How Complex is B-complex?
What is it? Do you need it? Why do you need it? How can you get it?
Vitamins are classified depending upon their solubility. There are broadly two types:
Fat Soluble Vitamins: These are the vitamins which are stored in adipose tissues and hence called fat soluble. These are Vit A, D, E and K.
Water Soluble Vitamins: This group of vitamins are soluble in water and hence whatever is not by the body passes through urine and hence we need to take them regularly in our diet. These are Vit B and C.
In this blog, we would discuss in detail all the eight types of Vit B.
B Vitamins is a group of vitamins found in a wide range of food and hence most of us are unlikely to suffer from a chronic deficiency of it. But as it’s water soluble and not stored in the body, we need to take them regularly.
Certain medical conditions, ageing, dietary choices might cause some of us to take supplements as they increase our bodies need for B vitamins.
First, let’s get to know more about B complex to understand its supplements and if you need them or not.
What is the B Complex?
There are eight types of B vitamins and a supplement that contains all of these nutrients is called as B-Complex.
Let’s take a look at all the eight B vitamins, their functions, and source.
B1 (Thiamin): This converts carbohydrates to energy. It is needed for glucose metabolism. It is also important for heart, nerve and muscle function.
The richest sources of Thiamin includes whole grains, sunflower seeds, outer layers and germ of cereals, beef, pork, nuts, pulses, cauliflower, oranges, eggs, and potatoes.
Washing, processing, heating and pasteurisation (milk) of food can reduce the thiamine content. Throwing cooking water would also drain some thiamine as it is soluble in water.
Deficiency of thiamin is rare but insufficient absorption or over exceretion might cause it in some of us. Its deficiency might cause anorexia, confusion, short term memory loss.
Beriberi is the most common disease caused by deficiency of this vitamin.
B2 (riboflavin): Vit B2 plays instrumental role in breaking down of protein, carbohydrates, and also acts as an antioxidant. It is needed to keep your skin, liver, muscles and eyes healthy.
Eggs, milk,almonds, organ meats (liver and kidney), green vegetables, and mushrooms etc are good sources of riboflavin.
It’s deficiency is rare but in case you have it, you might have deficiency of other vitamins as well.
Vegeterian atheltes who don’t take even milk, egg, cheese are likely to have deficiency of ribolflavin.
Exercise produces stress in the metabolic pathways that use riboflavin. Hence, veg atheletes might need to consult a sports dietician for avoiding this potential problem.
B3 (niacin): Niacin is converted into another metabolic active form by most of cells in the human body, called NAD. NAD helps in catalysing reactions for over 400 enzyems in the body. Niacin is intrumental in DNA production and repair, cellular signaling, and metabolism etc.
Chicken, tuna, lentils, whole wheat, peanuts, avacado, sweet potatoes, brown rice, mushrooms and grean peas are good sources of niacin.
Severe deficiency of niacin might cause Pellegra. In pellegra, upon exposure to sun, skin experiences brown discolouration and pigmented rashes.
Taking higher doses (from natural source) doesn’t cause much harm as it is excreted through urine.
B5 (pantothenic acid): Pantothenic comes from a Greek word pantothen, which means from all sides and as Vit B5 found in plenty of food sources hence it is named Pantothenic acid (coming from everywhere).
It’s a relatively lesser known vitamin because it’s deficiency is extremely rare. It’s deficiency might make you more sensitive to insulin, nausea, tiredness, apathy etc.
Like most vitamins it helps in synthesis and metabolism of fat, protein and coenzyme A. It helps in keeping the digestive system healthy and in absorption of other vitamins.
Meat from wide range of animals like pork, chicken, turkey etc, dairy products, legumes, tomatoes, avacado, mushrooms, cauliflower, cabbage etc are good sources for Vit B5.
B6 (pyridoxine): Pyridoxine plays key role in amino acid metabolism, and red blood cell production. It is involved with brain and immune system development of infants and during pregnancy. It also performs important role in over 100 enzyme reactions.
