The B vitamins are essential for the smooth running of all physiological and neurological processes in your body. Even the deficiency of a single vitamin of the B group prevents your brain from working properly and damages your energy metabolism. Here you can find out what B vitamins do and how you can recognize deficiency symptoms.
B vitamins are an important part of many metabolic processes, for example because they provide more energy and better concentration and can prevent tiredness and a higher susceptibility to infections.
What are Vitamins?
Vitamins are by definition organic compounds that are essential for normal physiological processes and at the same time cannot be produced by the body itself. Vitamins do not directly serve as a supplier of energy, but can be involved in energy production.
Vitamins: where does the name actually come from?
The discovery of the B vitamin B1 and the Beri-Beri disease, which was successfully combated with it, led to the realization that an undersupply of certain substances was also responsible for other clinical pictures. This led to further studies of the vitamin B effect.
Without knowing the individual substances in detail, the researchers named them as vitamins A, B, C and D. They later added vitamins E and K. Only when the researchers were able to analyze the nutritional components more precisely, found them instead of the expected B vitamin several B vitamins, which they then simply numbered consecutively.
What are B Vitamins?
B vitamins are a group of eight water-soluble vitamins.
The B vitamins differ not only in their structure, but also in their effects. In the past, some other substances belonged to the group of B vitamins, but these are no longer considered B vitamins. Therefore the numbering is incomplete. But what is vitamin B good for and why do you read so much about it in nutrition guides?
What does vitamin B do?
B vitamins are involved in many important processes in the brain. This includes
- the energy metabolism (the provision of energy)
- DNA synthesis and repair
- the regulation of gene activity
- cell division and cell protection
- the synthesis of various signaling molecules
All B vitamins act as so-called coenzymes. Coenzymes enable certain enzymes to function properly in the first place. In the absence of a coenzyme, an enzyme cannot work and a special cell reaction cannot be carried out. You then perceive this as a corresponding deficiency symptom. The B vitamins effect is therefore essential for many body functions.
Our organism provides a suitable transport mechanism for every B vitamin, so that the B vitamins can reach the brain via the blood-brain barrier. That alone makes it clear how important B vitamins are for the brain and energy metabolism.
In addition, the concentrations of the active form of folic acid, biotin and pantothenic acid in the brain are many times higher than in the blood.
What B vitamins are there?
The B vitamins include:
- Vitamin B1 - thiamine
- Vitamin B2 - riboflavin
- Vitamin B3 - niacin (nicotinic acid)
- Vitamin B5 - pantothenic acid
- Vitamin B6 - pyridoxine
- Vitamin B7 - biotin
- Vitamin B9 - folic acid
- Vitamin B12 - Cobalamin
That there were originally even more B vitamins becomes clear from the former vitamin B4 (choline). Today, however, choline is not classified as a B vitamin, but as a vitamin-like substance because the body can produce choline from the amino acid methionine and vitamin B9.
For some B vitamins, the designation with letter and number is more common than the actual name. We speak of vitamin B12 rather than cobalamin, but more often of folic acid than vitamin B9. In addition, each vitamin has other names that are no longer in use. Still, they pop up every now and then.
To make the mess perfect, some B vitamins even have multiple names. Biotin is vitamin B7 and vitamin H at the same time. Vitamin B5 is mainly referred to as pantothenic acid, but sometimes the name nicotinic acid (actually vitamin B3) appears.
Knowing all the B vitamins and their additional names is unnecessary, however. Memorizing the B vitamins along with the numbered names (as in the list above) is sufficient.
The best researched have been folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, which is why these B vitamins appear most frequently in the literature. The other five B vitamins have been neglected by science. It is only in recent years that there has been an increasing interest in researching the other B vitamins - such as vitamin B7 or vitamin B2 - in more detail.
The B vitamins at a glance
All B vitamins have their own specific function, so the deficiency of every single B vitamin has consequences. Nevertheless, they are similar in their effects and complement and influence each other.
