The B Vitamin Family Explained


Vitamin B is a water soluble organic compound which is an essential nutrient needed by the body for everyday living, and the hundreds of processes your body carries out to enable it to function, Like all vitamins it cannot be manufactured by the body and must be derived from dietary sources or from supplementation in the case of known deficiencies. Because Vitamin B is water soluble a lot of it is secreted in the urine on a daily basis making the daily intake either through food sources in the diet or by taking supplements important for all the functions it is required for to enable the body to function.

There are now 8 main B Vitamins within the group, originally it was thought there was just one vitamin called vitamin B. As scientists investigated this vitamin it was realized there where over 22 vitamins which where chemically different to each other, but existed in the same foods. Over time it was realized that a lot of the 22 were not actually vitamins for a variety of reasons including they could be manufactured within the body, some were not organic and whilst some were not essential to humans they where required by other organisms. This is why there are gaps in the numbering system of what is now known as the B vitamin family, which consists of, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, Biotin (B7), Folic Acid (B9) and B12.

3 substances which are sometimes referred to as being part of the B Vitamin family are Choline, Inositol and PABA.

Choline is is an organic compound, classified as a water-soluble essential nutrient,usually grouped with in the B Vitamin family, however it does not have a B number and is known as Bp.

Inositol is not technically a Vitamin because it can be synthesised by the body.

PABA, (para-aminobenzoic acid) is not essential to human health so is not technically a Vitamin

B Vitamin – – – – – – – – Name – – – – – – – – – – – -Dietary Source

B1 – – – – – – – – – – – – – -Thiamin – – – – – – – – – – brewers yeast, brown rice, wheat germ and soya beans

B2 – – – – – – – – – – – – – -Riboflavin – – – – – – – – -almonds, eggs liver and milk

B3 – – – – – – – – – – – – – -Niacin – – – – – – – – – – – -fish, eggs, brewers yeast, whole grains, millet, quinoa, almonds, wheat, pumpkin seeds, poultry, rice, brown rice, brussel sprouts, raspberries, artichoke, dates, celery, broccoli, mushrooms, dates and okra

B5 – – – – – – – – – – – – – -Pantothenic Acid – – – -mushrooms, avocado, broccoli, brown rice, oats and wheat

B6 – – – – – – – – – – – – – Pyroxidine – – – – – – – – -bananas, millet, buckwheat, wheat oats, brown rice, shellfish ie prawns, lobster, muscles, brown rice, chicken, spinach

B7 – – – – – – – – – – – – – Biotin – – – – – – – – – – – – egg yolk, liver, oysters, legumes and yeast

B9 – – – – – – – – – – – – – Folic Acid – – – – – – – – -barley, brown rice, wheat, sesame seeds, oats, chickpeas, lentils, mung beans, leeks, radishes, mushrooms, peaches, pears and yam

B12 – – – – – – – – – – – – Cobalamin – – – – – – – – -liver, fish, dairy products. there are no vegetable sources of B12

Choline – – – – – – – – – – Vitamin Bp – – – – – – – – -egg yolks, soy, beef, chicken, veal, turkey livers

Inositol – – – – – – – – – – -Vitamin B8 – – – – – – – – -nuts, seeds, brown rice, beans, whole grains, raisins, cantaloupe, bananas, citrus fruits

PABA – – – – – – – – – – – Vitamin Bx – – – – – – – – – liver, kidney, brewers yeast, molasses, whole grains, bran mushrooms, spinach

There are foods which are beneficial for several of the B Vitamins like: barley, game, eggs, sunflower seeds, peas, peppers and molasses

When food is cooked the high temperatures involved in the cooking process will result in most of the vitamin content being destroyed. The best method to cook food is steaming which will preserve more of the vitamin than boiling. With foods like nuts and grains which tend to be eaten raw the levels remain unchanged.

Vitamin B1 Thiamin

Deficiency results in the condition BeriBeri (common in the 19th century), which causes Oedama (water logging of the tissues) and Emaciation both of which have nerve damage associated with them. This condition occurs mainly in the tropics. The body must have B1 to be able to convert carbohydrates into energy, it does this by making thiamin pyrophosphate (TPP) which is the active form of Thiamin (B1). Every cell in your body needs Thiamin to be able to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), this is the bodies main energy carrying molecule.

