxins. Vitamin B2 is a water-soluble vitamin, and as with every water-soluble vitamin, it is transported via blood circulation and the unnecessary part is excreted from the body via urine. Vitamin B2 should be consumed daily as this vitamin can only be stored in the body at small amounts and is rapidly excreted.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Vitamin B3 (niacin) is an important food that we need for each part of our body to function properly. There are especially studies showing that it increases good cholesterol (HDL) level and decreases bad cholesterol. Moreover, it helps prevent the second attack in individuals with a history of heart attack. Furthermore, it reduces the risk of atherosclerosis and vessel stiffness.

Vitamin B5

It helps convert carbohydrates, proteins and fats to energy. It increases the intracellular energy production which is needed for hormone synthesis. It has a role in antibody production. It has a stress-relieving characteristic. It modulates the functions of adrenal glands. It promotes red blood cell production. It protects hair health, helps it grow and prevents skin wrinkles.

Vitamins B6 and B7

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is involved in red blood cell production, neurotransmitter production and aminoacid metabolism. It facilitates brain development of the baby. Therefore, it should be taken at adequate amounts by pregnant women. Modulating gene expression, Vitamin B7 (biotin) is necessary for fat and carbohydrate metabolism. Folic acid and Vitamin B12 have many health benefits.

The benefits of Vitamin B9 (Folic acid)

It can divided into two subgroups as folate and folic acid. While folate can naturally be found in foods, folic acid is the synthetic form which is mostly present in processed or fortified foods. It promotes red blood cell growth. When taken at adequate amounts by pregnant women, it dramatically reduces the risk of birth defects.

The benefits of Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) supports growth. It is involved in red blood cell production. It also play a role in the modulation of the nervous system. It protects the individual from cardiovascular diseases. It stops early cell aging and supports weight control. It also has functions including repairing worn neurons and protection against cancer. Adequate B12 intake is important for a good hair and skin health. When it is deficient, the individual may suffer from serious complications such as anemia or Alzheimer’s.

Does Vitamin B help losing weight?

Vitamin B12 arouses a feeling of being full and makes the person lose appetite. Thereby, it enables the individual to lose weight easier. In patients with Vitamin B12 deficiency, malaise, unwillingness to move, fatigue and depression are frequently seen symptoms. Moreover, depressive patients also eat more. In this case the patient may gain excessive weight. The patient may lose excessive weight using Vitamin B12 supplement.

From which diseases Vitamin B protects us from?

  • Vitamin B1: It helps prevent illnesses such as beriberi which is characterized with cardiac, nervous and gastrointestinal disorders. Individuals with ulcerative colitis, persistent diarrhea and loss of appetite may take thiamine. Thiamine injections can be administered to the patients in coma.
  • Vitamin B2: It protects liver health and keeps the eyes, nerves, muscles and skin healthy. It prevents cataract development. There are studies suggesting that it prevent migraine headaches.
  • Vitamin B3: It regulates cholesterol, reduces the risk of heart attack, protects the skin health, is protective against diabetes and promotes brain functions.
  • Vitamin B5: It speeds up wound and burn healing. It protects liver. It is effective in rheumatoid arthritis and liver disorders. It helps with constipation. It strengthens the top layer of the skin and may help with acne treatment.
  • Vitamin B6: It prevents depression and anemia. Furthermore, it decreases the risk of infection.
  • Vitamin B9 (folic acid): It is protective against diarrhea and anemia.
  • Vitamin B12: It is protective against paralysis and high blood pressure. It reduces the risk of breast, colon, prostate and lung cancers. It is good for psychological problems caused by neurological damage such as depression, paranoia and behavioral changes.

Vitamin B sources

Each type of B vitamins are taken from different foods. For example, Vitamin B12 is mainly found in foods of animal origin such as meat and dairy products. Vitamins B7 and B9 can be obtained from fruits and vegetables.

  • Vitamin B1: Wholemeal cereals, milk, eggs, dark green-leafy vegetables, peas and liver are foods rich in Vitamin B1. Heating, cooking or boiling the foods destroys Vitamin B1. As Vitamin B1 is water-soluble, it gets mixed into cooking water. Brown rice contains 10-fold more thiamine than white rice.
  • Vitamin B2: Meat, eggs, dairy products, cereals, asparagus, parsley, artichoke, avocado, cayenne pepper, blackcurrant, pea, mushroom, hazelnut, pumpkin, rosehip, sage, green vegetables
  • Vitamin B3: Calf’s liver, beef, mutton, chicken breast, turkey, tuna fish, salmon, sardine, mushroom, peas, sunflower seed, tahini.
  • Vitamin B5: Mushroom, broccoli, cabbage, black cabbage, legumes, salmon, eggs, hazelnut, milk, cheese, wheat, peanut, soy beans and molasses
  • Vitamin B6: It can be taken from foods both herbal and animal origins such as fish types such as tuna and salmon, all kinds of cereals, beef liver, beef mince, potato, spinach, watermelon.
  • Vitamin B7: Eggs, salmon, cheese, yeast and liver are the best sources.
  • Vitamin B9: Meat, wholemeal cereals, citrus fruits, beet, fish, legumes, liver, kidney, fortified cereal are rich in Vitamin B9.
  • Vitamin B12: Meat, salmon, milk, cheese, eggs, fortified breakfast foods, shellfish, liver and kidney are the best Vitamin B12 sources.

