Comprehensive Guide To Vitamin B

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

Vitamin B is commonly used in fat burners for its vital role on the metabolism, and its ability to synthesize fat for energy. Vitamin B is an essential vitamin complex that can really help with fat / weight loss.


This is a comprehensive guide to vitamin B.


What Is Vitamin B?


Vitamin B is a complex of 8 water-soluble vitamins that play an essential role in metabolic functions, energy levels and brain function. Being water-soluble, they cannot be stored within the body, therefore a daily intake of vitamin B required. (1)


The vitamin B complex is made up of Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic Acid (B5), Pyridoxine (B6), Biotin (B7), Folate (B9) & Cobalamin (B12).


Vitamin B is sensitive to heat and therefore is destroyed when exposed to high temperatures.


History Of Vitamin B


Vitamin B was discovered in 1889 by a Dutch physician called Christiaan Eijkman, investigating an endemic condition named beriberi (meaning extreme weakness) in a country which is now known today as Indonesia. Beriberi caused symptoms of weakness, weight loss, confusion, and sometimes death. The disease was common in areas where white rice made up the majority of the residents' diets.


Eijkman conducted studies on chickens and found that those fed white rice developed symptoms similar to beriberi, while chickens given brown rice did not. This is because white rice is refined by going through processes called 'milling' and 'polishing' which inadvertently remove nutrients from the rice. Although today, most white rice is enriched with the nutrients lost. In America, it is required by law for white rice to be enriched with Vitamin B1, B3 and iron.


Brown rice is unrefined rice which has not been processed, therefore it retains all of its nutritional value. Higher in dietary fiber and many vitamins and minerals. Because of this, brown rice is known to be a healthier option.


The white rice craze beginning in the second half of the 19th century is what caused the beriberi epidemic in Asia. (2)


Thiamine (Vitamin B1)


Thiamine is needed for the production of energy from glucose, the transmission of electrical messages in nerves and muscle cells, and for the production of red blood cells. It is essential for the synthesis of some important amino acids and plays a role in digestion. It is also involved in the transportation of glucose intracellularly, and in the function of pancreatic beta-cells (which produce insulin), therefore it is important for people with diabetes. 3)


Benefits


Studies have shown thiamine may help older people who have low intakes of the vitamin to increase feelings of well-being, reduce fatigue, and boost appetite.


Vitamin B1 may have beneficial effects on mood, promoting calmness, clear-headedness and elation. Those with lower levels of thiamine are less likely to feel composed or self-confident and are more likely to suffer from depression than those with higher levels. Among healthy females low thiamine levels was associated with low mood. Thiamine supplementation after 3 months was associated with improved mood!


Thiamine appears to have a protective effect against over proliferation of artery linings with is linked with atherosclerosis. Lab tests on cell cultures suggest that adequate intake of thiamine may delay hardening and furring up of the arteries associated with high glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.


Lab evidence suggest that vitamin B1 could help prevent diabetic retinopathy, however this needs further investigation in humans.


Thiamine deficiency


In some under-developed countries, thiamine deficiency is common where white rice is the dietary staple rather than brown rice. The lack of vitamin B1 results in beriberi. Dry beriberi effects the nervous system, causing symptoms of heaviness, weakness, numbness and pins and needles in the legs. Wet beriberi effects the cardiovascular system, causing extreme fluid retention and poor circulation.


Avid alcohol drinkers are at risk of developing thiamine deficiency, it is estimated that 80% of people who abuse alcohol will develop deficiency. Alcohol makes it harder for the body to process and absorb vitamin B1. Lack of thiamine with high alcohol intake is associated with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which can then lead to irreversible dementia if left untreated.


Symptoms include:


• Loss of appetite

• Fatigue

• Irritability

• Pins and needles in legs

• Weakness

• Nausea and vomiting

• Delirium

• Abnormal heart rate


Sources of Thiamine


• Whole grains

• Oats

• Pasta

• Meat

• Seafood

• Nuts and pulses

• Yeast


How much do I need?


Children


Infants 0-6 months: 200mcg

Infants 7-12 months: 300mcg

Children 1-3 years: 500mcg

Children 4-8 years: 600mcg


Males


9-13 years: 900mcg

14 years and above: 1.2mg


Females


9-13 years: 900mcg

14-18 years: 1mg

18 years and above: 1.1mg

Pregnant women: 1.4mg

Breast-feeding women: 1.5mg


Side effects


High doses (5000mg or more) taken daily may cause side effects such as:


• Headache

• Nausea

• Irritability

• Insomnia

• Irregular heart rate

• Weakness


Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)


Vitamin B2 plays a major role in the metabolization of proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates. It acts as a building piece for the formation of a substance called flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) which is needed for maintaining the optimum activity of metabolic enzymes. One of these enzymes, glycerophosphate dehydrogenase, is essential in the way insulin-producing beta cells detect the presence of glucose within the pancreas. It has been suggested that a lack of vitamin B2 is linked to the development of type 2 diabetes. Vitamin B2 is also needed for the production of thyroid hormones and red blood cells. Riboflavin also acts as an antioxidant and helps the immune system by contributing to the production of antibodies. It helps to keep skin, hair, eyes, and mucus membranes healthy, and for optimal brain function. Those with adequate intakes of riboflavin have been found to be more likely to score higher in mental functioning tests than those with inadequate intake. (4)


Benefits


Vitamin B2 has a homocysteine-lowering effect in people who have inherited two copies of a gene associated with reduced activity of an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, which is needed for homocysteine metabolism.


Vitamin B2 may provide some protection against certain congenital abnormalities during early pregnancy.


