Vitamin B

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Vitamin B is a complex of eight water soluble vitamins active in cell metabolism. They include Thiamine (vitamin B1), Riboflavin (vitamin B2, also called vitamin G), Niacin (vitamin B3, also called vitamin P), Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), Pyridoxine and Pyridoxamine (vitamin B6), Biotin (vitamin B7, also called vitamin H), Folic acid (vitamin B9, also called vitamin M) and Cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12).

Note: This review is not meant to be a comprehensive or definitive glossary, but rather to identify each vitamin’s function and highlight recent research findings of each of the B vitamins.

Thiamine (vitamin B1)
Thiamine helps with blood formation and the metabolism of carbohydrates, and plays a role in the conversion of blood sugar to energy. Additionally, it supports nerve tissues and nerve function. Thiamine is involved in the conversion of fatty acids and amino acids into hormones, proteins and enzymes. It is necessary for healthy muscle function, especially in the heart. Thiamine may support health in people with Alzheimer’s disease [1]. Supplementation may also benefit those suffering from a number of other neurological conditions [2-4]. Vitamin B1 deficiency has been associated with the use of diuretic drugs used to treat congestive heart failure [5]. Studies indicate that people who have diabetes may also be Thiamine deficient [6]. Lastly, anemia may be responsive to supplementation with Thiamine [7-8].

Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
Riboflavin, in addition to keeping our skin, nail and hair healthy, is essential for normal growth and development, reproduction, lactation, physical performance and well being. Riboflavin belongs to a group of yellow fluorescent pigments called flavins and, when excreted, gives urine the characteristic yellow color. Riboflavin aids in energy production for the body and is instrumental in the metabolism of fatty acids and amino acids. Additionally, it is an antioxidant (meaning a chemical that reduces the rate of specific oxidation reactions involving the transfer of electrons from a substance to an oxidizing agent), providing targeted protection for the eyes and may help prevent cataracts [9]. High doses of Riboflavin may also help in the treatment of migranes [10]. Finally, Riboflavin deficiency may be linked to depression [11].

Niacin (vitamin B3, also called vitamin P)
Niacin is required for cell respiration (meaning metabolic reactions and processes that take place in a cell to obtain chemical energy) and helps in the release of energy and metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, proper circulation and healthy skin, functioning of the nervous system, and normal secretion of bile and stomach fluids. There are three forms of niacin on the market today; Nicotinic Acid, Nicotinamide and Inositol Hexaniacinate. Nicotinic Acid and Inositol Hexaniacinate have shown promise in controlling cholesterol levels [12]; Inositol Hexaniacinate does not cause the tingling redness commonly associated with Nicontinic Acid. Nicotinamide has been used in the treatment of diabetes [13-15] and arthritis [16].

Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
Pantothenic acid was named after the Greek word pantothen (meaning everywhere) because it is present in all cells. It plays an important role in supporting the adrenal gland and is required for the production of adrenal hormones [17]. Pantothenic acid is also important for the release of energy and the metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrates. It may speed wound healing and recovery from surgery, especially when taken with vitamin C [18].

Pyridoxine and Pyridoxamine (vitamin B6)
Vitamin B6 is instrumental in more than 100 enzyme reactions in the body, mostly related to the metabolism of amino acids and proteins. Vitamin B6 deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies, predominantly due to the loss of vitamin B6 during cooking and food processing. Vitamin B6 is involved in the production of red blood cells and neurotransmitters like serotonin, which play a part in regulating our moods and preventing depression [19-20]. Intake of vitamin B6 may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease by 50% [21-22]. Vitamin B6 is involved in metabolism of homocysteine, an amino acid that is a risk factor for atherosclerosis [23-24]. Dietary supplementation of vitamin B6 along with vitamin B12 and folic acid can decrease homocysteine levels [25]. Supplementation of vitamin B6 may also be beneficial for people with rheumatoid arthritis [26] and asthma [27].

Biotin (vitamin B7, also called vitamin H)
Biotin is instrumental in the production of energy from the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. It is also used in cell growth and the production of fatty acids. Bacteria in the intestines produce a large amount of Biotin. Biotin may lower blood sugar levels in diabetics while improving nervous disorders associated with diabetes [28].

Folic Acid (vitamin B9, also called vitamin M)
Folic Acid was named after the Latin word folium (meaning leaf) because it was originally isolated from spinach leaves. Similar to vitamin B12, Folic Acid is necessary for the production of both DNA and RNA, making it essential for proper cellular division and the transfer of genetic information. Folic Acid is essential for the health of red blood cells [29]. Folic Acid is required for closure of the fetus’ neural tube during pregnancy, making it an essential vitamin for preventing neural tube birth defects. Women with higher intakes of Folic Acid may have a reduced risk of ovarian cancer [30]. Folic Acid supplementation together with vitamins B6 and B12 has been effective in enhancing cognitive performance in older adults [31]. Additionally, Folic Acid supplementation may prevent the development and progression of atheroslerosis through reduction in homocysteine levels [32]. As homocysteine can also affect normal bone structure, the homocysteine-lowering properties of Folic Acid may be beneficial in the prevention of osteoporosis [33].

Cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12)
Vitamin B12 is essential for growth and plays a role in the metabolism of cells, especially those of the gastrointestinal tract, nervous system and bone marrow. Animal protein products are the only dietary source of vitamin B12, as it is produced by bacteria in the digestive tract. Similar to folic acid, vitamin B12 is necessary for the production of both DNA and RNA. Vitamin B12 is also important for the function and maintenance of the nervous system and red blood cells. One of the most important features of vitamin B12 is the prevention of elevated levels of homocysteine. Elevated homocysteine levels increase the risk of developing atherosclerosis [34]. Vegetarians need to be careful of vitamin B12 deficiency, which could increase the risk of hyperhomocysteinaemia [35]. Vitamin B12 supplementation together with vitamin B6 and folic acid has been effective in enhancing cognitive performance in older adults [31]. Additionally, vitamin B12 may treat symptoms of Crohn’s disease [36]. It also may ease symptoms for people with bronchial asthma [37].

References

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About the Author

Walter Jessen is a senior writer for Highlight HEALTH Media.