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Daily intake of vitamin B

Taking a healthy diet involving Vitamin B groups, you can be free of the possible health problems caused by vitamin deficiency. The Vitamin B amount you should take daily may differ based on the type of Vitamin B. For example, adults between the ages of 19 and 64 should take 1.5 mcg of Vitamin B12 daily. For folic acid, this amount is 200 mcg daily. If you are experiencing symptoms of Vitamin B deficiency, you can seek medical help as soon as possible and start to take Vitamin B complexes which contain 8 different vitamin.

Natural vitamin B sources

Liver, chicken and red meat are natural Vitamin B sources. Almost all Vitamin B types are found in red meat and chicken. Soy products like soy milk, fish like tuna and mackerel, and bean types like kidney bean and chickpea are also rich in Vitamin B.

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Causes of vitamin B deficiency

The main cause of Vitamin B deficiency is having a diet poor in B vitamins. Also, following conditions may result in deficiency:

Pregnancy

Vitamin B12 requirement is increased in expectant mothers during pregnancy. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers using Vitamin B complexes is important for both their and their child’s health.

Old age

Old age is another possible cause of Vitamin B deficiency. Vitamin B12 and B6, and folate deficiency especially in patients over the age of 50 triggers depression and mood disorders. Individuals older than 50 years old may take precaution against these diseases by using vitamin B complex supplement.

Vegan and vegetarian diet

Vegans and vegetarians are at risk for Vitamin B12 deficiency. This is because Vitamin B12 is mostly found in foods of animal origin.

Some medications

Regular use of some medications may result in Vitamin B12 deficiency. Birth control pills may result in Vitamin B6, B12, B9 and B1 deficiency. Proton pump inhibitors and metformin trigger B12 deficiency.

Moreover, individuals with certain health problems are at risk. It means that these individuals have a high possibility of developing Vitamin B deficiency.

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Health problems causing Vitamin B deficiency

  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Kidney disorders
  • HIV
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

Symptoms of Vitamin B deficiency

  • Skin rashes
  • Sores and cracks around the mouth
  • Flaking on the lips
  • Swollen tongue
  • Weakness, malaise and fatigue
  • Being edgy and short-tempered
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Bowel problems like diarrhea and constipation
  • Numbness and tingling on hands and feet
  • Stress

Complications of Vitamin B deficiency

  • Anxiety, panic attack
  • Depression
  • Mood disorders
  • Anemia
  • Mental derangement (B3)
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as abdominal cramps (B3)
  • Dermatitis (B6)
  • Peripheral neuropathy

Vitamin B test

Body’s Vitamin B12 level can be measured by Vitamin B12 test. In this test, your physician usually uses blood analysis. Other than blood, urinalysis may provide information about your Vitamin B level. However, certain medications may affect test results. Therefore, you must inform your doctor about the medications you use before the blood test.

The normal range of the Vitamin B12 level in the blood is between 200-900 nanogram per milliliter. A test result below 200 nanogram means B12 levels are low, and a test result above 900 means high.

Treatment of Vitamin B deficiency

After the Vitamin B deficiency is diagnosed by blood test, your doctor may prescribe Vitamin B complex supplements containing different B vitamins. Regular use of B complex supplements increases cognitive performance, reduces stress, and relieves the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Even when used by healthy individuals, they make the person feel more energetic and positive. Vitamin B supplements are usually suitable for oral use. However, in cases of severe vitamin deficiencies such as B12, the medications can be injected under your skin or into your muscles.

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Vitamin B medications, pills and supplements

Vitamin B medications can be in pill, tablet, capsule, sugar-coated pill, ampoule and even syrup form. The most commonly prescribed Vitamin B medications are as following:

  • Cyanocobalamin nasal spray (B12 deficiency)
  • Biotin tablets
  • Riboflavin (B2 deficiency)
  • Thiamine (B1 deficiency)
  • Folic acid (B9 deficiency)
  • Becovital capsule (Multi-vitamin)
  • Menopace capsule

What is Vitamin B overdose?

Regular and excessive Vitamin B supplements may cause some individuals to have high Vitamin B levels. This is mostly used in individuals who use vitamin supplements without prescription. Vitamin B elevation is usually not seen in individuals with Vitamin B deficiency who use supplement according to physician’s recommendation. Excessive Vitamin B intake is also not possible with daily diet.

Vitamin B overdose symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Blurry vision
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increase in urine amount and urination frequency
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin problems
  • Red skin
  • Painful skin lesions
  • Photosensitivity
  • Liver damage

WARNING: Long-term Vitamin B complex use may lead to nerve damage. In this case, you may lose control over your movements. If you experience one or more of the above-mentioned symptoms, you must seek immediate medical help!

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