All About B Vitamins

Friday, July 7, 2017

By Diana Steele, Registered Dietitian

Vitamin B is an important factor for our overall health, mainly used to help us convert carbohydrates into energy.[i] But did you know that there are eight different essential B vitamins, each with a special role to play in our bodies?

 

  • B1 (thiamin): helps to transform carbohydrates into energy[ii]
  • B2 (riboflavin): supports energy release, healthy skin, mucous membranes and nervous system[iii]
  • B3 (niacin): helps transform food into energy, necessary for growth and hormone production[iv]
  • B6 (pyridoxine): essential for the synthesis and breakdown of amino acids, aids metabolism and is involved in the production of serotonin[v]
  • Folic acid: essential for blood cell production and a healthy nervous system[vi]
  • Biotin: essential for metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats[vii]
  • B12: essential for the synthesis of red and white blood cells, and for the metabolism of food[viii]
  • Pantothenic acid: is necessary for metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats[ix]

 

Why are these vitamins linked together?

B vitamins have many common traits. They are water soluble, are often found in the same food sources, and most function as co-enzymes (working together with enzymes) to perform functions such as metabolizing carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

 

How can I get more B vitamins in my diet?

Some examples of foods that contain B vitamins are found below:

How do I know if I’m deficient in B vitamins?

If you are eliminating whole food groups, following a vegan or vegetarian diet, pregnant or of childbearing years, or if you have low energy or are under significant stress, you may be deficient in B vitamins. It’s always best to consult with your physician or registered dietitian to get an accurate assessment, as you may need more of a specific B vitamin.  There are some symptoms you can look out for that may indicate you are deficient:[xviii]

  • Tingling in the hands or feet
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Susceptibility to infections
  • Nausea

 

Taking a B complex supplement instead of one single B vitamin can prove helpful, as it allows all the B vitamins to work together and stay in balance, while taking only one could upset their balance.

 

How do I know if I’m getting too much of any of the B vitamins?

Although B vitamins are water soluble, it’s possible to take too much in supplement form. Some symptoms to keep in mind:

  • Excess B3 (niacin) can lead to liver damage, stomach ulcers and increased blood sugars,[xix] while large doses can cause rashes and tingling sensations[xx]
  • Excess B6 can cause irreversible nerve damage[xxi]
  • Excess folic acid can mask a B12 deficiency[xxii]

 

Choosing to eat a variety of foods from all the food groups can help ensure you meet your nutrient requirements, including the B vitamins.  A B complex, multivitamin or nutritional drink can be an excellent way to top up your daily intake on days when you may not get enough.

 

This article has been sponsored by BOOST®, but all comments and opinions are my own.

Diana Steele Registered Dietitian Diana Steele is a Vancouver-based registered dietitian, published author and owner of Eating for Energy, a nutrition consulting company in Metro Vancouver. She has helped over 2,000 individuals, couples and families achieve their nutrition goals, and has conducted more than 500 corporate seminars. Diana holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and is a member of the College of Dietitians of B.C.

 

[i] Dietitians of Canada. “B Vitamins.” Retrieved from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/B-Vitamins.aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[ii] Dietitians of Canada. “Food Sources of Thiamin (Vitamin B1).” Retrieved from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Thiamin-(Vitamin-B1).aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[iii] Dietitians of Canada. “Food Sources of Riboflavin (Vitamin B2). Retrieved from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Riboflavin-(Vitamin-B2).aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[iv] Dietitians of Canada. “Food Sources of Niacin.” Retrieved from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Niacin.aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[v] Dietitians of Canada. “Food Sources of Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine).” Retrieved from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Vitamin-B6-(Pyridoxine).aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[vi] Dietitians of Canada. “Food Sources of Folate.” Retrieved from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Folate.aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[vii] Dietitians of Canada. “Functions and Food Sources of Common Vitamins.” Retrieved from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Functions-and-Food-Sources-of-Common-Vitamins.aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[viii] Dietitians of Canada. “Food Sources of Vitamin B12.” Retrieved from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Vitamin-B12.aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[ix] Dietitians of Canada. “Food Sources of Pantothenic Acid and Biotin.” Retrieved from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Factsheets/Food-Sources-Pantothenic-Acid-and-Biotin.aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[x] Dietitians of Canada. “Food Sources of Thiamin (Vitamin B1).” Retrieved from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Thiamin-(Vitamin-B1).aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[xi] Dietitians of Canada. “Food Sources of Riboflavin (Vitamin B2). Retrieved from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Riboflavin-(Vitamin-B2).aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[xii] Dietitians of Canada. “Food Sources of Niacin.” Retrieved from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Niacin.aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[xiii] Dietitians of Canada. “Food Sources of Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine).” Retrieved from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Vitamin-B6-(Pyridoxine).aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[xiv] Dietitians of Canada. “Food Sources of Folate.” Retrieved from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Folate.aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[xv] Dietitians of Canada. “Functions and Food Sources of Common Vitamins.” Retrieved from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Functions-and-Food-Sources-of-Common-Vitamins.aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[xvi] Dietitians of Canada. “Food Sources of Vitamin B12.” Retrieved from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Vitamin-B12.aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[xvii] Dietitians of Canada. “Food Sources of Pantothenic Acid and Biotin.” Retrieved from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Factsheets/Food-Sources-Pantothenic-Acid-and-Biotin.aspx (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[xviii] Healthline. “The Symptoms of Vitamin B Deficiency.” Retrieved from: http://www.healthline.com/health/symptoms-of-vitamin-b-deficiency#vitamin-b96 (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[xix] University of Maryland Medical Centre. Vitamin B3 (Niacin). Retrieved from:

http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-b3-niacin (accessed June 7, 2017)

[xx] Environmental Working Group. How Much is Too Much: Harmful Effects of Excess Vitamins and Minerals. Retrieved from: http://www.ewg.org/research/how-much-is-too-much/harmful-effects-excess-vitamins-and-minerals (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[xxi] National Institutes of Health. “Vitamin B6.” Retrieved from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional/ (Accessed June 2, 2017)

[xxii] National Institutes of Health. “Folate.” Retrieved from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/ (Accessed June 2, 2017)