The B Complex vitamins are a family of eight water-soluble vitamins, they’re all related and have their own number, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12. B complex vitamins are fundamentally important to our lifelong health. They’re considered essential because they’re not produced in sufficient amounts in the human body. They’re not stored either, so we need a regular supply of all these B vitamins from our diet, especially during times of extra busyness, stress, high levels of exercise, or having a baby. When modern food sources alone may not be enough, a B complex supplement can offer support to fill nutritional gaps.
What are B vitamins good for?
We need sufficient B Complex Vitamins for healthy stress resilience, energy levels, happy mood, mental clarity and recall. Healthy fetal development also relies on the mother getting sufficient B vitamins. In Aotearoa, Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) and Vitamin B9 (Folate) are the most likely of the B family to become deficient.
As a family, B vitamins are known as the ‘stress’ vitamins because they’re vital to the health of the nervous system and adrenal glands, the stress responders in the body. We need sufficient amounts to be able to manage life’s daily stressors and continue to function well physically, mentally and emotionally. B vitamins are essential for metabolising the food we eat into usable energy. At times of increased or prolonged stress a good vitamin B complex supplement can support your response to challenging situations, they come in capsules, tablets, powders, liquids and liposomal formulas.
The essential B Complex vitamins:
Vitamin B1 is key for metabolic processes that help us release energy from the food we eat, it also supports the health of our nervous system and healthy stress adaptation.
Vitamin B2 is also involved in helping us release energy from food, it’s important to support the health of our eyes, nervous system, and skin. Ever wondered what the connection is between taking B vitamins and yellow pee? It’s actually B2 that lends a bright yellow hue, if it’s surplus to our requirements it’s flushed out via urine.
Niacin is also known as nicotinic acid, as well as niacinamide and nicotinamide, it’s important to support cell growth and development, healthy blood lipids, nervous system and skin health. It also works with B1 and B2 to help convert food into energy. Some people experience a ‘nicain flush’ after taking a high dose B3 in supplement form, they experience skin flushing, warmth and redness, which usually passes within an hour. If this is a concern for you, choose B3 in niacinamide form.
Pantothenic acid plays a part in the metabolism of fats, releasing energy from food, and many other daily functions including red blood cell formation, adrenal function and manufacture of sex hormones. It’s also widely available in most foods so deficiency is fairly rare.
Pyridoxine is used by the body to make PLP (Pyridoxal 5 Phosphate) which performs over 100 different functions. It helps the body store energy, supports blood oxygenation, immune function and brain health. Pyridoxine supplements have been shown to support PMS symptoms, especially balanced mood and also to support queasiness during early pregnancy.
More commonly known as Biotin, and also Vitamin H. B7 helps the body use carbohydrates, fats and protein from food. It’s also important during pregnancy. Biotin for hair - B7 is a popular supplement for hair fall and often taken to support healthy hair and nail growth.
Folate, also found in folic acid form in supplements, is probably best known for its role in healthy fetal neural development during pregnancy. It’s also needed to make the mood and motivation neurotransmitters, dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin. In Aotearoa, folate deficiency is relatively more common compared with other B complex vitamins
B12 helps with energy production from food and is extremely important for nerve cell health. It’s also involved with red blood cell formation. Along with folate, B12 deficiency is relatively more common than with other B complex family members, doctors often recommend B1 injections in more severe cases. Animal derived foods are the richest source of B12, so if you’re following a vegan diet, it’s helpful to be attentive to your B12 intake.
PABA, inositol and choline
As well as these eight vitamins, there are Inositol – sometimes called vitamin B8 and PABA (Para-Amino Benzoic Acid) - sometimes called vitamin B10. These were originally considered members of the B complex family, but now they’ve been reclassified as B vitamin cofactors. Inositol and PABA are not called essential nutrients because enough of both are synthesised in the body by our gut bacteria
Choline, on the other hand, is considered an essential nutrient because although it’s made in the liver in small amounts, dietary sources of choline are needed throughout the body, mainly in the form of phospholipids such as phosphatidylcholine (found in lecithin) as components of cell walls. Choline is also needed in the methylation cycle and for the natural production of acetylcholine, the primary neurotransmitter involved with thought, learning and memory.
Wholefoods rich in B Vitamins
Your B vitamins food list
A varied, wholefood diet is generally the best strategy for getting plenty of nutrients, including Bs. Caffeine, alcohol, certain health conditions and medications can affect the levels of B vitamins in the body. Some B vitamins are destroyed through high heat and removed when grains are refined, so keep this in mind too. Here’s a list with rich dietary sources of each of the B complex vitamins.
Vitamin B1 foods:
- Whole grains
Vitamin B2 foods:
- Milk and dairy products
- Lean meats
- Green leafy veggies
Vitamin B3 foods:
- Red meat
Vitamin B5 foods:
- Most veggies
Vitamin B6 foods:
- Non citrus fruit
Vitamin B7 Biotin foods:
Vitamin B9 Folate foods:
- Green leafy veggies
Vitamin B12 foods:
- Dairy products
- Brewer’s and nutritional yeasts
B Complex vitamins and the microbiome
Interestingly, our gut microbiome helps synthesise our B complex vitamins, especially Vitamin B12. So, keeping the community of friendly bacteria in our gut healthy is a great way to ensure your gut can facilitate this process. You can take a broad-spectrum probiotic to support a happy and thriving microbiome. For more ways to look after your microbiome check out Feeling Good - it starts in your gut.
B vitamins and Methylation
B Complex vitamins can help support the methylation cycle, by acting as methyl donors. Methylation is an essential function that relies on a variety of enzymes and occurs in every cell of the body. Methylation is responsible for healthy healing, energy production, DNA gene expression, brain function, detoxification (of chemicals, heavy metals and hormones via the liver), production of glutathione (the body’s important intracellular antioxidant), immune response, and adrenal stress adaptation. Methylation is also responsible for maintaining healthy homocysteine levels, which are linked with cardiovascular health and healthy immune balance.
Should I take a B complex or single B vitamins?
B vitamins are related and work synergistically in the body, here are a couple of examples - B9 (folate) relies on the presence of B6 and B12 to function, while B2 relies on B5 being around. So generally, if you’re looking to support your overall health it’s ideal to take them together in a B complex formula. Even if you’re only in need of one specific B vitamin, B complex formulas offer high doses of each B vitamin, often comparable to doses in single B vitamin formulas. B vitamins are water soluble so it’s believed that if the body already has sufficient levels, any excess will be flushed out via urine.
Liposomes: a breakthrough in nutrient delivery
The most efficient method of delivering B Complex vitamins into cells that need them is via liposomes. These sub-microscopic lipid spheres create a protective shell around the vitamins and are so small, it’s believed they can pass through the intestinal wall directly into the bloodstream. This means liposomal vitamins bypass the destructive environment of the digestive tract. Phosphatidylcholine liposomes provide the essential nutrient choline, as a component of the lipid shell as it delivers its B vitamin contents inside the cell. Studies show over 90% of the liposomes’ vitamin content is safely delivered to its destination cells.
BioBalance Liposomal Vitamin B Complex provides bioactive forms of the B complex vitamins in a liposomal carrier for optimal utilisation by the body.