Just like most B vitamins deficiency of pyridoxine is also rare but groups of people are likely to have its deficiency. Like, people with improper functioning kidneys, alcohol dependence, and autoimmunce disorders.
Its symptoms might include, anemia, itchy rashes, swollen tongue, weak immune system, and confusion etc.
Best sources of pyridoxine include chickpeas, banana, beef, organ meat, potatoes and other starchy vegetables, cheese, watermelon, tofu, spinach etc.
B7 (biotin): Vit B7 also known as coenzyme R , Vit H and biotin is used for metabolism of carbohydrate and fat. It also regulates gene expression. Biotin helps in for normal growth and development, embryonic growth and maintaining healthy hair, skin, and nails.
Its deficiency is rare just like other B vitamins but in case present can cause skin problems and hair loss.
Yeast, whole wheat, potatoes, broccoli, eggs, sunflower seeds, yoghurt, spinach, milk etc are good sources of biotin.
Just like most water soluble vitamins its high doses (from natural food) are also harmless as it is excreted via urine.
B9 (folate): Folate is needed to make DNA and other genetic material in the body. It helps in division of cell. Folic Acid is a form of folate that is found in fortified food and supplements.
It’s deficiency is also rare but certain groups are more likely to have it. For example, people with poor digestion and a particular genetic mutation which makes it harder to convert folate (dietory) to supplemental folic acid.
Its deficiency might cause anaemia, hearing loss, memory loss, tiredness, shortness of breathe etc.
Liver, oranges, green leafy vegetables, banana, papaya, nuts, beans, legumes, beets and egss are excellent sources of Folate.
B12 (cobalamin): Cobalamin is vital for neurological functioning of human body. It is probably the most recognised of all the B vitamins. Cobalamin also helps in DNA production and Red Blood Cell development.
Vitamin B12 is absorbed in our bodies in two steps.
1. First, HCL in the stomach separates cobalamin from the protein to which it is attached in food.
2. Then, Cobalamin combines with a protein called intrinsic factor made by the stomach. After that it’s absored by the body.
A medical condition called pernicious anemia, doesn’t let stomach make make intrinsic factor. Hence, people suffering from this medical condition have trouble absorbing B12 causing its deficiency. Although, most people get enough supply of B12 and its deficiency is rare. But if present it might cause, weakness, constipation, weight loss, loss of apetite etc.
Milk,cheese, yoghurt, eggs, beef liver, fish and other animal products contain B12 .
B12 isn’t found in plant based sources as per current knowledge, although some breakfast cereals and other fortified foods supplements that use B12 sourced from bacteria culture.
Some companies are claiming to derive some formulations from certain plant sprouts in recent times. We are researching on that. As soon as we have more information and solid evidence, we would share it with you in an upcoming blog.
Other than B12, all other B vitamins can be managed from veg sources. If you’re vegetarian then for B12, you can eat dairy products like milk, curd, cheese and fortified breakfast cereals for keeping up with the need of B12 in your body.
It is evident that most of us can maintain healthy levels of all B vitamins that make B complex by eating a healthy balanced diet as they are found in abundance in a wide range of plant and food items.
Hence, most of us don’t need any supplements of the B complex. Excess dosage of these B vitamins from natural food doesn’t cause any harm.
But excess of any of these B vitamins from supplements might interfere with other drugs and medication and biological processes.
That’s why it is advised that you take a balanced diet and rely on natural sources of food for B vitamins.
An exception might be made in case one has a chronic medical condition. For that one must consult a physician before taking any supplements.
Eating different seasonal fruits, green leafy vegetables, legumes, milk, curd, cereals, grains, oil seeds, and nuts etc regularly one can easily manage not just B vitamins but almost all nutrients for our body.
Hope, now you can see, B complex is not that complex. :)
Happy, and healthy eating to all.
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