The vitamin B complex is a group of eight vitamins that are important for your body to function properly. These are:
- thiamine (vitamin B1)
- riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- niacin (vitamin B3)
- pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
- pyridoxine (vitamin B6)
- biotin (vitamin B7)
- folate and folic acid (vitamin B9)
- cobalamin (vitamin B12)
These vitamins aren’t grouped based on their chemical structure. Rather, they’re grouped based on their roles in helping your body to function properly. B vitamins are water soluble, which means they can’t be stored in the body. Water-soluble vitamins are excreted through urine, so you need to have B vitamins as a regular part of your diet.
What Are the Health Benefits of Vitamin B Complex?
Why is vitamin B complex important?
Like all other vitamins and minerals, vitamin B complex benefits are extensive. B vitamins are involved in many functions in the body. For example, they help you gain and use energy from the foods you eat. They also support your immune system and maintain your eye and skin health.
Because of this, some of the health benefits of vitamin B complex include:
- cell health
- growth of red blood cells
- energy levels
- maintaining good eyesight
- health brain function
- good digestion
- healthy appetite
- proper nerve function
- hormones and cholesterol production
- heart health
- muscle tone
- skin health
The health benefits of vitamin B complex can vary based on gender.
Vitamin B complex health benefits for women
B vitamins are important in pregnancy and breastfeeding because they aid in foetal development and prevent some birth defects. For pregnant women, they can relieve nausea, increase energy levels and lower the risk of eclampsia and pre-eclampsia.
Vitamin B complex benefits for men
B complex vitamins can increase testosterone, help build muscle and increase strength.
Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)
The recommend dietary allowance (RDA) is different for each B vitamin. You should be able to hit your daily RDA if you eat a balanced diet. Another option is taking a vitamin B complex supplement.
READ ALSO: Vitamin B Complex Dosage: How Much Should You Take Every Day?
Good sources of B vitamins:
- Liver and kidneys
- Leafy green vegetables
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Yeast products
The health benefits of vitamin B complex are recognised worldwide. That’s why foods such as breakfast cereals, meat substitutes and vegan products must be enriched with B vitamins by law.
Optimal levels of all the B vitamins are vital for proper physiological and neurological functioning. They interact with each other and together they support your health. However, different B vitamins do have different health benefits as well.
Thiamine (Vitamin B1) Helps Prevent Beriberi
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is important for the proper functioning of the heart and nervous system. Because of this, a thiamine deficiency can result in a serious condition called beriberi. Beriberi affects your heart and your brain.
Wet beriberi affects your heart and can result in heart failure. Dry beriberi affects your nervous system and your brain.
If it progresses, thiamine deficiency can lead to the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. This in turn can lead to permanent brain damage and dementia. Taking a vitamin B complex supplement at the onset of the symptoms can reverse the progression.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) Protects Against Migraines and Cataracts
As we’ve already mentioned, the health benefits of vitamin B complex have a lot to do with energy production.
Riboflavin helps your body to convert carbs into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is what your body uses for energy.
Having enough vitamin B2 in your diet can protect you against migraines. Migraines have been associated with mitochondrial dysfunction, and riboflavin can help with this.
Vitamin B2 can lower your risk of developing cataracts and other eye disorders such as glaucoma and keratoconus. It can also reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Niacin (Vitamin B3) Prevents Pellagra and Protects Against Heart Disease
Niacin (or nicotinic acid) is another B vitamin that is important for metabolism and energy release throughout the body. It is also involved in keeping the nervous system and skin healthy. It also helps to maintain cardiovascular health.
Being deficient in niacin can cause a condition known as pellagra (Italian for “rough skin”). People with pellagra typically experience 4 main symptoms (also known as the ‘four Ds’):
Pellagra is characterised by pigmented skin that is rough and scaly. Usually, pellagra occurs in areas that are exposed to the sun. Pellagra can be treated by restoring your niacin levels. Taking a high-dose niacin supplements is the most popular way to restore niacin levels in the body.
Some people need to take niacin in very high doses (1,000-2,000mg per day). Doses this high are an effective for:
- lowering high cholesterol
- lowering the risk of heart failure
- treating pancreatic disease
One of the most important heart health benefits of vitamin B complex is that it lowers the levels of bad” LDL cholesterol and raises the levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. It also reduces the triglyceride levels in the blood.
Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) Also Helpful for Lowering Cholesterol
One of the most popular health benefits of vitamin B complex comes from vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid).
Pantothenic acid is involved in the production of fatty acids and other key metabolic processes. Vitamin B5 deficiency is extremely rare. In fact, the only real evidence we have of B5 deficiency symptoms come from prisoners of war during WWII.
Taking B5 supplements could have some important health benefits. Vitamin B5 is involved in the synthesis of triglycerides and in the metabolism of lipoprotein. As such, it can reduce the lipid levels in your blood. This makes it a possible treatment for hyperlipidemia (high levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol).
Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) Maintains Healthy Skin and Protects Against Anaemia
Pyridoxine helps your body to form haemoglobin. Haemoglon is a protein found in red blood cells that helps to transport oxygen around the body. Vitamin B6 deficiency can lead to iron deficiency (anaemia). This can cause symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, breathlessness, headaches, palpitations, loss of appetite and weight loss.
Vitamin B6 also increases the amount of collagen in the skin. Collagen is a protein that is essential for the skin to maintain its structural integrity. Being deficient in pyridoxine can leave you with a scaly, itchy rash known as seborrheic dermatitis.
Biotin (Vitamin B7) Maintains Healthy Hair and Skin and Can Lower Your Blood Sugar
Biotin (vitamin B7) is also known as vitamin H. The letter ‘H’ stands for ‘Haar and Haut’ in German, which translated means “hair and skin”. Biotin plays a central role in maintaining healthy skin and hair. It’s also important for several metabolic processes and the production of glucose and fatty acids.
Eating raw egg can cause biotin deficiency if consumed regularly. Raw egg white contains avidin, which is a protein that binds to biotin. This binding stops the body from absorbing the biotin.
Taking biotin supplements can be an effective treatment for certain conditions that affect the hair and nails (e.g. brittle nail syndrome and uncombable hair).
Vitamin B7 plays a role in glucose regulation. This means it can help lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Its role in myelin production means that B7 could help as part of the treatment regimen for multiple sclerosis (MS). Some studies have found that taking biotin can reduce MS symptoms and help slow its progression.
Folate (Vitamin B9) Is Important for Foetal Development
Another of the most popular health benefits of vitamin B complex is provided by biotin.
Folic acid is the form of folate that is added to fortified foods and supplements.
If you don’t have enough folate in your diet, you could be at risk of folate deficiency anaemia. As well as anaemia symptoms, you could also experience:
- reduced sense of taste
- numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
- muscle weakness
Folate is important for the synthesis and repair of DNA and for cell division. Because of this, folate is very important for foetal development. A deficiency in folate during pregnancy can lead to neural tube irregularities such as spina bifida and anencephaly.
Folate deficiency during pregnancy is especially devastating in the early stages, when the core parts of the foetus are being formed. You should take 400mcg of folic acid up until week 12 of pregnancy to make sure your foetus can develop properly. Increasing your intake of folic acid will help you to avoid the side effects of B9 deficiency.
Cobalamin (Vitamin B12) Protects Against Anaemia
Being deficient in vitamin B12 can lead to a specific type of anaemia. On top of the usual anaemia symptoms, people with vitamin B12 deficiency can also experience:
- pale yellow skin
- sore red tongue
- mouth ulcers
- pins and needles
- changes in movement
- disturbed vision
- mood, cognitive and behavioural changes
Making sure that you have enough vitamin B12 in your diet is especially important for people on a vegan diet. Vitamin B12 can only be found in microorganisms, so it’s not produced by plants.
If you are on a vegan diet, it’s important to take a vitamin B complex supplement.
Reap the Health Benefits of Vitamin B Complex Today
The health benefits of vitamin B complex target the heart, brain, eyes, hair and skin. They interact together so it’s important to make sure that you have enough of all of them in your diet. Alternatively, taking a B complex supplement can help you hit your daily RDA and reap all the health benefits of vitamin B complex.
READ ALSO: 9 Great Vitamin B Complex Food Sources