What Does Vitamin B Do For Your Body?

Vitamin BOriginally thought of as a single water soluble vitamin, later research concluded that the vitamin had several chemically different versions, individually known as B1, B2, B3 and so on. In many cases up to all bar Vitamin B12 can be found in the same foods.

All the  B vitamins contained in one supplement is known as a vitamin B complex otherwise the individual B vitamins supplements are obtainable by name as B1, B2, up to B7 then B9 and B12 or their descriptive names (e.g. Thiamine, Folic Acid, Riboflavin etc.)

Being water soluble means that none of the B vitamins can be stored in the body and any excess is eventually passed in the urine therefore a continuous supply is needed in the diet.

Vitamin B1 – Thiamine

Along with all the B vitamins, it has a principal involvement in breaking down carbohydrates into energy, it assists in the production of genes and DNA, and in the function of nerves. A deficiency, although rare in the developed countries, can lead to diseases of the nervous system such as weight loss, pain and weakness in the bones and joints, irregular heartbeat and tissue swelling.

Severe deficiency is recognised by amnesia and other complex memory problems.  Taken orally there are no recognised harmful effects.

Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin

Helps metabolize fats and proteins, as well as producing energy in the body by converting carbohydrates to glucose. Athlete’s diets are likely to be high in B2 food sources for energy.

It is also important in keeping the nervous and immune system functioning properly and helps in maintaining healthy skin, hair, liver, reproductive organs, and eyes. It can combat some of the effects of ageing such as memory loss and may even slow down the onset of Alzheimers disease.

B2 deficiency is rare in the West but symptoms are sore lips, mouth, throat or other skin disorders, long term deficiency can lead to anaemia.

As the riboflavin that is unused by the body is passed out in the urine any harmful effects of an excess are extremely rare.

Vitamin B3 – Niacin

Also known as nicotinic acid. Another producer of body energy and helps the skin, nerves and digestive system to function correctly. Medically prescribed doses of niacin help reduce cholesterol and fat in the blood.

Alcohol can cause vitamin B3 deficiency. The symptoms are indigestion, vomiting, skin sores, depression and fatigue. Severe deficiency can lead to dementia, diarrhoea, cracked dry skin and mouth sores.

High doses of vitamin B3 can be toxic so always seek medical advice particularly if you are taking any other prescribed drugs.

Vitamin B4 – Adenine

Very little is known about the effect of Vitamin B4 on the body apart from its role in helping to produce energy and in making up the codes in DNA and RNA.

Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic Acid

Helps with the oxidation of carbohydrates and fatty acids and is critical in the production of red blood cells, sex and stress related hormones. It helps with the use of other vitamins, particularly riboflavin (B2) by the body and in cholesterol activity. Deficiency is rare but symptoms are similar to those described for other B vitamins.

Excess intake via supplements can lead to diarrhoea and bleeding problems although this is rare. You should seek medical advice before taking B5 or any other supplements if you are taking any other medication or are pregnant.

Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine

This B vitamin plays a part in the synthesis of neural transmitters, haemoglobin and glucose, produces vitamin B3 in the form of nicotonic acid and in the metabolism of amino acids and lipids.

A deficiency can lead to anaemia, high blood pressure, depression, skin problems, water retention and to an elevated level of homocysteine that may result in the onset of a large number of diseases including heart and bone problems.

Excessive intake of vitamin B6 above 1000 mg/day is likely to cause damage to the peripheral nervous system, the upper recommended limit is100 mg/day.

Vitamin B7 – Biotin

Assists in the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates and in the process of glucose. It also plays a part in the production of healthy nails, skin and hair.

B7 deficiency is extremely rare and it is thought that intestinal bacteria produce more than the body’s requirement with any excess as in all B vitamins passed in the urine.
There are no known toxic effects.

Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid

Is vital for proper brain function and in the process of normal cell division particularly when pregnant or young as growth is then at  its most rapid. Together with Vitamin B12 it helps in the formation of red blood cells and the synthesis of nucleic and amino acids.

Deficiency will result in anaemia and high levels of homocysteine (see Vitamin B6 above) and birth defects. It is thought that folic acid may slow down the effects of ageing on the brain.
It can mask the effects of any deficiency of Vitamin B12 that may result in damage to the nervous system.

A deficiency may be caused by alcoholism, bowel disease or celiac disease and certain medications. Among the symptoms are poor growth, mental problems such as forgetfulness or irritability, shortness of breath, gingivitis, inflamed tongue and diarrhoea.
Although not unknown, there are few side effects even when taken in high amounts.

Vitamin B12 – Coblamin

It is essential in producing blood cells in bone marrow, nerves and proteins and the synthesis of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids and has a vital role in the normal functioning of the brain.

The risk of B12 deficiency increases amongst the elderly as absorption by the gut declines causing memory loss and other mental problems, anaemia and homocysteine (see B6 & B9).
No proven toxic effects have resulted from an excess of Vitamin B12.

B Vitamin Food Sources  

Rich sources are lean meats, liver, eggs and green leafy vegetables. Nuts, other fresh vegetables dairy products and many other fresh healthy foods, as well as vitamin enriched cereals and bread  should provide adequate B vitamin dietary intake. The body cannot absorb Vitamin B12 from plants alone,  beef  liver and clams are particularly good sources of B12.

Suggested Reading

What Does Vitamin D Do For Your Body?
What Does Vitamin C Do For Your Body?


Category: Vitamins

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Hi ! I'm Jaks and I am the writer for this site. To be completely healthy and fit you must keep your body moving and active and most of all eating the correct food is vital. Learn more about this site

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