There are eight B vitamins that have similar properties and functions, so they are grouped together as a B-complex. They include: thiamine, or vitamin B-1; riboflavin, or vitamin B-2; niacin, or vitamin B-3; pantothenic acid, or vitamin B-5; P5P or vitamin B-6; methyl folate; biotin; and methylcobalamin or vitamin B-12. The B-complex vitamins are water-soluble. This means that, unlike many vitamins which can be stored in the body for future use, your body is unable to store most B vitamins, with vitamin B-12 being the exception to the rule. Any additional B vitamin, i.e. B vitamin that isn’t used the same day, is excreted from your body through the urine. As such, you need a regular daily supply of B vitamins. The B vitamins are delicate and easily destroyed, especially by alcohol and cooking. Food processing can also reduce the B vitamins in foods, which is the reason whole grains are generally much more nutritious than their processed counterparts such as white flour, bread, and rice.
Why your body needs B vitamins
Although they have similar properties and functions, each B vitamin has its own role within your body, as well as working together with each other to maintain your health and wellbeing. Some of the reasons why your body needs B vitamins include;
Support metabolism and production of energy – the B-complex vitamins help to convert nutrients from your food into energy. They act as coenzymes in the body, assisting with many metabolic processes. They help the conversion of carbohydrates to glucose, which the body then “burns” to make energy. They are also vital for the metabolism of fats and protein.
Nervous system function – the B-complex vitamins help your brain and nerves to function properly. Neurotransmitters are a type of chemical in your brain which transmit information, if they cannot “fire” your brain cannot work properly. Your brain requires vitamin B5, B6 and B12 to make neurotransmitters. Niacin is also required to support nerve health as well as memory and mood. Vitamin B12 has many functions within the body and is an important component of healthy nerve cells, specifically myelin, which covers and protects every nerve cell.
Red blood cell function – the body needs healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen around the body. Haemoglobin are important proteins in the body which bind to the oxygen you inhale and transport it around the body. They are made up of haeme which your body depends on B-12 and B-6 to produce. Thiamine, riboflavin and folic acid also play a role in red blood cell development.
Other important functions – niacin and Vitamin B-12 control gene activity in your cells, helping cells to multiply and make new DNA. Vitamin B-5 assists in making hormones.
Health benefits of Vitamin B
The B-complex vitamins have a wide range of health benefits to your body. They are particularly beneficial for the production of energy and to support the nervous system.
Additional health benefits include:
- Vitamin B1 is required for enzymes involved in glucose metabolism that provides energy to the brain. It plays a role in the maintenance of mood in healthy adults and facilitates the production of acetylcholine, which plays a role in memory.
- Vitamin B2 facilitates energy production and plays an important role in protein metabolism.
- Vitamin B3 is involved in antioxidant mechanisms and detoxification reactions. It helps the body to metabolise carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism and is required for the release of energy from food.
- Vitamin B5 helps support a healthy nervous system as it is required for the production of some neurotransmitters. It also assists normal adrenal gland function which is important for the body’s ability to react to stress.
- Vitamin B6 – may help to relieve PMS symptoms including irritability and mood changes. It may also help to relieve the intensity of nausea during pregnancy.
- Vitamin B12 – helps support the healthy functioning of the nervous system, which may be beneficial during times of stress. It facilitates energy production and helps to form red blood cells. Helps you sleep better, provides energy and improves memory.
- Biotin may help to strengthen soft brittle nails and reduce breaking and splitting. It is also involved in glucose metabolism.
- Methylfolate is essential for many aspects of metabolism.
New medical research reveals that Vitamin B deficiency can play a role in many health problems, including:
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For use as an external dietary supplement. Peel one patch from backing and apply once per week for a 24 hour period. For best results, place patch on clean, dry, hair-free skin. Store in a cool, dry place. Discontinue if a rash or irritation occurs. Keep out of the reach of children.