The eight water-soluble B vitamins are collectively referred to as the B-complex. Most of the B vitamins function similarly and play a large role in converting the food you eat into much needed energy! This is why deficiency in these vitamins leads to fatigue.
Some of the B vitamins are also needed for healthy skin, hair, muscles, and brain health. Others may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering homocysteine. Homocysteine is a sulfur containing amino acid that occurs naturally in all humans. It is believed to irritate the lining of the blood vessels, causing them to become hardened, scarred, or narrowed (atherosclerosis). B vitamins also help to form red blood cells.
The Components of B-Complex
The B family consists of B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, (pyroxidine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), and B12 (cobalamin). Each of these B vitamins is essential to certain body functions:
- B1 and B2 are important for healthy muscles, nerves, and heart.
- B2 may help to prevent migraines [II].
- B3 helps regulate the nervous and digestive systems and may lower cholesterol levels [III].
- B5 and B12 are required for normal growth and development.
- B6 supports the immune system and aids the body in breaking down protein. B6 may protect against heart disease [IV], relieve PMS symptoms [VI], and alleviate pregnancy-related nausea [V].
- B7 is involved in the production of hormones.
- B9 helps cells make and maintain DNA.
- B12 may lower the risk of cervical cancer and reduce levels of homocysteine [I].
B-Complex Fortified Foods
You will often see B vitamins in “enriched” or “fortified” processed food products. This is done because during processing many of the B vitamins are stripped away and need to be added back in for the food to have any real nutritional value. For example, white rice, processed cereal products, pasta, and flour have all had the outer coating and inner portion of the grain removed during processing, thus stripping away many important nutrients. In an attempt to bring nutrition back into the end product, manufacturers often utilize cheap, synthetic vitamins.
Food Sources of B Vitamins
Whole grains— a source of B1, B2, and B3
Green leafy vegetables— a source of B2 and B9
Eggs— a source of B7 and B12
Chicken— a source of B3, B6, and B12
Citrus fruits— a source of B9
Nuts— a source of B3 and B9
Kidney beans— a source of B1 and B2
Bananas— a source of B6 and B7
Almost all foods— a source of B5
Do you often feel sluggish during the day? Try including more of these foods and see if you notice a difference!
[I] Alberg AJ, Selhub J, Shah KV, Viscidi RP, Comstock GW, Helzlsouer KJ. "The risk of cervical cancer in relation to serum concentrations of folate, vitamin B12, and homocysteine". Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2000 Jul;9(7):761-4. Web. June. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10919749>.
[II] Boehnke C, Reuter U, Flach U, Schuh-Hofer S, Einhäupl KM, Arnold G. "High-dose riboflavin treatment is efficacious in migraine prophylaxis: an open study in a tertiary care centre". Eur J Neurol. 2004 Jul;11(7):475-7. Web. June. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15257686>.
[III] National Institutes of Health News. "NIH stops clinical trial on combination cholesterol treatment". Thursday, May 26, 2011. Web. June 2016. <http://www.nih.gov/news/health/may2011/nhlbi-26.htm>.
[IV] Saposnik G, Ray JG, Sheridan P, McQueen M, Lonn E. "Homocysteine-lowering therapy and stroke risk, severity, and disability: additional findings from the HOPE 2 trial". Stroke. 2009 Apr;40(4):1365-72. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA. 108.529503. Epub 2009 Feb 19. Web. June. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19228852?dopt=Abstract>.
[V] Vutyavanich T, Wongtra-ngan S, Ruangsri R. "Pyridoxine for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial". Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1995 Sep;173(3 Pt 1):881-4. Web. June. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7573262>.
[VI] Wyatt K, Dimmock P, Jones P, O'Brien P. "Efficacy of vitamin B-6 in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: systematic review". BMJ. 1999 May 22; 318(7195): 1375–1381. Web. June. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC27878/>.