The family of B vitamins includes B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, folic acid and biotin. While each individual B vitamin has its own distinct health benefits, they all work well together. So, which B vitamin is right for you? Is it just one of them or do you need a combination of them?
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) – Generally required for healthy digestion and assists in the production of hydrochloric acid, essential for breaking down dietary proteins, and helping to convert dietary carbohydrates into energy for your body. B1 is important for the health of the nervous system and supplementing with B1 can help relieve mouth ulcers where a deficiency exists.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – Provides symptomatic relief of migraines and may help to reduce the frequency of migraines. For significant relief of migraine symptoms, use for at least 3 months. B2 helps to maintain healthy eyes during ageing, healthy immune function, homocysteine levels, normal tissue repair and growth, and is necessary for the conversion of vitamins B6 and B3 into their active forms.
Vitamin B3 (Nicotinamide) – Nicotinamide is readily converted into the active form of niacin in the body and is heavily involved in cell-signalling, and DNA synthesis and repair. Nicotinamide is often used in supplements to avoid flushing that may occur with some types of niacin.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) – Plays an important role in adrenal gland function. B5 is needed for the production of the adrenal hormone cortisol, which is involved in your body’s stress response and helps maintain healthy nervous system function. B5 is involved in the production of lipids, cholesterol, steroid hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone, melatonin and the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) – Required to produce neurotransmitters including serotonin (appetite control and mood) and dopamine (motivation and mood), helping to maintain a healthy nervous system. B6 helps to regulate mood swings associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and relieves PMS symptoms including irritability, fatigue, bloating, fluid retention, breast tenderness and headaches. B6 may assist in the management of medically diagnosed carpal tunnel syndrome.
Vitamin B7 (Biotin) – Helps support and maintain healthy hair and nails and helps strengthen brittle nails and reduce nail splitting. Biotin is also required for cell growth and replication, so is beneficial during pregnancy, as biotin requirements are increased during pregnancy.
Vitamin B9 (Folate) – 500mcg (folic acid), which if taken daily for one month before conception and during pregnancy, may reduce the risk of having a child with brain and spinal cord defects such as spina bifida/neural tube defects. Folate, in the form of folic acid or methylfolate, is essential for healthy cell growth, replication and division, assists in maintaining normal blood, and helps maintain a healthy cardiovascular system by maintaining healthy homocysteine levels in healthy individuals.
Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin or methylcobalamin) – A blood tonic, important for normal cell growth and replication, and helps to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system by maintaining healthy homocysteine levels in healthy individuals. B12 helps maintain healthy nervous system function and may help maintain normal, healthy cognitive function. Sublingual supplementation provides rapid absorption and is ideal where digestive disturbances may prevent dietary B12 absorption.
Vitamin B Complex
If you think you may need more than one B vitamin, you could look at a B complex instead, which provides a mixture of all the B vitamins, so you can benefit from all of them. There are many types of B complex supplements available i.e. high-strength, sustained release and ones that include some activated B vitamins i.e. methylfolate and methylcobalamin. Activated B vitamins are biologically active in the body and generally do not require any metabolic or enzymatic conversion before they can be used by the body.
Mr Vitamins Recommends
Braun L & Cohen M (2010), Herbs & Natural Supplements: An evidence-based guide, 3rd Edition, Sydney, Elsevier.
Higdon J (2003), An Evidence-Based Approach to Vitamins and Minerals, New York, Thieme.
Osiecki H (2014), The Nutrient Bible, 9th Edition, Queensland, Bio Concepts Publishing.
Pizzorno JE & Murray MT (2013), Textbook of Natural Medicine, 4th Edition, Missouri, Elsevier.
Zimmermann M (2001), Burgerstein’s Handbook of Nutrition; Micronutrients in the Prevention and Therapy of Disease, 9th Edition, New York, Thieme.