The bodies ability to absorb B1 is totally dependent on having enough B6, B9 and B12 already available within the body. Both smoking and consumption of alcohol interfere with absorption of thiamin.

Dietary sources are brewers yeast, brown rice, wheat germ and soya beans.

Vitamin B2 Riboflavin

A deficiency in this B Vitamin is associated with stunted growth in children. It is also responsible for inflammation of the tongue and lips with cracking in the corners of the mouth. Vitamin B2 is important in cell respiration and very beneficial in helping the liver clear excess oestrogen’s. These may be partly responsible for breast and ovarian cancer in women. Vitamin B2 transforms B9 and B5 into the neurotransmitters which are crucial for thinking and memory. People who have high levels of B2 tend to perform best at memory tests.

Dietary sources are almonds, eggs liver and milk.

Vitamin B3 Niacin

This comes in 2 forms Niacin (nicotinic acid) and Niacinamide (nicotinamide). Niacin causes flushing because it dilates blood vessels this action keeps blood pressure down protecting the cardiovascular system. Taking an Aspirin at the same time as Niacin will help to reduce the flushing. Niacinamide does not have the flushing side effects. A deficiency causes Pellagra (although the deficiency has to be extreme), which is characterized by diarrhea, skin eruptions and mental disturbances. This condition occurs mainly in the sub tropics. This B Vitamin can be formed in the human body in very tiny amount from the amino acid Tryptophan.

50 enzymes rely on B3 for their proper functioning.

Any amount of alcohol in the body will inhibit absorption of Vitamin B3.

Dietary sources are fish, eggs, brewers yeast, whole grains, millet, quinoa, almonds, wheat, pumpkin seeds, poultry, rice, brown rice, brussel sprouts, raspberries, artichoke, dates, celery, broccoli, mushrooms, dates and okra.

Vitamin B5 Pantothenic Acid

Being deficient can cause dermatitis. B5 is known to be involved in the breakdown of fats and carbohydrates. It increase HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) levels which improve the ratio between the good and bad cholesterol’s. B5 is needed to make hormones and healthy red blood cells. There is evidence that coenzyme A is converted from B5 which detoxifies the body.

Dietary sources are mushrooms, avocado, broccoli, brown rice, oats and wheat.

Vitamin B6 Pyroxidine

A low level of B6 is associated with skin disorders and problems with nerve damage and the central nervous system. Its main benefits are turning protein, fat and carbohydrate into energy and assisting in maintaining the nervous system, B12 is also very important in this role. Vitamin B6 enhances the white blood cells capability to attack offending pathogens. When B6 is synergistically in combination with B12, both will work together to prevent a build up of Homocysteine, by removing it from the blood, which can be partly responsible for atherosclerosis, (arteries furring up). Homocysteine is an amino acid found in meat, which causes blood cells to clump together and cling to arterial walls. It is very important to keep Homocysteine levels in check.

A lot of women take a B6 supplement to ease the symptoms associated with pre menstrual symptoms of bloating and cramping, although this use has not been studied and proven.

Dietary sources are bananas, millet, buckwheat, wheat oats, brown rice, shellfish ie prawns, lobster, muscles, brown rice, chicken and spinach

Vitamin B7 Biotin

B7 is more commonly known as Biotin, which is also known as Vitamin H. The body should be able to make its own from the bacteria which live in the intestines, if someone is taking antibiotics or who have a compromised immune system.

Deficiency can be responsible for dermatitis. It is essential for the breakdown of fats, carbohydrates, proteins and is beneficial for healthy hair, skin and nails. Because it is so key to the health of hair, skin and nails, brittle nails and hair along with hair loss may be a sign of Biotin deficiency. Cradle cap in infants may be due to Biotin deficiency, however it is important to consult with a doctor before giving supplements to children. Because of the importance of Biotin to hair health, many shampoos and conditioners have Biotin added to them.

