Vitamin B complex is a group of water-soluble vitamins that play many essential roles in the body. Many people get their recommended daily allowance (RDA) of these valuable nutrients through the diet because they can be found in numerous types of foods.
Vitamin B complex delivers 8 essential B vitamins including B12 (cobalamin), B7 (biotin), B1 (thiamin), B9 (folate), B6 (pyridoxine), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), and B2 (riboflavin). They play an essential role in the body, including helping the body produce energy from the food we eat and help in the production of red blood cells.
Each of the eight vitamins found in the Vitamin B complex comes with its own set of health benefits. For example, vitamin B2 helps produce niacin, while vitamin B1 is essential for the development, growth, and proper function of body cells.[i] Food sources include animal products and fortified cereals.
Each of the eight vitamins comes with many health benefits. For example, vitamin B1 is essential for the development, growth, and function of the body cells. Vitamin B2 converts vitamin B6 into a usable format and helps in the production of niacin. Also, vitamin B7 aids in converting proteins, carbohydrates, and fats in the food we eat to energy. Following are additional health benefits associated with B vitamins.
Production Of Red Blood Cells
Some B vitamins, especially vitamin B12, play a significant role in producing red blood cells. Your body needs healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen to other body organs. If you don’t have enough vitamin B12, the body will not form sufficient red blood cells, and this could lead to megaloblastic anemia.[v]
Healthy Nervous System
Vitamin B2 keeps the skin, nervous system, and eyes healthy. It helps convert the food you eat into energy and helps the enzymes in your body function properly. Also, it creates and repairs DNA, helping with optimal functioning of the nervous and digestive systems and boosts skin health. Also, vitamin B12 plays a major role in maintaining a healthy nervous system.[vi]
Supports Hormone Production
Vitamins B5 and B3 are required for hormone production in adrenal glands, such as stress and sex hormones. On the other hand, vitamin B6 stimulates hormones and neurotransmitters’ mood and controls the biological clock.[vii]
Might Reduce Stress
Studies show that some B vitamins might help reduce stress. For example, a 2009 study found that vitamin B supplements benefit mood,though additional research on micronutrient statuses and dietary patterns of broad populations is needed to make recommendations based on research.[viii]
Vitamin B Complex Deficiency
Failure to maintain your recommended daily allowance for vitamin B complex could expose you to different health problems. Based on the type of B vitamins you’re deficient in, health problems might include:
Lack of enough Vitamin B12 could easily lead to megaloblastic anemia. This is a condition where your bone marrow produces abnormal red blood cells that don’t function properly. As a result, these red blood cells cannot transport oxygen to other body organs.[ii]
Disruption In The Circulatory System And Nervous System
Vitamin B12 deficiency can also lead to depression, paranoia, dementia, and behavioral changes. Worst yet, some damages to the nervous system might not be reversible.[iii]
Megaloblastic anemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to an individual feeling tired. Without sufficient red blood cells to transport oxygen to the rest of the body, it’s highly likely that a person might feel very fatigued.[iv]
Lack of enough B vitamins adversely affects oral health. Being deficient in B vitamins might cause different mouth problems, including a burning sensation in your mouth, mouth ulcers, and glossitis, which cause a red, smooth and swollen tongue.
Being deficient in B vitamins could affect an individual’s mood, possibly causing depression or irritability. Other symptoms associated with B vitamins deficiency include:
- Weight loss
- Upset stomach
- Skin disorders
- Short term memory loss
- Hair loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Brittle nails and hair
- Cardiovascular symptoms
Possible Side Effects
While Vitamin B complex supplements are all water-soluble and don’t remain underwater for extended periods of time, large doses of these vitamins in the supplement form could cause side effects. Moreover, each B vitamin has a daily tolerable intake level (UL), which is more than what many people need. Getting amounts that are more than the daily tolerable intake level increases the chances of side effects like:
B3 – niacin
Excess B3 might result in skin pain or flushing, liver toxicity, and elevated blood sugar levels.[ix]
B6 – pyridoxine
Vitamin B6 might cause advanced kidney disease, increased risk of stroke and heart attack, worsened kidney function, skin lesions, and nerve damage. Research shows an association between higher doses of B6 with increased risks of hip fracture and increased risks of lung cancer.[x]
B9 – folate
Vitamin B9 might lead to kidney damage, reduced natural killer cell activities in older women, increased insulin resistance in kids and might be associated with increased risks of certain types of cancers. Also, it might lead to the diagnosis of B12 deficiency.[xi]
B12 – cobalamin
B12 has been associated with increased risks of heart disease among people with damaged kidney function. Higher amounts of B12 taken along with folic acid have been linked to increased risk of mortality and cancer.[xii]
Dosage And Preparation
Although many people who consume a healthy, balanced diet get sufficient B vitamins from their food, some people are at a higher risk of B vitamin deficiency, especially those who are above 50 years, take antacid drugs or have gastritis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease or other digestive diseases.
