What Is B Complex?
B vitamins play a vital role in multiple functions in the body. Each B vitamin has it’s own unique role, but they also work together. This is where taking B vitamins as part of a complex can potentially be helpful. A B complex typically consists of eight water soluble vitamins:
- B1 (thiamine): Thiamine plays an essential role in metabolism by helping convert nutrients into energy. The richest food sources include pork, sunflower seeds, and wheat germ.
- B2 (riboflavin): Riboflavin helps convert food into energy and also acts as an antioxidant. Foods highest in riboflavin include organ meats, beef, and mushrooms.
- B3 (niacin): Niacin plays a role in cellular signaling, metabolism, and DNA production and repair. Food sources include chicken, tuna, and lentils.
- B5 (pantothenic acid): Like other B vitamins, pantothenic acid helps your body obtain energy from food and is also involved in hormone and cholesterol production. Liver, fish, yogurt, and avocado are all good sources.
- B6 (pyridoxine): Pyridoxine is involved in amino acid metabolism, red blood cell production, and the creation of neurotransmitters. Foods highest in this vitamin include chickpeas, salmon, and potatoes.
- B7 (biotin): Biotin is essential for carbohydrate and fat metabolism and regulates gene expression. Yeast, eggs, salmon, cheese, and liver are among the best food sources of biotin.
- B9 (folic acid): Folate is needed for cell growth, amino acid metabolism, the formation of red and white blood cells, and proper cell division. Folate can be found in foods like leafy greens, liver, and beans or in supplements in the form of folic acid.
- B12 (cobalamin): Perhaps the most well-known of the B vitamins, B12 is vital for neurological function, DNA production, and red blood cell development. B12 is found naturally in animal sources like meats, eggs, seafood, and dairy.
Active vs Inactive Forms
B vitamins come in multiple forms, but they are generally divided into active and inactive. The body is capable of using both types, however the body needs to convert inactive forms into active forms in order to ultilize them. For certain people and situations, it may be more beneficial to use active forms when supplementing with b vitamins. Common active forms include: Benfotiamine (B1), Riboflavin 5-phosphate (B2), Niacinamide (B3), D-Calcium panthothenate (B5), Pyridoxal-5-phosphate (B6), Folate (B9), Methyl and/or Hydroxycobalamin (B12).
Benefits of B vitamins
Each B vitamin has it’s own role to play, but using a B complex has additional collective benefits.
Healthy Brain Function
The B vitamins play an inter-related role in keeping our brains running properly. Adequate amounts of B vitamins in the body are essential for optimal physiological and neurological functioning. Some data shows that vitamin B6 in particular may play a role in the prevention of the neurological disorder.
Reduce stress and boost mood
B-complex vitamins are often used to reduce fatigue and boost mood. Some studies suggest that B vitamins can lift your mood and improve your cognitive performance. One small study found that treatment with a high dose B complex improved general mental health and stress and enhanced cognitive performance. Another study found that supplementing with a vitamin containing B12, B6, and folic acid led to a more enhanced and lasting antidepressant response over 1 year, compared with a placebo.
Who Should Use a B Complex?
B vitamins are essential for everyone’s health. However, there are certain groups that may want to consider using a B complex supplement in addition to a healthy diet:
- people who are pregnant or nursing
- older adults
- vegetarians and vegans
- certain medical conditions
- certain medications that reduce B vitamins such as proton pump inhibitors
What are the potential side effects of taking a Vitamin B Complex?
B vitamins are considered safe for the majority of people, and since they are water soluble it is unlikely that the average person would consume too much through food. However, taking supplements with high doses could lead to serious side effects if a person ended up taking too much.
High doses of Niacin (B3) could lead to vomiting, high blood sugar levels, skin flushing, and possibly liver damage. Vitamin B6 taken in excess (200 mg or more per day) can lead to peripheral neuropathy, a loss of feeling in the arms and legs. This is usually temporary, and will typically go away once you stop taking the vitamin, but there is the possibility of the effect becoming permanent. As with any supplement, if you are unsure, then it is always best to consult with your health care provider.