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Why are B Vitamins so important

Why Are B Vitamins So Important?

B vitamins are needed for cellular metabolism and body repair.  They are essential for energy production and can reduce fatigue.  They are necessary for hormone synthesis, and immune system function.  B vitamins are important for making neurotransmitters, and they help to reduce stress and boost mood.

You can get  B vitamins from your diet

B vitamins are found in a wide variety of foods including wholegrain cereals, meat, poultry, eggs, nuts & seeds, fish, milk, legumes and fresh fruit & vegetables.  However, factors like age, pregnancy, dietary choices, exercise, medical conditions, genetics, medication and alcohol use, may increase the body’s demand for B vitamins. B vitamins are water soluble and delicate, which means they’re easily destroyed or washed out during food storage, processing and cooking.

Supplementing with B vitamins may be necessary

You may benefit from a vitamin B supplement during times of stress, if your energy is low, or at times when your dietary intake isn’t quite up to par.

B vitamins all have individual and unique roles in the body

But they are best taken as a B-complex which contains all eight B vitamins.

B1 (thiamin)

Thiamin is a co-factor for more than 24 enzymes involved in ATP (energy) production via the citric acid cycle.  It is important for the synthesis and regulation of neurotransmitters acetylcholine & GABA (Gamma amino butyric acid).  It is needed for cell replication and synthesis of DNA.  It protects against lead toxicity by binding lead.

B2 (riboflavin)

Riboflavin is essential for a variety of metabolic pathways involving the macronutrients and their conversion to energy.  It is involved in the synthesis of adrenal and thyroid hormones, cell replication and differentiation, iron metabolism, and the synthesis of red blood cells.  B2 is important for immune function and the production of antibodies.

B3 (niacin)

Niacin plays a role in cellular signalling, DNA production and repair. It is involved in carbohydrate & fat metabolism.  It is needed for corticosteroids and sex hormones.  Vitamin B3 is involved in the synthesis of the neurotransmitters serotonin and histamine, and the regulation of blood glucose by supporting the activity of insulin.

B5 (pantothenic acid)

Pantothenic acid helps with energy metabolism and is involved in hormone and cholesterol production. It is also involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters and the conversion of serotonin to melatonin. Vitamin B5 improves the body’s response to stress and relieves fatigue.  It is used in chronic fatigue, insomnia, fibromyalgia, post viral syndrome, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  It is also used in allergies, inflammatory conditions and wound healing.

B6 (pyridoxine)

Pyridoxine is involved in amino acid metabolism, red blood cell production and the production of neurotransmitters. A deficiency in vitamin B6 can result in mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, neuro-muscular spasm, confusion and convulsions. Low vitamin B6 intake has been associated with impaired immune function, and can lead to increased blood homocysteine levels and therefore increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Vitamin B6 is important for hormone balance can help to relieve symptoms of PMS.

B7 (biotin)

Biotin is essential for carbohydrate and fat metabolism and regulates gene expression.  Biotin assists in energy production. Many foods contain significant amounts of biotin. Your gut bacteria can also produce it. Biotin may help to support strong hair, skin and nails.

B9 (folate)

Folate is needed for cell growth, amino acid metabolism, the formation of red and white blood cells, and proper cell division, RNA and DNA synthesis.  It is important to reduce the risk of some birth defects and should be taken before conception and during pregnancy.

B12 (cobalamin)

B12 is vital for neurological function, DNA production and red blood cell development. Vitamin B12 acts as a cofactor in the conversion of homocysteine to methionine. It converts folate to its active form.  B12 is a cofactor in the synthesis of the myelin sheath, the protective coating that surrounds nerve fibres. B12 deficiency can cause fatigue and weakness, depression, irritability and forgetfulness, tingling and numbness in the extremities, cognitive changes such as poor concentration, memory loss, disorientation and dementia. These can be irreversible if left untreated. Vegans and vegetarians require vitamin B12 supplementation.

Before taking a supplement, check in with your healthcare professional for advice, as B vitamin supplements can sometimes mask deficiencies of other vitamins and other minerals.  Many supplements are inadequate and getting the right form and dose is important.

Angela McTaggart
Qualified Clinical Naturopath
Brunswick Naturopathy

Angela McTaggart - Naturopath, Brunswick Naturopathy