Vitamin B Complex
Often called the “stress vitamins,” the eight B vitamins – thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9), and cobalamin (B12) – are molecularly unique but have similar functions and work synergistically together. B6, folate and B12, for instance, work together to protect your cardiovascular and nervous systems and support cognitive and mental function.
Fast Fact: More than 18 million American adults are B12 deficient. Up to 30 million are deficient in B6.
Why You Need Them: Vital for overall brain health and cognition, B vitamins play critical roles in the production of brain chemicals (serotonin, melatonin and dopamine) that help regulate mood, sleep and the feeling of pleasure. Sufficient levels of B vitamins are necessary for nerve cell function, cardiovascular health and during pregnancy to ensure the healthy development of the unborn baby. As helpers or co-factors in more than 50 body processes, B vitamins play key roles in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins; the production of energy; the manufacture of sex and adrenal hormones and maintaining hormonal balance; proper immune function; and in cell division – especially rapidly dividing cells such as red blood cells and the cells in your GI and genital tracts.
Research shows that particular B vitamins can help prevent or serve as valuable treatment adjuncts for a variety of neurological diseases and mental disorders, as well as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, arthritis, PMS, morning sickness and kidney stones. B vitamins are produced in your intestines provided you have a healthy gut microbiome, and are plentiful if you eat a variety of foods. Yet as many as 30 million Americans are deficient in B6, with women twice as likely to be deficient as men. Despite the wide availability of folate in plant foods, folic acid deficiency is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in the world. More than 18 million Americans are B12 deficient. For those over age 50, as many as 30% are at risk for B12 deficiency. The effects of certain B deficiencies can be irreversible, such as the neurological effects caused by B12 deficiency.
Best Food Sources: Getting enough of each of the B vitamins offers a great example of why eating a variety of foods is so important. The best sources for some are poultry or fish and seafood, while for others it’s meats, eggs and dairy, nuts and legumes or dark leafy green vegetables. B12 is found almost exclusively in animal sources, making supplementation a very good idea for vegetarians and vegans. See our shopping lists for some of the top sources of each of the eight.
When you Supplement: Most multivitamins contain all eight B vitamins. Because B vitamins are best taken together, a B-complex supplement is another option. If you have a specific issue you would like to address, talk to your healthcare provider about which B vitamins and doses are best for you.
Need to Know: Optimize your vitamin B production by eating real food, ideally organic, plus fermented foods to provide your microbiome with important fiber and beneficial bacteria.
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