Vitamin B – Types, benefits, deficiencies and sources
A group of water soluble vitamins, the B-vitamins play important roles in cell metabolism. The B-vitamins were once thought to be a single vitamin. Later research showed that they are chemically distinct vitamins that frequently co-exist in the same foods. A supplement that contains all the 8 is referred to as vitamin B complex. Individual B vitamin supplements are referred to by the specific name of each vitamin.
Types of B vitamins
Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
Vitamin B7 (biotin)
Vitamin B9 (folic acid)
Vitamin B12 (various cobalamins)
Benefits of B vitamins
The B vitamins help your body make energy and release it when your body needs it. They also play a part in making red blood cells, responsible for carrying oxygen throughout your body.
You need B vitamins to:
Support and increase the rate of metabolism
Maintain healthy skin, hair and muscle tone
Reduce risk of pancreatic cancer, if vitamin consumed in food and not when ingested in the form of tablet.
Enhance the workings of the immune and nervous system.
Promote cell growth and division, including that of the red blood cells that prevent anaemia.
Some studies suggest that B vitamins can improve the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Vitamin B deficiencies
Vitamin B1 (thiamine): A deficiency in this vitamin causes beriberi. A disease of the nervous system, it is characterised by weight loss, emotional disturbance, weakness and pain in the limbs, periods of irregular heartbeat, heart failure and even death.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): Riboflavin deficiency causes ariboflavinosis, which has symptoms such as crack lips, hyper-sensitivity to sunlight, inflammation of the tongue, pseudo-syphilis, sore throat.
Vitamin B3 (niacin): Pellagra is the deficiency disease caused in the case of chronic lack of niacin. Symptoms include dermatitis, diarrhoea, aggression, insomnia and mental confusion. In advanced cases, pellagra can cause dementia and death.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): Deficiency can result in acne and paresthesia (tingling, burning, pricking sensation in the skin – with no long term affects)
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): Common deficiency affects include: depression, hypertension, water retention.
Vitamin B7 (biotin): A deficiency in biotin may not cause any symptom in adults, but can lead to impaired growth and neurological disorders in infants.
Vitamin B9 (folic acid): Folic deficiency in pregnant women can lead to birth defects. Taking folic supplements during pregnancy is thus advised.
Vitamin B12 (various cobalamins): Deficiency in vitamin B 12 can result in macrocytic anaemia, peripheral neuropathy, memory loss and other cognitive deficits. It is most likely to occur among elderly people. In rare cases, one can also suffer paralysis.
Foods that contain B vitamins include:
Fish and seafood
Milk and curd
Poultry and meats
Green leafy vegetables
Beans and peas
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