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Vitamin B Complex | What Is It? Benefits? Deficiency Symptoms?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Commonly known as the vitamin B complex, the 8 B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12) play vital roles in ensuring that our bodies operate efficiently and as they should. Each vitamin holds a multitude of benefits for the body, and can be taken from foods and supplements.

You’ll find in this article:

vegan vitamin b12

Vitamin B Complex | What Is It? Benefits?

Thiamine (B1)

Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, ensures that the body can produce new, healthy cells. It has also been reported to possess anti-stress properties, in addition to the ability to boost your immune system when it’s low. Vitamin B1 is also essential for the breakdown of simple carbohydrates.

vitamin b side effects

Thiamine (Vitamin B1) Foods: 

Whole grains, legumes and beans, spinach, kale and peanuts, among others.

Riboflavin (B2)

Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, helps to get rid of particles in the body which can damage our cells. B2 has also been linked with the potential prevention of early ageing, in addition to the ability to reduce your risk of heart disease [2].

Furthermore, B2 is essential for the production of red blood cells and haemoglobin, which is responsible for ensuring that the rest of your body’s cells receive the oxygen that they require. There have also been studies [1] that suggest that vitamin B2 can help in overcoming migraines, however, the results are not conclusive.

vitamin b in milk

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) Foods:

Almonds, rice, eggs, milk, yoghurt, spinach, soy and sprouts.

Niacin (B3)

One of the main roles of vitamin B3, also known as niacin, is to increase the levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) in the blood. These are the ‘good cholesterol’. The higher your HDL levels are, the lower your overall cholesterol ratio is. This means you are seen as being at a lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases (CVD).

Several studies [3][4] have also shown that vitamin B3 may be able to treat skin conditions such as acne.

vitamin b in meat

Niacin (Vitamin B3) Foods:

Milk, eggs, beans, green vegetables and red meat.

Pantothenic Acid (B5)

Vitamin B5, also known as pantothenic acid, can be found in many foods in small quantities. Its main responsibilities include breaking down fats and carbohydrates for energy, and the production of important hormones such as testosterone.

There have been studies [4] that show that vitamin B5 can have a positive effect on skin, reducing the signs of ageing and improving blemishes, redness and spots.

vitamin b in grains

Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) Foods:

Eggs, meat, yoghurt, beans and legumes.

Pyridoxine (B6)

Pyridoxine, also known as vitamin B6, has several different qualities. Firstly, it works to regulate blood levels of homocysteine, which is an amino acid associated with heart disease. It also helps to body to produce hormones such as serotonin and melatonin, as well as norepinephrine. These are our sleep and stress hormones that alter mood and energy levels.

There have also been a number of studies [5] that suggest that vitamin B6 can improve the condition of patients suffering from arthritis.

vitamin b in seedsPydidoxine (Vitamin B6) Foods:

Seeds, rice, salmon, tuna, turkey and chicken.

Biotin (B7)

Vitamin B7 (biotin), also known as the beauty vitamin, has several benefits in relation to appearance, as it has been linked with improving the appearance of skin, hair and nails.

There have also been studies [6] that suggest that vitamin B7 can help to control blood glucose levels, suggesting that supplementation can be beneficial for those who suffer from diabetes. Biotin may also be beneficial during pregnancy to support the normal growth of the baby.

vitamin b in chicken

Biotin (Vitamin B7) Foods:

Most commonly found in meats, such as chicken and pork, although it can also be found in egg yolks, potatoes and nuts.

Folate (B9)

Folate, also known as vitamin B9, has several key benefits. It has been linked [7] to the prevention of memory loss, as well as improving depression. It has also been strongly linked with prevention of birth defects in babies.

B9 can be found in a synthetic form, folic acid, which is often added to foods such as cereals to fortify them. It can also be bought in supplement form.

folic acid foods

Folic Acid (Vitamin B9) Foods:

Can be consumed naturally through green leafy vegetables, asparagus, root vegetables, milk, wheat, beans and salmon.

Cobalamin (B12)

The main role of vitamin B12 is to aid the other B vitamins in completing their roles. It works with folate to produce red blood cells, as well as to produce haemoglobin.

Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products, which means the vegans and vegetarians are at risk of being deficient. It may be necessary to supplement with vitamin B12 if you do not consume many animal products.

 salmon fish vitamin b content

Cobalamin (Vitamin B12) Foods:

Vitamin B12 most commonly found in fish, pork, beef, dairy and eggs.

Vitamin B Complex | Deficiency Symptoms

  • A lack of vitamin B, especially B12, can potentially lead to anaemia, which is a low red blood cell count. Symptoms include tiredness and fatigue, breathlessness, headaches, dizziness, pale skin, lack of appetite and weight loss.

  • Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include sore tongue, mouth ulcers, paraesthesia (known better as pins and needles), irritability and depression.

  • Further symptoms in people with anaemia caused by a deficiency of folate can include numbness, muscle weakness and depression.

  • Deficiency of vitamin B1 and B2 usually doesn’t show symptoms.

  • People who are vitamin B9 deficient can develop symptoms such as diarrhoea. Pregnant women who are deficient in vitamin B9 are at a higher risk of developing birth defects in their babies.

  • A lack of vitamin B6 may cause skin disorders, such as irritation or a rash. It can also lead to irritation, depression or increased risk of infections.

Take Home Message

You need to ensure that you consume enough of the vitamins from the vitamin B complex each day so that your body can function effectively and efficiently. If you fear that you may suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned, consult your doctor and consider purchasing vitamin B supplements.

Looking to boost your immune system ready for winter? Click here to discover our top tips!

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

Reading Time: 5 minutes
  1. High-dose riboflavin for migraine prophylaxis in children: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18984840
  2. A review of the biochemistry, metabolism and clinical benefits of thiamine and its derivatives: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16550223
  3. Over-the-counter Acne Treatments: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3366450/
  4. The effects of a daily facial lotion containing vitamins B3 and E and pro vitamin B5 on the facial skin of Indian women: a randomized, double-blind trial: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20061726
  5. Pyridoxine supplementation corrects vitamin B6 deficiency but does not improve inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1297588/
  6. Chromium picolinate and biotin combination improves glucose metabolism in treated, uncontrolled overweight to obese patients with type 2 diabetes: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17506119
  7. Folate and brain function in the elderly: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15534434
  8. University of Maryland Medical Center Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-b2-riboflavin

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Jennifer Blow

Jennifer Blow

Editor & Qualified Nutritionist

Jennifer Blow is our UKVRN Registered Associate Nutritionist – the UK’s register of competent and qualified nutrition professionals. She has a Bachelor’s of Science in Nutritional Science and a Master’s of Science by Research in Nutrition, and now specialises in the use of sports supplements for health and fitness, underpinned by evidence-based research.

Jennifer has been quoted or mentioned as a nutritionist in major online publications including Vogue, Elle, and Grazia, for her expertise in nutritional science for exercise and healthy living.

Her experience spans from working with the NHS on dietary intervention trials, to specific scientific research into omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and also the effect of fast foods on health, which she has presented at the annual Nutrition Society Conference. Jennifer is involved in many continuing professional development events to ensure her practise remains at the highest level. Find out more about Jennifer’s experience here.

In her spare time, Jennifer loves hill walking and cycling, and in her posts you’ll see that she loves proving healthy eating doesn’t mean a lifetime of hunger.

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