If you’ve had a weight loss or stomach surgery, follow a vegan or vegetarian diet or consume alcohol regularly, you might be more at risk of deficiency. People who are breastfeeding or pregnant might need more folate, B12, and B6.[xiii] Check our Nutrition needs for men and women sections above to see the recommended daily allowances as provided by the National Institutes of Health.[xiv]
Ways To Get Your Vitamin B Complex
There are two ways to get vitamin B complex. These include foods and supplements. There are many foods that contain B vitamins, making it easier to get these valuable vitamins from your daily diet. It’s best to get your vitamin B complex from food sources instead of supplements, mainly because you also get additional benefits when taking food.
Foods Rich In B Vitamins
Vitamin B complex is mainly found in animal products and fortified cereals. Many legumes, nuts, fruits, and vegetables also contain B vitamins. Following are some of the common food sources containing B vitamins.
- B1 – tuna, mussels, black beans, trout, pork, wheat germ, whole grains, and fortified breakfast cereal.
- B2 – chicken, almonds, Portobello mushrooms, clams, beef liver, fortified breakfast cereals, dairy products, and milk.
- B3 – peanuts, organ meats, lamb, turkey, beef, chicken, dairy and milk, nuts, rice, cereal, fish, and egg
- B7 – broccoli, spinach, sardines, whole-grain foods, almonds, sweet potato, sunflower seeds, beef, pork, wheat germ, egg yolk, and beef liver.
- B9 – salmon, fortified cereals, dark leafy greens, avocado, peanuts, orange juice, asparagus, legumes, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, beef liver, and spinach.
- B12 – eggs, fish, chicken, beef, shellfish and clams, beef liver, and fortified cereals.
In the US, dietary supplements aren’t held to the same testing standards as pharmaceutical medications. This means the quality of supplements such as vitamin B complex might vary from one manufacturer to another.
When buying vitamin B supplements, choose brands, which have been tested by third-party certification agencies like NSF International, ConsumerLab, or U.S.Pharmacopeia (USP). This might help guarantee quality. You’ll find different vitamin B complex supplements at health food shops, grocery stores, online, and drug stores.
What is the main benefit of vitamin B complex?
What food is high in B vitamins?
What is vitamin B Complex good for?
What are the symptoms of B vitamins deficiency?
Which B vitamin should I take?
Is it better to take B complex or B12?
Is B12 the same as B complex?
- [i] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. National Institutes of Health. Riboflavin. Updated March 26, 2021.
- [ii] Langan RC, Goodbred AJ. Vitamin b12 deficiency: Recognition and management. Am Fam Physician. 2017;96(6):384-389.
- [iii] Garcia Lopez M, Bønaa KH, Ebbing M, et al. B vitamins and hip fracture: secondary analyses and extended follow-up of two large randomized controlled trials: b vitamins & hip fracture: Secondary analysis and extended follow-up. J Bone Miner Res. 2017;32(10):1981-1989. doi:10.1002/jbmr.3189
- [iv] Langan RC, Goodbred AJ. Vitamin b12 deficiency: Recognition and management. Am Fam Physician. 2017;96(6):384-389.
- [v] Langan RC, Goodbred AJ. Vitamin b12 deficiency: Recognition and management. Am Fam Physician. 2017;96(6):384-389.
- [vi] Pavlov CS, Damulin IV, Shulpekova YO, Andreev EA. Neurological disorders in vitamin B12 deficiency. Ter Arkh. 2019;91(4):122-129. doi:10.26442/00403660.2019.04.000116
- [vii] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. National Institutes of Health. Niacin. Updated March 26, 2021.
- [viii] Young LM, Pipingas A, White DJ, Gauci S, Scholey A. A systematic review and meta-analysis of b vitamin supplementation on depressive symptoms, anxiety, and stress: Effects on healthy and “at-risk” individuals. Nutrients. 2019;11(9). doi:10.3390/nu11092232
- [ix] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. National Institutes of Health. Niacin. Updated March 26, 2021.
- [x] Meyer HE, Willett WC, Fung TT, Holvik K, Feskanich D. Association of high intakes of vitamins B6 and B12 from food and supplements with risk of hip fracture among postmenopausal women in the nurses’ health study. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(5):e193591. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.3591
- [xi] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. National Institutes of Health. Folate. Updated March 26, 2021.
- [xii] Brescoll J, Daveluy S. A review of vitamin B12 in dermatology. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2015;16(1):27-33. doi:10.1007/s40257-014-0107-3
- [xiii] NIH. Vitamin B12. Updated March 30, 2020.
- [xiv] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. National Institutes of Health. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets.