Like the Brady Bunch, the B-vitamins are a family.
Because all B vitamins, except B12, are not stored in the body, they must be consumed continuously through diet, though deficiencies are rare with the exception of B12 and folate. Here’s what they do:
- Help the body produce and use energy from food
- Produce new body cells and repair damaged ones
- Help enzymes function properly
- Help make non-essential amino acids
- Helps the body produce antibodies to support a healthy immune system
B VITAMINS & ENERGY
Due to roles in energy production, a deficiency in specific B vitamins can lead to fatigue and other symptoms. Here is a closer look at each one:
Thiamin (vitamin B1) is responsible for producing energy from carbohydrates. It also plays an important role in heart, muscle and nervous system functioning.
What foods contain B1? Thiamin is found in a variety of foods from eggs and organ meats to peas. Refined grains are enriched with thiamin and therefore, a deficiency in this vitamin is rare. However, alcoholics have greater thiamin needs because chronic consumption of alcohol interferes with the body’s absorption of thiamin. Deficiency leads to fatigue, weak muscles and nerve damage. Thiamin needs increase with calorie needs. The more calories a person requires, the greater their thiamin needs.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2) also helps produce energy from carbohydrates. This vitamin is necessary for growth and red blood cell production. Riboflavin deficiency is very rare.
What foods contain B2? Excellent sources of riboflavin include milk, yogurt and some organ meats. Like thiamin, riboflavin needs increase with calorie needs.
Niacin (vitamin B3) helps your body produce energy and use amino acids and sugars. Niacin also helps enzymes function normally.
What foods contain niacin? Niacin is found in protein-rich foods, therefore a deficiency is highly unlikely unless a person is on a protein-poor diet. Niacin needs increase with calorie needs. Excess niacin from supplements can lead to flushing, rashes and liver damage.
Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) helps the body metabolize fats, carbohydrates and protein and also helps the body produce energy.
What foods contain B5? B5 is found in a wide variety of foods including eggs, cereal grains, meat and vegetables.
Pyridoxine (vitamin B6) helps the body make non-essential amino acids and other chemicals such as insulin, hemoglobin and antibodies. Though a deficiency is rare, excess pyridoxine can cause nerve damage. However, the upper limit is 100 milligrams per day, significantly more than the Recommended Dietary Allowance for any group.
What foods contain B6? Pyridoxine is prevalent in cereals, beans, vegetables, liver, meat, and eggs.
Biotin (vitamin B7) helps the body produce energy and helps metabolize proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
What foods contain B7? Though biotin is found in a variety of foods including eggs, cereals, liver and yeast breads, the body also produces it from intestinal bacteria. Therefore, a deficiency is rare. However, uncooked egg whites bind biotin in the intestine interfering with absorption. A biotin deficiency can lead to thinning of the hair and a loss of hair color in addition to other symptoms. See more foods that contain B Vitamins >
Folate (Vitamin B9) helps the body metabolize amino acids, acts as a coenzyme in the production of DNA and RNA and along with vitamin B12 helps form hemoglobin.
What foods contain folate? Folate is found in orange juice, lentils, beans, spinach, broccoli, peanuts and most enriched grains. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate and only found in dietary supplements. See more foods that contain Folic Acid >
cobalamin (Vitamin B12) is the only B vitamin that is stored in the body. It is needed in very small amounts (micrograms) and helps the body use amino acids and fatty acids. In addition, B12 works with folate to make red blood cells, plus it is necessary for neurological functioning, and DNA synthesis.
What foods contain B12? Vitamin B12 is found in animal foods and some fortified vegetarian foods. Vegans can meet their B12 needs from cereal and fortified nutritional yeast. Vegans who do not consume fortified foods or take a supplement are at risk of deficiency as are individuals with pernicious anemia, a condition where the body cannot absorb B12. See more foods that contain Vitamin B12 >
In addition, those who have had gastrointestinal surgery or have a gastrointestinal disorder such as Crohn’s disease have an increased risk of deficiency because they do not absorb B12 as well as healthy people. And finally, a very small percentage of older adults have a problem absorbing B12 in the gastrointestinal tract. A B12 deficiency can be tough to detect if a person consumes high levels of the B vitamin folate, which can mask a true B12 deficiency.
Thiamin. Medline Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002401.htm January 6, 2013.
NIH stops clinical trial on combination cholesterol treatment. NIH News, National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from: http://www.nih.gov/news/health/may2011/nhlbi-26.htm January 6, 2013.
Niacin. Medline Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002409.htm January 6, 2013.
Riboflavin. Medline Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/957.html January 6, 2013.
Pantothenic acid. Medline Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/853.html January 6, 2013.
Pyridoxine (vitamin B6). Medline Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/934.html January 6, 2013.
Biotin. Medline Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/313.html January 6, 2013.
Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12. Office of Dietary Supplements, NIH. Retrieved from: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/ January 6, 2013.
Folate. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12. Office of Dietary Supplements, NIH. Retrieved from: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional January 6, 2013.