What is Vitamin B Complex?

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What is Vitamin B Complex?

Assortment of high vitamin B sources

Vitamin B complex is composed of a combination of the eight B vitamins, commonly B1-B6. The eight B vitamins are:

  • B1 (thiamine)
  • B2 (riboflavin)
  • B3 (niacin)
  • B5 (pantothenic acid)
  • B6 (pyridoxine)
  • B7 (biotin)
  • B9 (folic acid)
  • B12 (cobalamin)

Each of these essential vitamins plays a role in contributing to your overall bodily function.

General Function

All B vitamins are water-soluble. They help to convert carbohydrates, fats, and protein into energy, or glucose. B vitamins are necessary for keeping the liver, skin, hair, and eyes healthy. They also play a role in the nervous system, and they are needed for good brain function.

The B vitamins are sometimes called anti-stress vitamins, because they boost the body’s immune system in times of stress.

B1 (Thiamine)


Vitamin B1, or thiamin, helps with the nervous system, brain, muscles, heart, stomach, and intestines. Vitamin B1, or thiamin, is involved in the flow of electrolytes into and out of muscle and nerve cells. People with impaired absorption such as ulcerative colitis, persistent diarrhea, and poor appetite may also receive vitamin B1, or thiamin. Some athletes use vitamin B1, or thiamin to help improve their performance.

Who is at risk for deficiency?

Individuals who have a poor diet, cancer, “morning sickness” vomiting during pregnancy, “hyperemesis gravidarum” excessive vomiting during pregnancy, have undergone bariatric surgery, and undergo hemodialysis are all at risk of thiamin deficiency. Additionally, individuals who regularly drink alcohol to excess may have a deficiency, as they may not be able to absorb the vitamin B1, or thiamin from their diet.

B2 (Riboflavin)


Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, is an essential component of two major coenzymes that play major roles in energy production; cellular function, growth, and development; and metabolism of fats, drugs, and steroids.

Who is at risk for deficiency?

The American College of Sports Medicine state that vegetarian athletes are at risk of riboflavin deficiency because of their increased need for this nutrient and because some vegetarians exclude all animal products (including milk, yogurt, cheese, and eggs). Pregnant or lactating women who rarely consume meats or dairy products, non-pregnant and lactating individuals with limited intakes of meat and dairy products have an increased risk of riboflavin deficiency.

Vitamin B2, or Riboflavin and Health: Migraine headaches

A migraine headache may produce an intense pulsing or throbbing pain in one area of the head accompanied by an aura. To some extent mitochondrial dysfunction is thought to play a contributing role in some types of migraine headaches. Given that riboflavin is required for mitochondrial function, researchers are studying the potential use of riboflavin to prevent or treat migraine headaches.

B3 (Niacin)


Vitamin B3, or niacin is made and used by your body to turn food into energy. It helps keep your nervous system, digestive system and skin healthy. Prescription vitamin B3, or niacin, is used to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, also known as the “good” cholesterol that helps remove low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as the “bad” cholesterol, from your bloodstream.

B5 (Pantothenic Acid)


Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid, is critical to the production of red blood cells, as well as sex and stress-related hormones produced in the adrenal glands. Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid is also important in maintaining a healthy digestive tract, and it helps the body use other vitamins, particularly vitamin B2, or riboflavin. Several small studies have suggested that pantetheine may help reduce triglycerides, or fats, in individuals with high cholesterol levels.

B6 (Pyridoxine)


Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is important for normal brain development and for keeping the nervous system and immune system healthy. Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, in combination with vitamin B9, or folate and vitamin B12, or cobalamin may help improve cardiovascular heath by decreasing homocysteine levels that may increase risks of cardiovascular disease. Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, may reduce the severity of morning sickness during pregnancy. There is also some low quality evidence that suggested that vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, might reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

B7 (Biotin)


Vitamin B7, or biotin, is needed to metabolize fats, carbohydrates, and protein. Results have been promising in a few studies that have tested the ability of vitamin B7, or biotin’s ability to lower blood glucose in people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. There is some evidence that vitamin B7, or biotin, may improve the strength and durability of fingernails and enhance hair and skin health.

Who is at risk for deficiency?

While deficiency is rare, vitamin B7, or biotin deficiency is most likely to arise in women during pregnancy, individuals who have been receiving prolonged intravenous nutrition, infants who consume breastmilk with low amounts of biotin, individuals with impaired absorption due to an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or other gastrointestinal (GI) tract disorder as well as people who smoke.

B9 (Folic Acid)


Vitamin B9, also called folate or folic acid, is crucial for proper brain function and plays a significant role in mental and emotional health. It supports in the production of DNA and RNA, the body’s genetic material, and is particularly important when cells and tissues are growing rapidly, such as in infancy, adolescence, and pregnancy. Vitamin B9, also called folate or folic acid, also works closely with vitamin B12 to help make red blood cells and help iron work properly in the body. Vitamin B9, also called folate or folic acid, works with vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, and vitamin B12, or cobalamin, and other nutrients to control homocysteine levels which are associated with heart disease. Pregnant women need more vitamin B9, also called folate or folic acid, to lower the risk of neural tube birth defects, including cleft palate, spina bifida, and brain damage.

B12 (Cobalamin)


Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is particularly important for maintaining healthy nerve cells, and it helps in the production of DNA and RNA, the body’s genetic material. Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, works closely with vitamin B9, also called folate or folic acid, to help make red blood cells and to help iron work better in the body. Vitamin B9, also called folate or folic acid and vitamin B12, or cobalamin, work together to produce S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe), a compound involved in immune function and mood. Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, vitamin B9, also called folate or folic acid, works with vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, and other nutrients to control homocysteine levels which are associated with heart disease.












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