B Vitamins – everything you should know about the many different types

B Vitamins – everything you should know

Vitamin B complex plays a vital role in maintaining good health and well-being. Find out more about the sources and benefits below.

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What is Vitamin B Complex?

B vitamins are made up of eight water-soluble vitamins, these include:

  1. Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

  2. Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

  3. Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

  4. Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)

  5. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

  6. Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

  7. Vitamin B9 (Folic acid)

  8. Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

As a collective, they can often be referred to as the B Complex Vitamins.

What's the job of each of these 8 vitamins?

1. Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Thiamine is also known as vitamin B1. It has several essential functions, including helping break down and release energy from food and keeping the nervous system healthy. Thiamine is found in most types of food, including vegetables, fresh and dried fruit, eggs, liver and wholegrain breads1.

2. Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Riboflavin is also known as vitamin B2. Its functions include maintaining normal skin eyes and, supporting the normal function of the nervous system and contributing to normal energy-yielding metabolism. You can find riboflavin in milk, eggs, rice, and fortified breakfast cereal. It is good to note that UV light can destroy riboflavin in foods, so these foods should be kept out of direct sunlight2.

3. Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Niacin is also known as vitamin B3. There are two forms of niacin – nicotinic acid and nicotinamide – both in many foods. Niacin also contributes to a normal energy-yielding metabolism as well as a normal functioning nervous system. Valuable sources of niacin include meat, fish, wheat flour, eggs and milk3.

4. Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic)

Pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5, has many functions, such as helping to release energy from the food we eat and contributing to a reduction in tiredness and fatigue. It also contributes to normal mental performance. Vitamin B5 is found in most foods, including chicken, beef, potatoes, porridge, tomatoes, kidney, eggs, broccoli and wholegrains4.

5. Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

Vitamin B6 is also known as pyridoxine. It contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue. It allows the body to use energy from protein and carbohydrates in food and contribute to the normal formation of red blood cells (carrying oxygen around the body). Vitamin B6 is found in various foods, such as pork, poultry, fish, bread, whole cereals, eggs, vegetables, soya beans, peanuts, milk and potatoes5.

6. Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

Biotin, or vitamin B7, contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism. The bacteria that live naturally in your bowel can make biotin, and this nutrient is also found naturally in a wide range of foods6.

7. Vitamin B9 (Folic acid)

Folic acid (B9), known as folate in its natural form, is also a B-complex vitamin. Folic acid has several essential functions. It forms healthy red blood cells and increases maternal folate status. Low maternal folate status is a risk factor in developing neural tube defects in the developing foetus. The beneficial effect is obtained with a supplemental folic acid daily intake of 400 μg for at least one month before and up to three months after conception. Reliable sources of folate include green leafy vegetables, liver, chickpeas, and fortified breakfast cereals. Folic acid cannot be stored in the body, so you need it in your diet every day7.

8. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 has multiple principal functions and contributes to making red blood cells, supporting the nervous system's normal function, and releasing energy from the food we eat. You can find it in meat, salmon, cod, milk, cheese, eggs, and some fortified breakfast cereals. Vitamin B12 is not found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and grains, so vegans may not get enough of this vitamin.

Health benefits of B Vitamins

The health advantages of the vitamin B family vary; vitamins B1, B2 and B3, have several functions, including maintaining a healthy nervous system. Vitamin B2, in particular, supports normal skin and vision. Vitamin B6 can help to produce haemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body.

On top of this, folic acid is particularly beneficial during pregnancy, helping prevent nervous system problems in unborn babies.

Vitamin B intake

While most adults in the UK consume enough B vitamins through the food they eat, it is not always easy for everyone to maintain the recommended levels due to diet restrictions. Vegetarians and vegans, in particular, may not consume enough vitamin B12 as this vitamin isn't found naturally in fruits, vegetables and grains. One option to tackle this is to choose a supplement.

Vitamin B12 is primarily measured through a full blood count – a blood sample is usually taken from a vein in the arm or a finger-prick.

Sources of Vitamin B

A healthy and balanced diet will usually provide all the vitamin B our bodies need. Foods such as meat, milk, cheese, and fish (including salmon and cod) are all excellent sources of vitamin B12. For vegetarians, many fruits, vegetables, wholegrain bread and some fortified cereals are also excellent sources of B vitamins.

Folic acid is found in many foods, including green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and sprouts. Pantothenic acid is known to help release energy from our food and can be obtained from all the meat and vegetables we eat. However, suppose you want additional essential B vitamins. In that case, you could try a supplement such as Seven Seas Perfect7 Woman, which is a blend of Omega-3 and essential multivitamins and minerals, including all eight B vitamins to support your daily intake.

Vitamin B in pregnancy

Vitamin B6 and folic acid are particularly beneficial for expectant and new mothers. Government guidelines recommend that women who are planning pregnancy should aim to take an added 400 micrograms of folic acid per day. Folic acid helps the formation of normal blood cells. Government guidelines recommend that women who are planning pregnancy and are up to 12 weeks pregnant should aim to take an added 400 micrograms of folic acid per day. However, please discuss supplementation with your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Why Should I Take A Vitamin B Complex Supplement?

The health benefits of B vitamins are vast. The B vitamins are water-soluble. This means that any excess is excreted in the urine. We need to safeguard our daily intake of essential B vitamins through eating a healthy, balanced diet. A healthy diet can complement today's busy lifestyles with a vitamin B complex food supplement.

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