Riboflavin plays an essential role in protecting against cataract formation (a condition which causes the eye lens to become opaque and cause blurred vision) it acts as a building block for the production of flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) - a factor needed for optimum activity of an antioxidant enzyme, glutathione reductase. A study involving 1,380 contributors attending an ophthalmology outpatient clinic (a branch of medicine that studies and treats diseases and disorders of the eye), found that regular consumption of multivitamin supplements decreased the risk of developing cataracts by 37%, as well as adequate dietary intake, among other nutrients decreasing the risk.


A study involving 55 people suffering from migraine found that those taking a supplement of 400mg of riboflavin reduced the frequency of migraine and headaches was reduced by 50%.


Riboflavin deficiency


Senior people with low riboflavin intake may have reduced immunity due to the sub-optimal production of antibodies and are also at risk of developing cataracts.


Severe lack of vitamin B2 is rare among developed countries, but occasionally effects the

elderly and those with alcohol dependency or anorexia.


Symptoms include:


• Skin disorders

• Excess blood

• Lesions on the corner of the mouth

• Swollen / cracked lips

• Hair loss

• Sore throat

• Itchy / red eyes

• Degeneration of liver / nervous system


Sources of Riboflavin


• Yeast extract

• Whole grains

• Eggs

• Dairy products

• Green leafy vegetables

• Fortified foods


How much do I need?


Children


Infants 0-6 months: 300mcg

Infants 7-12 months: 400mcg

Children 1-3 years: 500mcg

Children 4-8 years: 600mcg


Males


9-13 years: 900mcg

14 years and above: 1.3mg


Females


9-13 years: 900mcg

14 years and above: 1mg

Pregnant women: 1.4mg

Breast-feeding women: 1.6mg


Side effects


• Itchy skin

• Numbness

• Pins and needles

• Noticeably yellower urine


Niacin (Vitamin B3)


Niacin exists in two forms - as nicotinic acid and nicotinamide. Vitamin B3 can be made within the body in small amounts from the essential amino acid tryptophan. 60mg of tryptophan produces 1mg of niacin. Niacin combines with the mineral, Chromium to form the glucose tolerant factor (GTF). This is essential for the hormone insulin, in controlling the way glucose is taken up in the cells. Lack of vitamin B3 has been associated with impaired glucose tolerance which may lead to diabetes. Together with vitamin B1 and B2, B3 works symbiotically with them to release energy from muscle sugar stores (glycogen) and for the uptake and use of oxygen within cells. It also works on it's own to maintain healthy skin, nerves, intestines and brain function. (5)


Benefits


Niacin is prescribed to lower high cholesterol levels and can reduce the risk of heart attack by as much as 30%. It can lower harmful LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and triglycerides. It is one of few treatments that can lower harmful fat known as apolipoprotein B (apoB) and apolipoprotein A (apoA). It works in the liver to reduce production of triglycerides and apoB, while also blocking the reactions that break down HDL cholesterol to increase levels by up to 20%. Niacin is recognised as the most effective treatment for increasing the beneficial HDL cholesterol. A 16 week trial study involving 148 people with diabetes were given slow-release niacin tablet daily showed up to a 24% increase in HDL cholesterol and up to a 28% decrease of triglycerides.


Optimum niacin intake can help prevent cataracts.


Niacin deficiency


Lack of niacin leads to a rare deficiency called pellagra, which can exist in two forms, primary pellagra is a result of insufficient niacin within the diet. Secondary pellagra is due to the bodies poor ability to to use niacin within the diet, which can be a result of alcoholism.


Symptoms include:


• Inflamed skin

• Diarrhea

• Dementia

• Sores in the mouth


Sources of Niacin


• Whole grains

• Fortified foods

• Nuts

• Meat

• Poultry

• Oily fish

• Eggs

• Dairy products

• Dried fruit

• Yeast extract


How much do I need?


Children


Infants 0-6 months: 2mg

Infants 7-12 months: 4mg

Children 1-3 years: 6mg

Children 4-8 years: 8mg

Children 9-13 years: 12mg

Males


Males 14-18 years: 16mg

Males 19 and above: 16mg


Females


Females 14-18 years: 14mg

Females 19 and above: 16mg

Pregnant females: 18mg

Breast-feeding females: 17mg


Side effects


In high doses, niacin can cause red flushing of the skin, comparable to blushing. A low dose (75mg-300mg) of aspirin can resolve this however.


Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)


Like other B vitamins, pantothenic acid plays a major role in energy-yielding metabolic reactions involving carbohydrate, lipids and protein. It is a significant key factor in the synthesis of glucose and fatty acids which are important fuel sources for muscles and may improve athletic performance, however this has not been proven. It has been suggested that vitamin B5 supplements may even help during weight loss by ensuring that the fatty acids that are released from fat stores are broken down properly. Vitamin B5 also plays a role in the production of adrenal hormones during times of stress and helps maintain a healthy nervous system. Other uses of vitamin B5 is it is taken to reduce nasal congestion, reduce stress, overcome chronic fatigue and indigestion and even as an aid to giving up smoking. Furthermore vitamin B5 can encourage healing of wounds by stimulating cell growth through increasing the number and speed of cells going into the wound, this also improves protein synthesis. This encourages strong scar tissue and helps rejuvenate skin. This healing function is why pantothenic acid derivatives are used to treat hepatitis A. In a study, vitamin B5 given to 156 people suffering from hepatitis A, found that their liver function improved and their blood antibody levels increased as well as the activity of white blood cells. Vitamin B5 is readily destroyed by cooking, which destroys up to 50% of vitamin B5 in meat. Up to 75% of vitamin B5 is lost in vegetables during processing. Freezing slowly destroys this vitamin too. (6)