8 Surprising Health Benefits of B Vitamins


Vitamins are an intrinsic part of a nutritious diet and B vitamins which are found in green vegetables, grains, dairy, meat etc. may promote good health and reduce the risk of medical conditions. B vitamins are water-soluble vitamins which offer many health benefits. B vitamins are also known as Vitamin B complex and they have a direct impact on energy levels, brain health and cell metabolism.

Vitamin B complex may also support proper nerve function, growth of red blood cells, cardiovascular health, muscle tone, hair development, digestion and eyesight. These vitamins are classified into eight types as follows −

  • B1 (Thiamine)

  • B2 (Riboflavin)

  • B3 (Niacin)

  • B5 (Panthothenic acid)

  • B6 (Pyridoxine)

  • B7 (Biotin)

  • B9 (Folate or Folic acid)

  • B12 (Cobalamin)

Each of these vitamins contributes to overall bodily function. However, anything in excess or less may cause health problems. We have to understand how much B vitamins are required for our body to function smoothly.

Vitamin B Complex Intake

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommended a daily intake of B vitamins for women and men.

The daily intake for an adult female should be as follows −

Vitamin B

Quantity in milligrams (mg) or micrograms (mcg)

B1

1.1 mg

B2

1.1 mg

B3

14 mg

B5

5 mg

B6

1.3 mg

B7

30 mcg

B9

400 mcg

B12

2.4

The daily intake for an adult male should be as follows −

Vitamin B

Quantity in milligrams (mg) or micrograms (mcg)

B1

1.2 mg

B2

1.3 mg

B3

16 mg

B5

5 mg

B6

1.3 mg

B7

30 mcg

B9

400 mcg

B12

2.4

Older adults and pregnant women may require higher amounts of B vitamins and your healthcare provider can prescribe the dosage according to your individual needs.

Sources of Vitamin B

Vitamin B is naturally available in many foods such as milk, cheese, eggs, whole grains, cereals, dark green vegetables, soy milk, wheat germ, nutritional yeast, nuts and seeds. Additionally, it can also be found in meat, fish, beans, fruits and blackstrap molasses.

The majority of people can get enough B vitamins by eating a balanced diet. However, if you have been taking certain medications or follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you may develop a deficiency of B vitamins. Including foods that contain B vitamins in your diet can be one option to increase your intake or else, taking vitamin B supplements can also be an alternative.

Health Benefits of B Vitamins

B vitamins help enzymes in our bodies to function properly and play a vital role in breaking down carbohydrates and transporting nutrients throughout the body. In addition to this, vitamin B may provide eight other health benefits.

Brain Health

Vitamins B6, B9 and B12 have been associated with brain health. Vitamin B9 or folate is essential for mood management. Vitamin B6 is important for normal brain development and the proper functioning of the immune system and nervous systems. Lack of vitamin B6 may result in the reduction of red blood cells.

Furthermore, people with B vitamin deficiencies may experience depression, mood swings and anxiety. B vitamins are also connected to a stroke which is a health condition where a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain or a blood vessel may burst in the brain. Vitamin B supplements may lower the risk of stroke.

Cardiovascular Health

B vitamins are essential for maintaining energy levels in our bodies. A deficiency in these vitamins may cause myocardial dysfunction with heart failure. Folic acid and vitamin B12 are often prescribed by doctors in heart disease treatments.

Vitamin B1 is important for metabolism and its deficiency can cause a disease called beriberi. This disease affects the heart, digestive system as well as nervous system. It's usually found in people who are malnourished or people who consume too much alcohol. The symptoms of beriberi include loss of sensation in the hands and feet, paralysis of the lower legs and difficulty walking. These symptoms may lead to congestive heart failure and hence appropriate consumption of vitamin B is essential.

Healthy Pregnancy

Folic acid is required during early pregnancy to prevent birth defects of the brain and spine in the baby. Generally, women are advised to take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid three months before conception. Also, eating folic-acid-fortified foods may help women get plenty of vitamin B which can promote a healthy pregnancy. B vitamins can also manage energy levels, ease nausea and lower the risk of developing preeclampsia in pregnant women.

Digestive Health

B vitamins can reduce the severity of stomach ulcers. Also, vitamins B6, B9 and B12 may be beneficial in preventing gastrointestinal cancer. Research has proved that vitamin B1 supplements may reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome such as fatigue. Consequently, B5 may ease constipation, while B12 deficiency is often linked with liver cirrhosis and hepatitis.

Boost Immunity

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) metabolizes food into energy, keeps our skin healthy and helps in the proper functioning of the gut. Riboflavin can boost the immune system and increase energy levels. Also, it can treat muscle cramps, acne and carpal tunnel syndrome. The National Institutes of Health have referred to B2 as a preventive vitamin for migraines, headaches and cataracts.

May treat Anaemia

B vitamins may treat different forms of anaemia. Vitamin B12 is important for making red blood cells which carry oxygen to all parts of the body. A deficiency of B12 can cause pernicious anaemia. Moreover, folate and B12 can help treat and prevent megaloblastic anaemia, while B6 can help treat sideroblastic anaemia.

Promote Eyesight

B-complex vitamin deficiency can be linked to defective vision. Also, B12 deficiency may lead to optic neuropathy. Vitamin B12 supplements can be helpful in promoting eyesight. Also, a combination of vitamins B6, B12 and folate may reduce the development of age-related macular degeneration.

Boost Nerve Function

Vitamin B12 is responsible for the function of nerve cells in our bodies. This vitamin also preserves the myelin sheath which acts as a protective covering around the nerves. Its deficiency may cause neuropathy or nerve damage. Vitamin B12 has anti-apoptotic and anti-necrotic effects on the brain's neurons which improves nerves' functionality and increases the regeneration of axons.

B-complex vitamins like B6 are also linked to the regulation of pituitary hormones as they are involved in the metabolism and estrogen's activity. They are also added to testosterone-boosting supplements to raise the levels of testosterone in men. However, research-based evidence is limited in the role of B vitamins in hormonal health. Vitamin B2 supplements may help relieve migraines but more scientific evidence is required to prove the same.

Vitamin B deficiency may cause symptoms like confusion, nausea, anaemia, skin rashes, weakness, abdominal cramps and tingling in the feet and hands. Vitamin B supplements can be taken as prescribed by the doctors as an overdose of these supplements may cause blurry vision, increased urination, excessive thirst or diarrhoea.

Conclusion

The health benefits of B vitamins are widely proven to aid in bodily functions. Also, from improving energy levels to aiding in pregnancy, these vitamins have many benefits. One of the best things about B vitamins is that you can get them through foods and supplements. One must always consult a doctor before taking any B vitamin supplements.

Updated on: 16-Feb-2023

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