The Lowdown on B Vitamins

If you have found your way to our website, chances are you are interested in supporting your health.  Perhaps the most missed vitamins, we thought we’d take a look at the importance of B vitamins and where you can get them from!

What are B Vitamins?

For our bodies to function, we need macronutrients – those required in larger amounts – and micronutrients – those required in smaller amounts.  Vitamins fall under the micronutrient category and consist of either fat or water soluble.  Fat soluble include Vitamins, A, D, E and K, and run a higher risk of toxicity.  Water soluble vitamins have a high turnover and if not utilised are simply excreted; they include Vitamin C along with your B vitamins. 

There are eight B vitamins:
B1 Thiamin
B2 Riboflavin
B3 Niacin
B5 Panthothenic Acid
B6 Pyridoxine
B7 Biotin
B9 Folate
B12 Cobalamin

These vitamins are involved in many functions as they help a variety of enzymes do their jobs – they help release energy from macronutrients and transport oxygen and energy containing nutrients around the body.  

So lets take a closer look. 

B1

B1 is involved in energy metabolism – it helps us turn what we eat into energy.  It is also involved in nerve transmission in the brain and peripheral nerves, so plays a role in nervous system function.  In addition is helps metabolise certain neurotransmitters which as we know are chemical messages that help the body and brain know what to do.  Lastly, B1 is involved in the synthesis of collagen and other proteins which contributes to structural health and wound healing. Good dietary sources include peas, nuts, wholegrain breads, fortified breakfast cereals and liver.  Vegetables that include B1 include cauliflower, asparagus and kale. 

B2

B2 is involved in energy production, and it is a cofactor of our master antioxidant – so adequate intake is essential to antioxidant capacities.  Of interest, there are often riboflavin deficiencies noted in women who take oral contraception.  

Good dietary source of B2 include mushrooms, spinach, brewer’s yeast and yoghurt. 

B3

B3 is necessary in the biosynthesis of fatty acids and also in energy production.  It is essential for skin health, mucous membrane integrity and digestive and nervous system health.  In addition, B3 is involved in DNA replication and repair, blood sugar regulation and also functions as an antioxidant.  Good dietary source of B3 include peanuts, tuna, chicken, and halibut.

B5

B5 is involved in energy production, the synthesis of fatty acids, cholesterol, steroid hormones and also vitamins A and D.  It is essential in protein and amino acid synthesis along with the formation of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which is the chief of the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest side of the stress response). 

Good dietary sources include peanuts, peas, liver, soybeans and brown rice. 

B6

Vitamin B6 plays a vital role in the production of protein compounds, including haemoglobin, cells of the immune system, hormones, brain chemicals, RNA, DNA and many enzymes. It is also involved in the manufacture of prostaglandins, which are produced at the site of injury or infection, largely controlling the inflammatory response.  

Vitamin B6 also activates the release of glycogen from the liver and muscles, for this reason it is essential to physical activity, so listen up if you regularly work out! It also helps balance sodium and potassium which regulates bodily fluids and promotes the normal functioning of the nervous and musculoskeletal systems. 

In the human body, this vitamin is usually excreted within 8 hours of ingestion, so a daily supply is necessary. Fasting can also reduce the body’s supply. 

Good dietary source include chickpeas, liver, tuna, salmon, chicken breast, fortified breakfast cereals. 

B7

Known as Vitamin H, for Haar and Haut (hair and skin), we know it more commonly as vitamin B7, or Biotin.  One of the B vitamins, Biotin helps the body convert food into energy.  Specifically, biotin is involved in gluconeogenesis, which as we know is the synthesis of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources.  Biotin is also involved in fatty acid synthesis, which is key in skin health!

Deficiency of biotin has been associated with immune depression and reduced collagen synthesis (another important factor in skin health).

Of interest, the use of antibiotics decreases the bacterial population of the large intestine which increase the dietary requirement for biotin.  Rancid fats also inactive biotin along with chlorine.

Good dietary sources of B7 include liver, eggs, salmon, sardines, mushrooms, soybeans, brewer’s yeast, whole wheat and oatmeal. Biotin containing fruit include avocados, bananas and raspberries.

B9

B9 is essential in growing and dividing cells.  A lack of folate has the most impact on those rapidly dividing cells like those in the digestive system, the genital tract and of course red blood cells.  B9 is key in the synthesis of structural and functional proteins, and the formation of our master antioxidant, glutathione, is indirectly dependent on folate.  Diets low in leafy greens are at risk of folate deficiency, and if you are taking medications like aspirin, antacids, oral contraceptive pills and antibiotics.    

Good dietary sources include wheat germ, kidney beans, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, turnip greens, seafood, liver, sunflower seeds and beets!

We’ve possibly saved the best for last, B12 is an MVP.

B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for DNA and RNA synthesis and for cellular energy production.  All cells in all bodies need to know what they are doing and they need energy to do them!

B12 plays a vital role in the methionine cycle, which is involved in a range of cellular functions, particularly converting homocysteine to methionine.  Methionine can be converted into sulphur-containing molecules which protect tissues, modify DNA, and ensure correct functioning of cells.  Methionine also plays a role in creating new proteins in the body, which is essential when older proteins degrade. 

Methionine is also involved in producing glutathione.  Glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant is composed of the three amino acids cysteine, glycine and glutamate.  Glutathione is an important part of the body’s defence systems.  Free radicals are like the exhaust fumes of work, work that the body carries out on a day to day basis.  An imbalance in free radicals can result in oxidative stress, something which glutathione can alleviate.

There are no known naturally occurring bioactive forms of B12 in plant sources.  This is because B12 is synthesised by the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract of animals, and then absorbed by the host animals.  B12 is concentrated in their tissues, which is then eaten by other animals.  Sources of B12 include red meat, fish, dairy, and eggs.

As you can see, those B vits are pretty handy guys to have around, so join the Fivaday Gang in eating as many sources as possible!