Vitamin B1 - thiamine
Your body needs thiamine to produce fatty acids, steroids, DNA and RNA molecules and precursors of certain neurotransmitters. Thiamine is essential for the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. In addition, it is involved in the construction of cell membranes and in this way also ensures intact nerve cells.
Benfotiamine is a precursor to the B vitamin B1. In contrast, benfotiamine is fat-soluble, making it easier for your body to absorb. This excellent bioavailability makes it ideal for optimizing the concentration of the B vitamin B1 or treating a pronounced deficiency.
A deficiency in the B vitamin B1 can manifest itself through these symptoms:
- Paresthesia (tingling or numb legs and arms)
- Visual disturbances
- cognitive disorders
- Problems of the cardiovascular system
- general weakness
Vitamin B2 - riboflavin
The B vitamin B2 provides two different coenzymes. They influence the effect of the B vitamins B3 and B6 as well as the effect of folic acid. They are also involved in the formation of the blood pigment hemoglobin and in other ways in the oxygen cycle.
The coenzymes of B-vitamin B2 also play a role in the fatty acid metabolism of special brain lipids and in the regulation of thyroid hormones. There are also important functions in the absorption and utilization of iron and antioxidant properties.
A deficiency in the B vitamin riboflavin rarely occurs in healthy people. However, a deficiency can arise during pregnancy and with excessive alcohol consumption. Symptoms are:
- Cracks in the corners of the mouth
- Widespread rash
- An increased sensitivity to light
Researchers also suspect that a deficiency in the B vitamin riboflavin could promote migraines. Accordingly, there is evidence that migraines could be relieved by taking the B vitamin riboflavin.1, 2
Vitamin B3 - Nicotinic Acid (Niacin)
The B vitamin B3 is involved in a large number of metabolic processes. This includes:
- Energy production
- Antioxidant protection
- cell protection
- DNA repair
- Signaling mechanisms at the cellular level
Niacin also helps to convert folic acid into an appropriate, effective form.
Researchers believe that vitamin B3 also has an impact on the immune system and the brain. In their opinion, there is an as-yet-unexplained link between niacin and schizophrenia and Parkinson's.3, 4
A deficiency in vitamin B3 is rare, but can occur after prolonged use of painkillers or psychotropic drugs. Symptoms of an undersupply with vitamin B3 are:
- Disorders of the ability to concentrate
- Inflammation of the mucous membranes
Vitamin B5 - pantothenic acid
As B vitamin B5, pantothenic acid is part of coenzyme A. Coenzyme A is an indispensable molecule for around 4% of all enzymes. Maintaining the structure and function of nerve cells is another important task of coenzyme A.
In addition, a processed form of coenzyme A serves as the most important intermediate product of the energy metabolism in the cell. This is also involved in the synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and in the production of steroid hormones.
A deficiency in the B vitamin B5 is noticeable through these symptoms:
- Muscle aches
- Stomach problem (problems with the lining of the stomach)
- Trouble sleeping
Vitamin B6 - pyridoxine
More specifically, vitamin B6 comprises three chemical compounds to which
belong. These substances are considered to be the precursors of pyridoxal phosphate. Pyridoxal phosphate, in turn, is an active form of pyridoxine and an important part of the amino acid metabolism. In addition, pyridoxal phosphate is involved in cell metabolism.
The bioactive form of the B vitamin B6 enables more than 140 different enzymes to perform their function. This mainly consists of building up and breaking down amino acids. Furthermore, the synthesis of neurotransmitters depends
- Serotonin and
- Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
on the concentration of vitamin B6. The B vitamin B6 also influences the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. In addition, the B vitamin B6 has an effect on the energy metabolism of the brain and the immune system, for example by reducing the susceptibility to infections.
Even a slight deficit of vitamin B6 can lead to
- sleep disorders
- Behavior changes
- Disorders of the cardiovascular system
to lead. These symptoms are triggered by the decreased production of GABA, serotonin and melatonin.
If the influence of the B vitamin B6 on the immune system is weakened due to an insufficient supply, infections and inflammations can increase. This can even lead to cognitive impairments or dementia.