Dietary sources are egg yolk, liver, oysters, legumes and yeast.

Vitamin B9 Folic Acid

This is essential for growth, energy and a strong immune system. B9 known as Folic Acid is also known as Folate or sometimes Folacin, is crucial to the good health of every cell within the body. B9 helps to form Dna and RNA in the genes, which are needed to regulate the formation of red blood cells, skin cells and the cells which line the small intestines.

Being deficient of B9 will causes anemia, because it is necessary for the formation of red blood cells. Without B9 the body will not be able to produce red blood cells.

Because B9 is so important in the making of DNA and RNA pregnant women are advised to supplement with B9 for the normal development of the fetus in the first 6 weeks of pregnancy.

There is evidence that B9 is better absorbed when it is taken with a B12 supplement and a Vitamin C supplement, as Vitamin C prevents the B9 from being broken down to quickly in your body.

Dietary sources are barley, brown rice, wheat, sesame seeds, oats, chickpeas, lentils, mung beans, leeks, radishes, mushrooms, peaches, pears and yam.

Vitamin B12 Cobalamin

The Cobal part of Cobalamin refers to the metal Cobalt in B12.

B12 can be produced by micro-organisms in the gut, however as we age our natural levels of B12 decrease. Being deficient in B12 will cause pernicious anemia (defective production of red blood cells) and a degeneration of the nervous system. Pernicious anemia is a stubborn form of anemia which does not improve when iron supplements are taken, this type of anemia occurs because the stomach fails to excrete a special substance called intrinsic factor. The body needs the intrinsic factor for efficient absorption of Vitamin B12

If the deficiency is severe signs of senility may be displayed. This B Vitamin is absolutely essential for the production and maintenance of the myelin sheath which insulates and protects the nerve fibers. B12 is important so the body can effectively use B9 (Folic Acid).

B12 is required for energy production, to make myelin, production of red and white blood cells, the removal of Homocysteine. It is available as Cyanocobalamin a stable form of Cobalamin which the body converts to Methylcobalamin, B12 can be bought as a supplement already in this form making it instantly bioavailable.

Total vegetarians (vegans) must take a vitamin B12 supplements or consume B12 -fortified foods, or they will eventually become deficient. Because there is no Vitamin B12 in vegetables the only sources are liver, fish and some dairy products.

Dietary sources are liver, fish, dairy products. there are no vegetable sources of B12

Choline Vitamin Bp

Choline works very closely with B12 and B9 in the breakdown of fats. Being deficient in Choline may result in the degeneration of the liver and hardening of the arteries. The main health benefit of Choline is when it is converted to Acetylcholine. This is an important neurotransmiter required in the brain for memory function, intelligence and mood. People who have Alzheimer’s usually have low levels of Acetylcholine in their brains.

Dietary sources are egg yolks, soy, beef, chicken and veal, turkey livers.

Inositol Vitamin B8

Inositol which is present in all cells, is also involved in the production of serotonin. Being deficient may be responsible for some forms of depression. The version Inositol Hexaphosphate, also known as IP6, is derived from Phytic Acid which is found in nuts, seeds, brown rice, beans, whole grains, raisins, cantaloupe, bananas and citrus fruits is obtained when the Phytic Acid combines with bacteria in the digestive tract. This is why it is not technically a vitamin.

Inositol combines with Choline to form Lecithin, a type of lipid which is needed to make healthy cell membranes. This is especially important for the brain, heart and liver.

Dietary source are nuts, seeds, brown rice, beans, whole grains, raisins, cantaloupe, bananas and citrus fruits.

PABA para-aminobenzoic acid Vitamin Bx

Paba assists the body in the manufacture of red blood cells, however its main reported benefits are in protecting against UVB rays. It has been found to delay the onset of wrinkles and keeps skin smooth. Because of these benefits it is taken by people who have conditions relating to the skin and connective tissues. Some studies suggest PABA mat be beneficial for people who suffer with hair loss because it is believed it protects the hair follicles.

Dietary source are liver, kidney, brewers yeast, molasses, whole grains, bran, mushrooms and spinach

A full range of B Vitamins [] available.

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