Meet the B Complex Vitamins
So, what are the eight B complex vitamins and what do they do? First off, all of these water-soluble vitamins are vital for our body to metabolize fat and protein, and convert carbohydrates into glucose for energy. Though all eight play a role in these processes, the B complex vitamins also have incredible individual health benefits. Let's take a look at what these benefits are and how much you should be getting for a balanced, healthy life:
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) - The first of the B complex vitamins to be discovered, vitamin B1 helps keep our immune systems healthy and is required by our bodies to create adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which cells in our body use for energy.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin B1 is 1.2 mg for men and 1.1 mg for women.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) - Our bodies need riboflavin for cell growth, red cell production, and to help our bodies fight against free radical damage as an antioxidant. Free radicals can damage cells and lead to heart disease and cancer. In addition to these benefits, riboflavin is also required by the body to convert vitamins B6 and B9 into usable forms.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin B2 is 1.3 mg for men and 1.1 mg for women.
Vitamin B3 (niacin) - Niacin is used to help lower cholesterol, ease arthritis, and boost brain function, according to Healthline. In addition, it may help lower blood pressure, protect insulin-protecting cells in those with type 1 diabetes, and protect skin cells from sun damage.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin B3 is 16 mg for men and 14 mg for women.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) - Vitamin B5 is used as a supplement to help treat a wide variety of conditions including depression, diabetic nerve pain, and yeast infections, although more research and evidence is needed. Topically, pantothenic acid is used to help relieve itching skin for those with eczema, bug bites, or rashes. Some of its derivatives are also used in beauty products. For example, dexpanthenol is used in moisturizing creams and lotions, while panthenol helps boost hair health.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin B5 is 5 mg for men and 5 mg for women.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) - Vitamin B6 plays a role in several vital functions in the body including creating neurotransmitters that boost our mood, keeping our brains healthy, and producing hemoglobin. Additionally, vitamin B6 may help treat and prevent:
- PMS symptoms
- Morning sickness
- Heart disease
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
The recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin B6 is 1.3 mg for men and 1.3 mg for women.
Vitamin B7 (biotin) - You probably recognize biotin as the vitamin used to help with hair, skin, and nail health, but it can also help lower blood glucose levels and reduce nerve damage (neuropathy) in those with diabetes, and improve symptoms in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). Biotin is also often recommended to women who are pregnant, as pregnancy can deplete vitamin B7 levels and cause a deficiency and lead to birth defects and complications.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin B7 is 30 mcg for men and 30 mcg for women.
Vitamin B9 (folic acid) - Another vitamin that is commonly prescribed to pregnant women is folic acid. This is due to folic acid's role in the production of DNA and RNA, our body's genetic material. In addition, folic acid plays a role in brain function and helps regulate mood, and works with vitamin B12 to create red blood cells. Did you know that folic acid is actually the synthetic form of vitamin B9? Naturally occurring vitamin B9 is called folate and can be found in foods like leafy green vegetables.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin B9 is 400 mcg for men and 400 mcg for women.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) - In addition to working with vitamin B9 to create red blood cells, our body needs vitamin B12 to keep our bones, brains, hair, skin, nails, and eyes healthy. Plus, it helps with serotonin production, energy levels, and brain health.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin B9 is 2.4 mcg for men and 2.4 mcg for women.
How B Complex Vitamins Work in the Body
Now that we've covered what each of the B complex vitamins does individually, we can discuss how they all come together to help our minds and bodies function. As mentioned above, our body requires B complex vitamins to metabolize food and convert it to useable energy, but they also play a vital role in the following:
Brain Health and Function: Getting the proper amount of B vitamins is vital for brain health, and preventing cognitive decline. One review found that vitamins B6, B9, and B12 all play a role in homocysteine metabolism, which has been linked to reducing the risk of developing cognitive diseases such as dementia. B vitamins involved in supporting brain health: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, and B12
Red Blood Cell Production and Health: Nearly all of the B complex vitamins are required in the production of red blood cells but in particular vitamin B12. Studies have found that those with a vitamin B12 deficiency cannot produce enough red blood cells (anemia), which are vital as they carry oxygen to the cells in our body. Additionally, vitamin B5 helps lower cholesterol, while vitamin B6 aids in the production of hemoglobin, a protein molecule part of red blood cells that helps to transport oxygen to the cells. B vitamins involved in red blood cell production: B2, B5, B6, B9, B12