Vitamin B7 - biotin
The main tasks of the B vitamin biotin are to regulate the sugar balance and the energy metabolism of the brain. In addition, vitamin B7 fulfills functions in gene regulation. As a result, biotin helps determine when a gene is read and consequently the corresponding protein is formed.
A deficiency in the B vitamin B7 is rarely caused by an improper diet. A deficiency is more likely to be attributed to certain previous illnesses - for example of the kidneys or the intestines. Even with type 2 diabetics, the concentration of the B vitamin B7 in the blood is often noticeably low.
However, there are still too few studies that could unequivocally demonstrate the improvement of diabetes through administration of biotin. However, research is already providing initial indications.5
Vitamin B9 and Vitamin B12
The effects of the two B vitamins B9 and vitamin B12 are closely related. Both B vitamins have important functions in DNA synthesis, blood formation, cell division and in the nervous system.
Like the other B vitamins, folic acid can be found in many plant and animal foods. Vitamin B12, however, is an exception. Neither animals nor plants can produce vitamin B12 themselves. However, vitamin B12 is essential for your body. It belongs to the Antioxidantsthat help prevent inflammation as well as detoxification can contribute.
Microorganisms produce the natural antioxidant in their host's digestive tract or on the surfaces of some plants. There are also bacteria in your intestines that produce the B vitamin B12. However, not enough of it gets into the blood to supply you with enough vitamin B12. Therefore, we have to get the B vitamin B12 through food. However, only animal foods are suitable for this purpose, as plants only contain traces of B vitamin B12. If you are following a plant-based diet, you should therefore definitely supplement with vitamin B12.
What are the symptoms of a vitamin B9 deficiency?
A deficiency in vitamin B9 can lead to DNA damage and other genetic malfunctions. This can disrupt the development of nerve cells. Serious neuronal diseases can also develop. Anemia can also be the result of a lack of vitamin B9.
Best known is probably the fatal effects of a folic acid deficiency during pregnancy. Then there is a risk that neural tube defects or heart defects will develop during embryonic development, or that the child will develop speech disorders or an autistic disease.
What are the symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency?
A deficiency in vitamin B12 can easily occur with a low-meat diet. This can lead to impaired blood formation. The resulting consequences can initially be offset by taking folic acid. However, there is still a vitamin B12 deficiency and this must not go undetected.
A vitamin B12 deficiency also has other consequences, such as neurological disorders. Dementia or abnormal sensations such as tingling and numbness in the legs, arms or other parts of the body can develop.
With a vitamin B12 deficiency, there can also be a functional deficiency in folic acid. This is because folic acid cannot be converted into its bioactive form without vitamin B12.
This makes it clear how closely the B vitamins are connected and how important the correct supply of each and every one of the B vitamins is. A blood test is the only way to identify a deficiency and, if necessary, to make up for it.
Vitamin B12 and homocysteine
As a natural antioxidant, vitamin B12 benefits from another property: it helps the body break down harmful homocysteine, which is said to be responsible for numerous diseases. Homocysteine is an amino acid that is little known. Homocysteine is also often called the "new cholesterol", which damages blood vessels and the associated secondary diseases, including
- increased blood pressure
- Heart attack
should contribute. In addition, homocysteine is said to have negative effects on cell health, and homocysteine is also often associated with Alzheimer's and dementia.
Long-term consequences and vitamin B deficiency symptoms
Those who consistently take in too few B vitamins through their diet run the risk of an undersupply. The most common consequences of a chronic deficiency in B vitamins include:
- Neurological and mental disorders
- sleep disorders
- Stomach diseases (diseases of the lining of the stomach)
- Susceptibility to infection
- Skin changes
In the case of such complaints, it is worth having a blood test for individual B vitamins.
In addition, there are other circumstances that favor a deficiency in B vitamins and can justify a blood test. This includes:
- Long-term use of painkillers, psychotropic drugs, antibiotics or the birth control pill
- A vegetarian or vegan diet
Compensating for B vitamin deficiencies: what can you do?
