The Function of Vitamin B in Our Life

The B vitamins are eight water-soluble vitamins that play important roles in cell metabolism. Historically, the B vitamins were once thought to be a single vitamin, referred to as vitamin B (much like how people refer to vitamin C or vitamin D). Later research showed that they are chemically distinct vitamins that often coexist in the same foods. Supplements containing all eight are generally referred to as a vitamin B complex.

List of B vitamins are as follows:

  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin, includes nicotinic acid and nicotinamide)
  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, pyridoxal, and pyridoxamine)
  • Vitamin B7 (biotin), also known as vitamin H
  • Vitamin B9 (folic acid), also, vitamin M
  • Vitamin B12 (various cobalamins; commonly cyanocobalamin in vitamin supplements)

Each B vitamin has its own individual properties and its own unique biological role to play. As a group, these nutrients have so much in common that they are often thought of as a single entity.

Key Functions of Vitamin B

  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine) – helps the body convert carbohydrates into energy and helps in the metabolism of proteins and fats.
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) – is required to complete several reactions in the energy cycle.
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin, includes nicotinic acid and nicotinamide) – helps the metabolism of carbohydrates.
  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) – promotes a large number of metabolic reactions essential for the growth and well-being of animals.
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, pyridoxal, and pyridoxamine) – is a coenzyme for several enzyme systems involved in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
  • Vitamin B7 (biotin), also known as vitamin H – plays a role in metabolic processes that lead to the formation of fats and the utilization of carbon dioxide.
  • Vitamin B9 (folic acid), also, vitamin M – is necessary for the synthesis of nucleic acids and the formation of red blood cells.
  • Vitamin B12 (various cobalamins; commonly cyanocobalamin in vitamin supplements) – is a complex crystalline compound that functions in all cells, but especially in those of the gastrointestinal tract, the nervous system, and the bone marrow. It is known to aid in the development of red blood cells in higher animals.

Food Sources of Vitamin B

  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine) – Thiamin is found in whole-grain cereals, bread, red meat, egg yolks, green leafy vegetables, legumes, sweet corn, brown rice, berries, and yeast.
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) – Riboflavin is found in whole-grain products, milk, meat, eggs, cheese and peas.
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin, includes nicotinic acid and nicotinamide) – Niacin is found in protein-rich foods. The most common protein rich foods are: meats, fish, brewer’s yeast, milk, eggs, legumes, potatoes and peanuts.
  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) – Pantothenic acid is found in meats, legumes and whole-grain cereals.
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, pyridoxal, and pyridoxamine) – Pyridoxine can be found in many foods. Some of the foods that contain it are: liver, meat, brown rice, fish, butter, wheat germ, whole grain cereals, and soybeans.
  • Vitamin B7 (biotin), also known as vitamin H – Liver, egg yolk, green vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Vitamin B9 (folic acid), also, vitamin M – Folic acid is found in many foods, including yeast, liver, green vegetables, and whole grain cereals.
  • Vitamin B12 (various cobalamins; commonly cyanocobalamin in vitamin supplements) – Vitamin B12 can be found in liver, meat, egg yolk, poultry and milk.

Recommended Daily Usage

  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine) – 0-6 months (0.3mg), 6-12 months (0.5mg), 1-18 years (1-1.5mg), 18+ years (1.5mg), Pregnant/Lactating (+0.5mg), Theraputic Range: 50mg to 1000mg+
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) – 0-6 months (0.4mg), 6-12 months (0.6mg), 1-18 years (1-1.5mg), 18+ years (1.7mg), Pregnant/Lactating (+0.5mg), Theraputic Range: 50mg to 500mg+
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin, includes nicotinic acid and nicotinamide) – 0-6 months (6mg), 6-12 months (8mg), 1-18 years (10-15mg), 18+ years (15-20mg), Pregnant/Lactating (+4 mg), Theraputic Range: 100mg to 2000mg+
  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) – 0-6 months (2.5mg), 6-12 months (3mg), 1-18 years (4-7mg), 18+ years (10mg), Pregnant/Lactating (+3mg), Theraputic Range: 250mg to 20g+
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, pyridoxal, and pyridoxamine) – 0-6 months (0.3mg), 6-12 months (0.6mg), 1-18 years (1-2mg), 18+ years (2.5mg), Pregnant/Lactating (+0.6mg), Theraputic Range: 50mg to 1000mg+
  • Vitamin B7 (biotin), also known as vitamin H – 0-6 months (35mcg), 6-12 months (50 mcg), 1-18 years (100-200mcg), 18+ years (300mcg), Pregnant/Lactating (+50mcg), Theraputic Range: 50mcg to 15mg+
  • Vitamin B9 (folic acid), also, vitamin M – 0-6 months (30mcg), 6-12 months (50mcg), 1-18 years (100-400mcg), 18+ years (400mcg), Pregnant/Lactating (+1mg), Theraputic Range: 400mcg to 20mg+
  • Vitamin B12 (various cobalamins; commonly cyanocobalamin in vitamin supplements) – 0-6 months (0.5mcg), 6-12 months (1.5mcg), 1-18 years (2-4mcg), 18+ years (4-6mcg), Pregnant/Lactating (+1mcg), Theraputic Range: 50mcg to 10mg+

Nutritional Safety

 

Each of the B vitamins has different safety and usage factors:

  • Vitamin B1 – Easily destroyed by alcohol consumption, caffeine, stress, and smoking. Pregnant women may benefit from slightly higher levels of B1. Large doses (5,000 to 10,000 mg) can cause headaches, irritability, rapid pulse, and weakness.
  • Vitamin B2 – Absorption or availability is decreased by the use of oral contraceptives, as well as by regular exercise and alcohol consumption. Vegetarians and the elderly may benefit from slightly higher levels of B2. A deficiency of riboflavin can cause skin disorders, anemia, light-sensitive eyes, and inflammation of the soft tissue lining around the mouth and nose.
  • Vitamin B3 – Nicotinic acid (niacin) – People who exercise regularly, take oral contraceptives, or have a lot of stress in their lives may need slightly higher levels. A deficiency of niacin causes the disease, pellagra. More than 100mg of vitamin B3 can cause flushing, tingling, itching, headaches, nausea, diarrhea and ulcers.
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) – Elderly people and those who take oral contraceptives, as well as those who smoke, or consume alcohol or caffeine may need slightly higher levels. Symptoms of deficiency may include depression and poor appetite. An individual suffering from biotin deficiency may seem lethargic, weak or easily fatigued. Hair loss may result from biotin insufficiency. Additionally in some cases of severe biotin deficiency, eczema occurs. The eczema can appear anywhere on the body but primarily targets the face. Occasionally deficiency will result in a slight swelling or inflammation of the tongue as well.
  • Vitamin B6 – Pregnant or breastfeeding/lactating women, those who use contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy, and those who use antibiotics regularly may need slightly higher levels. B6 supplementation is also suggested for those who consume alcohol, smoke, and consume protein above recommended levels. Deficiency of pyridoxine is rare. However, pyridoxine deficiency often occurs in alcoholics. Deficiency causes skin disorders, disruption of the nervous system, confusion, poor coordination and insomnia. Pyridoxine is also called pyridoxal phosphate and pyridoxamine. More than 500mg can cause irreversible nerve damage. The nerve damage can cause impaired walking, numbness, tingling and poor sense of touch.
  • Vitamin B7 (Biotin) – Pregnant women and those who use antibiotics on a long-term basis may need increased levels.
  • Vitamin B9 (Folic acid) – Elderly people and pregnant women may need higher levels, as well as people who consume alcohol or have risk factors associated with heart disease. Deficiency of folic acid causes anemia, poor growth, and irritation of the mouth. Deficiency of folic acid is common in alcoholics, the elderly, and people who are malnourished. Folic Acid is also called folacin and pteroylglutamic acid.
  • Vitamin B12 – Strict vegetarians and vegans, along with pregnant and/or lactating women, and those who consume alcohol or smoke may need increased levels. Deficiency of vitamin B12 causes mouth irritation, brain damage, and a disease called pernicious anemia.

My next article entitled The Function of Vitamin C in our Life will examine the role of Vitamin C in good nutrition.

See you on the Beaches of the World.