B complex vitamins usually deliver eight of the B vitamins: B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), and B12 ( cobalamin). Found naturally in meat, leafy greens, dairy, beans, peas, and whole or fortified grains, B complex vitamins are water-soluble and play an essential role in certain bodily functions including helping your body make energy from the food you eat and forming red blood cells.
benefits of B vitamins
Verywell / Joshua Seong
Each of the eight vitamins in vitamin B complex supplements comes with its own unique set of health benefits. For instance, vitamin B1 is critical for the growth, development, and function of cells in the body. Other vitamins, such as B2, work cooperatively in the body with other B vitamins to convert food into energy. B2 converts B6 into a usable form and aids in niacin production.1
Vitamin B5 breaks down fats and carbohydrates for energy and helps the body use other vitamins, such as riboflavin (found in B2). B6 is involved in immune function and needed by the body to use and store protein and carbohydrates from food in the form of glycogen. 2
B7 also helps the body convert the fats, carbohydrates, and proteins in the food you eat into energy. It is needed to make fatty acids and also maintains bone and hair health. Vitamin B9 is required to help cells produce and maintain DNA (the genetic material found in all body cells), while B12 is important for protein metabolism. 34
Not everyone requires vitamin B supplementation. Depending on your individual needs and recommendations from your doctor, you may be advised to take a specific B vitamin supplement alone over a B-complex supplement.
Converts Food Into Energy
Most of the B vitamins are involved in the process of converting food into energy. Some help metabolize carbohydrates, while others break down fat5 and / or protein.6
While this is an essential process, it is not necessarily the case that taking a B-complex supplement will make you feel more energetic. Although your body needs B vitamins to create energy from the foods you eat, the effect is different when these vitamins are consumed in the form of dietary supplements rather than food.
B vitamins involved: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, and B12
Supports Brain Health
Research shows that B vitamins support just about every aspect of brain health. While all B vitamins promote healthy brain function, a 2016 review published in Nutrients indicates that vitamins B6, B9, and B12 play a particular role in homocysteine metabolism, which helps reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. 7 In particular, B12 supports healthy DNA structures, which are important during fetal development and the prevention of chronic disease and cancer.8
Vitamin B6 supports both brain development and function, 2 while vitamin B9 reduces the risk of birth defects in the brain and spine, such as spina bifida. 3
B vitamins involved: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12
Produces Red Blood Cells
Some B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12, play an essential role in red blood cell formation. Healthy red blood cells are needed to transport oxygen to every part of the body. When there is a vitamin B12 deficiency, the body cannot produce enough red blood cells and anemia can occur.
Vitamin B2 is also needed for red blood cell production and growth, as is vitamin B9. While vitamin B5 plays a role in red blood cell production, it also helps reduce the amount of cholesterol produced by the body. And vitamin B6, which is required for more than 100 different enzyme reactions in the body, aids in the formation of hemoglobin, which also allows red blood cells to carry oxygen through the blood.
B vitamins involved: B2, B5, B6, B9, B12
Promotes Nervous System Health
Vitamin B2 keeps the eyes, nervous system, and skin healthy. It aids in the conversion of food into energy and helps enzymes in the body function properly. It also makes and repairs DNA, 1 helps with the optimal function of the digestive and nervous systems, and promotes skin health. In addition, vitamin B12 also plays a role in maintaining the health of the nervous system. 11
B vitamins involved: B1, B2, B3, B6, B12
Supports Hormone Production
Vitamins B3 and B5 are needed for the production of hormones in the adrenal glands, such as sex and stress hormones. 512 Vitamin B6 stimulates neurotransmitters and hormones that influence mood and regulate the body's biological clock.
B vitamins involved: B3, B5, B6
May Reduce Stress
Research shows that certain B vitamins may help to alleviate stress. For instance, a 2019 study published in Nutrients determined that vitamin B supplementation can benefit mood, though more research on the dietary patterns and micronutrient statuses of broader populations is still needed to make an evidence-based recommendation.13
B vitamins involved: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12
May Prevent Migraines
Vitamin B supplementations may also help prevent migraines in some people. A 2015 report from Maxmedchem looked at the effects of vitamin B supplementation on individuals with migraines. The authors determined that reducing homocysteine levels with folic acid (the synthetic form of folate) and vitamins B6 and B12 may help reduce symptoms associated with migraine with aura, which is a recurring headache with sensory disturbances. 14
However, the report notes that more rigorous research is still needed to determine the safety and efficacy of B vitamin supplementation as a preventative measure for people with chronic migraine headaches.14
B vitamins involved: B2, B6, B9, B12
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