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Vitamins B. Review

B vitamins
By Renata Trister DO

The B vitamin family has eight B vitamins. Viewed as a group called B complex, this vitamin family works together, however each of the B vitamins has unique function. All B vitamins help the body convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which the body uses to produce energy. These B vitamins, help the body metabolize fats and protein. B-complex vitamins are needed for a healthy liver, skin, hair, eyes and nervous system function. This is a quick guide to each member of these important vitamins.

B1 Thiamin:

Thiamin is needed to produce cellular energy from the food, it also supports normal nervous system function. It is rare to be deficient in thiamine, although alcoholics, people with Cohn’s disease, anorexia, and those undergoing kidney dialysis may be deficient. Symptoms of thiamine deficiency include:

Abdominal discomfort

Thiamine plays a crucial role in metabolic reactions. Your body needs it to form adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which every cell of the body uses for energy. Thiamine deficiency can occur in alcoholics, people with Cohn’s disease, anorexia, and those undergoing kidney dialysis may be deficient. Symptoms of thiamine deficiency are:
Abdominal discomfort
People with thiamine deficiency have trouble digesting carbohydrates. This allows a substance called pyruvic acid to build up in the bloodstream, causing a loss of mental alertness, difficulty breathing, and heart damage, a disease known as beriberi.

The most important use of thiamine is to treat beriberi, which is caused by not getting enough thiamine in your diet. Symptoms include:

Swelling, tingling, or burning sensation in the hands and feet
Trouble breathing because of fluid in the lungs
Uncontrolled eye movements (nystagmus)

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a brain disorder brought on by thiamine deficiency. Wernicke disease involves damage to nerves in the central and peripheral nervous systems. Malnutrition due to alcoholism is mostly the cause. Thiamin is found in lentils, beans, meats, yeast, nuts, sunflower seeds, peas, milk, cauliflower, spinach.

B2 Riboflavin:

Also known as vitamin B2, riboflavin supports cellular energy production. Riboflavin is found in a variety of foods such as fortified cereals, milk, eggs, salmon, beef, spinach and broccoli.

B3 Niacin:

Niacin is also known as vitamin B3, and supports cellular energy production. Niacin, in the form of nicotinic acid, helps support cardiovascular health. Good sources of niacin include beef, poultry and fish as well as whole wheat bread, peanuts and lentils.

B5 Pantothenic Acid:

Pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B5, is widely available in plant and animal food sources and helps support cellular energy production in the body. Sources include organ meats (liver, kidney), egg yolks, grains, avocados, cashew nuts, peanuts, lentils, soybeans, brown rice and milk.

Vitamin B6:
Involved in over 100 cellular reactions throughout the body. Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is needed to metabolize amino acids and glycogen (the body’s storage form of glucose), and is also necessary for normal nervous system function and red blood cell formation. Vitamin B6 is found in foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, bananas, fish and cooked spinach.


Biotin, or vitamin B7, is found in brewer’s yeast, strawberries, organ meat, cheese and soybeans. For those who are biotin deficient, studies show that biotin may help support healthy hair, skin and nails. Biotin also supports carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism.

Folic Acid:

Also known as vitamin B9, folic acid is most commonly known for its role in fetal health and development as it plays a critical role in the proper development of the nervous system. This important developmental process occurs during the initial weeks of pregnancy, and so adequate folic acid intake is especially important for all women of childbearing age. Good sources are dark green leafy vegetables such as well as brewer’s yeast, liver, beets, dates and avocados.

Vitamin B12:

Vitamin B12, or cobalamin is also needed for DNA synthesis, proper red blood cell formation and for normal nervous system function. B12 is predominantly found in foods of animal origin such as chicken, beef, fish, milk and eggs.