If you suspect a deficiency in B vitamins, you can have a doctor check which B vitamin you are missing using a blood test. Then you can specifically eat foods that contain a particularly large amount of the corresponding B vitamin. The easiest way to remedy a vitamin B deficiency is to use a vitamin B complex. The cause of vitamin B deficiency is often an unbalanced diet and can happen to anyone who is currently in a stressful phase.
Which foods contain B vitamins?
Now you may be wondering how much vitamin B you are getting through your diet each day. The best foods with B vitamins to meet your daily needs are:
- dairy products
Except for the B vitamin B12, the B vitamins are also contained in plant foods, for example
- Grain germ (wheat germ)
- whole grain products
- green leafy vegetables
As you can see, B-vitamin foods are certainly regularly on your shopping list anyway and are included almost automatically, provided you generally pay attention to a healthy and balanced diet.
Vitamin B complex - when to take?
If you are already eating healthily or if you do not want to or cannot change your diet for any reason, dietary supplements are suitable to comfortably cover your daily vitamin B requirement.
Many vegan people rely on dietary supplements with vitamin B12, as this vitamin is only contained in sufficient quantities in animal foods. But even with meat eaters, the supply of the B vitamin B12 is not necessarily guaranteed.
In addition, certain intestinal diseases can make it difficult to absorb B vitamins from food. In this case, dietary supplements can be useful to still supply the body with a sufficient amount of B vitamins.
What effects do B vitamins have on your motivation and concentration?
There is several scientific evidence that B vitamins can stimulate motivation, focus and other mental performance. However, the study situation is not clear and science still has a lot of work to do to prove the effects beyond doubt.
This is what science says about B vitamins
In one study, 120 healthy participants received either tablets containing the B vitamin B1 or a placebo. A demonstrably increased concentration of vitamin B1 in the blood coincided with the statements made by the women in the vitamin B1 group that they had a clearer head and felt more relaxed and livelier. In addition, their reaction speed was faster from taking vitamin B1.6
In addition, taking the B vitamin B6 can boost your serotonin synthesis.7 Serotonin in turn increases your well-being and prevents depression and anxiety.
According to a study, the intake of all eight B vitamins together with vitamin C and certain minerals can have a positive effect on mental health and physical strength and contribute to increased cognitive performance.8 What a negative impact Mineral deficiencies on your body, you can also find out in the Academy.
Another study provides evidence of the stress-reducing and liberating vitamin B complex effect.9 So there is already a lot to suggest that various B vitamins can increase your motivation and concentration.
The main reason for the disagreement among the scientists is that the majority of the studies are often limited to a few B vitamins or only refer to the effect on certain existing diseases.
However, the diverse natural functions of the B vitamins on the brain and the associated deficiency symptoms are undisputed. For this reason alone, it would be surprising if an additional intake of B vitamins had no effect.
How much vitamin B do I need a day?
How high the daily requirement of B vitamins should be is controversial. Since B vitamins are water-soluble, the body cannot store them for long and excretes them again very quickly. Therefore, according to researchers, the risk of overdose is lower than with fat-soluble vitamins.10
What are the dangers of the dosage of B vitamins?
In the case of folic acid in particular, the daily requirement and the recommended maximum amount should be adhered to, as a high dose could mask a deficiency in the B vitamin B12.
A high dose of B vitamin B3 can lead to nausea with vomiting, diarrhea and hot flashes. A high dose of vitamin B6 can trigger neurological abnormalities, but these disappear again when the vitamin B6 intake is reduced.
Some studies also warn against high doses of folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. They see a connection to an increased risk of cancer. Male smokers in particular are said to be more likely to develop lung cancer if they take high-dose preparations containing B vitamins at the same time.11
However, the data situation has not yet been conclusively clarified. Still, there is no harm in being careful about the dosage of B vitamins and not overdoing it.
Now you have learned a lot about B vitamins and you know how important an optimal vitamin B supply is for your functions in the body. You can also find a number of B vitamins in our product SHARP MIND, such as vitamin B5 for focus and cognitive performance.