“B-complex” is a name that describes all water-soluble vitamins, with the exception of vitamin C. Storage of water-soluble vitamins is very limited. However, their daily intake is important to prevent deficiency. As a result, because these vitamins get washed-out daily their toxicity is unlikely, although not impossible.
Why Mix B-Vitamins?
B-complex supplements vary in content depending on their intention. On one hand, if the supplement is meant to boost energy levels it might have higher levels of B-1 (thiamin), B-2 (riboflavin) and B-3 (niacin.) These play a role in energy reactions. On the other hand, if it is meant to improve mood, higher levels of B-12 are likely. Finally, B-12 vitamins support nerve function.
B-Complex Vitamin Characteristics
This vitamin harvests energy from foods -especially carbohydrates- where it serves as a coenzyme precursor (1). It also plays an important role in nervous tissue and it’s function.
Involved in the harvesting of energy from foods including fats, protein, and carbohydrate. It is known to help control homocysteine levels in the blood- an amino acid whose high abundance is associated with vascular disease (2).
Niacin plays a role in digestion, enzyme function, and energy production (especially from carbohydrates and fats). Niacin is sometimes prescribed to control blood cholesterol levels- it is linked with the production of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein) (3).
B-5, Pantothenic Acid.
This vitamin acts as a precursor for the synthesis of coenzyme A (CoA), an enzyme involved in many energy reactions (4). It is involved in harvesting energy from protein, carbohydrate, and fat sources.
This vitamin is involved in the synthesis and breakdown of amino acids. It is essential for the growth and maintenance of tissues. At the same time, it is also important for healthy skin and nerves.
B-9, Folate/Folic Acid.
This vitamin plays an important role in DNA synthesis and cell division. B-9 is beneficial to pregnant women as it has shown to prevent neural tube defects (NTDs.)
This vitamin works in conjunction with B-9 for producing red blood cells (RBCs). It also plays a role in cell metabolism and nerve function (5). Deficiency in B-12 is more common in vegetarians and vegans since it is in animal products.
Despite being known as vitamin H, biotin is technically a B-complex vitamin. It involves itself in energy reactions (especially protein and carbohydrate) and in the synthesis of glucose and fatty acids (6). Biotin is often supplemented for healthier skin, hair, and nails- although there isn’t enough scientific backing for this use.
Should I Supplement?
B vitamins are very often added for fortified foods and found plenty in nature. However, it is better to consult a physician or dietitian before supplementing- especially when it includes high doses of a specific vitamin. B vitamins are water-soluble and frequently filtering in the body, but toxicity can still happen.
In summary, a better plan is to eat a well-balanced diet with a variety of sources. If you are vegetarian or vegan, inform yourself about potential deficiencies and be proactive.
- Bâ, Abdoulaye. “Metabolic and Structural Role of Thiamine in Nervous Tissues.” SpringerLink, Springer, 19 July 2008, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10571-008-9297-7.
- “Office of Dietary Supplements – Riboflavin.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Riboflavin-HealthProfessional/.
- “Niacin.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 24 Oct. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-niacin/art-20364984.
- “Pantothenic Acid.” Linus Pauling Institute, 2 Jan. 2019, lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/pantothenic-acid.
- “Vitamin B-12.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 17 Oct. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-b12/art-20363663.
- “Biotin (Oral Route) Description and Brand Names.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 1 Feb. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/biotin-oral-route/description/drg-20062359.