B-Complex Vitamins Health Benefits and Why Do You Need Them

by | Dec 7, 2018

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People with well rounded, healthy and diverse diet usually don’t need to supplement vitamins or minerals.

You should also take in consideration the quality of the food not just what types you eat. So if you have access to homegrown, non GMO healthy foods you are probably consuming enough of all the types of vitamins and minerals your body requires.

Vitamins that are classified as B-complex vitamins are essential for many very important body functions, especially in cell metabolism.

Vitamin B-12 is mostly found in animal products. So if you are a vegetarian or a vegan you might want to consider B-complex supplements.

Health Benefits and Deficiency Symptoms of B-complex Vitamins

B-complex vitamins are usually found in a single supplement containing all of the B vitamins. You can also find supplements containing higher doses of a single vitamin from the B-complex group. However, these supplements are for specific needs and you should know exactly why you are getting these.

Let’s see which B vitamins are found in the whole B-complex group and what are their benefits.

Vitamin B1:

is also called thiamine. It plays an important role in food metabolism. Especially converting carbohydrates to energy. Thiamine is also essential for glucose metabolism and plays an important role in function of nerves, muscles and heart.

Rich food sources of thiamine are macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, soybeans, peanuts, whole grains and green peas. In United States and many other countries thiamine is added to breads, cereals and infant formulas.

Fish and pork are very good source of Vitamin B1, however, diary products contain very little.

For more detailed information on thiamine or vitamin B1 you can refer to this official thiamine fact sheet.

High amounts of thiamine is found in macadamia nuts

Thiamine deficiency can cause weight loss, confusion, short-term memory loss and other mental symptoms. People also developed gastrointestinal disorders and edema or swelling. It is a very serious vitamin deficiency.

Groups of people that are more in danger becoming thiamine deficient are people with alcohol dependence, older adults, people with HIV/AIDS, diabetes and people undergone bariatric surger (primarily gastric bypass surgery).

Vitamin B2:

is also called riboflavin. It also plays an important role in carbohydrate metabolism as well as in breaking down proteins and fats for energy. Riboflavin is also used by the body for development and function of the skin, blood cells, lining of the digestive tract and other vital organs.

Riboflavin is very important for eye health, because it protects important antioxidants in the eyes. Body also requires vitamin B2 to process iron which helps prevent anemia, and rise the oxygen in your body – which is essential for overall function, health and energy levels.

Best animal sources of riboflavin are salmon, eggs, beef, turkey breast and organ meats such as liver, kidney and heart.

Good plant sources are white mushrooms, raw spinach, whole grains, almonds and green leafy vegetables.

For more detailed information on riboflavin or vitamin B2 you can refer to this official riboflavin fact sheet.

Salmon is a rich source of riboflavin

Vitamin B2 deficiency may cause abnormalities in thyroid function. It is also connected with edema of the mouth and throat, swollen and cracked lips, sore throat, hair loss, reproductive problems, skin disorders, problems with liver and nervous system.

Although vitamin B2 deficiency is rare in developed countries because it is widely present in many foods, some people are more prone to it than others. People with extreme diets, low calorie diets followed with extensive exercise, underweight people and people with digestive problems are at higher risk of developing riboflavin deficiency.

Vitamin B3:

is also called niacin. It plays an important role in DNA production and repair, metabolism and chemical signals in cells (1). Among other many important roles in body, niacin can help lower cholesterol, boost brain function and ease arthritis symptoms.

More than 400 enzymes require niacin for proper reactions and function. Amazingly, not only it helps lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol, but it also increases the “good” HDL cholesterol. It also helps prevent heart disease and reduces oxidative stress and inflammation involved in hardening of your arteries – or atherosclerosis (2).

Best animal sources of niacin are found in all kinds of meat and especially in liver, chicken breast, turkey, tuna, salmon, pork and beef.

Highest plant sources of niacin are peanuts, grains, legumes, brown rice, avocado, potato and mushrooms.

For more detailed information on niacin or vitamin B3 you can refer to this official niacin fact sheet.

Peanuts are a Rich source of niacin

Niacin deficiency may lead to pigmented rash or brown discoloration on skin exposed to sunlight with roughened, sunburn-like appearance. It may also cause constipation or diarrhea and vomiting. Mental symptoms like depression, headache, fatigue, memory loss, paranoia, apathy, auditory and visual hallucinations and suicidal behaviors – have all been linked to vitamin B3 deficiency.

Vitamin B5:

is also called pantothenic acid. It is very widely available in many foods, mostly animal. Usually it is added to B-complex multivitamin supplements, because it plays an important role in processing other vitamins, especially vitamin B2.

Vitamin B5 helps create red blood cells and important hormones in the body. It also helps maintain a healthy digestive tract and aids in the process of making cholesterol.
One study also confirms that pantothenic acid helps reduce acne and improve skin conditions (3).

Best animal sources of vitamin B5 include chicken, turkey, duck, beef and animal organs such as liver and kidney. Eggs and diary products are also a good source of this vitamin.

Best plant based sources of vitamin B5 are sweet potatoes, shitake mushrooms, sunflower seeds, raw avocados, legumes, broccoli, corn and kale.

For more detailed information on niacin or vitamin B3 you can refer to this official pantothenic acid fact sheet.

Chicken and sweet potato are foods with highest amounts of pantothenic acid

Pantothenic acid deficiency is very rare since it is present in almost all foods in various amounts. Usually people with severe malnutrition or following extreme unhealthy diets may be vitamin B5 deficient. However, this is also followed by deficiencies in other nutrients, so it is hard to identify this problem.

Vitamin B6:

is also called pyridoxine, which is involved in creation important molecules in body like neurotransmitters, red cell blood production and amino acids. Research confirms that vitamin B6 plays an important role in promoting brain health and may even prevent or treat some chronic diseases (4).

Vitamin B6 plays an important role for brain function, especially important neurotransmitters that help regulate emotions and mood – including dopamine, serotonin and GABA (5).

Pyridoxine is also crucial in preventing anemia and helps hemoglobin production, and may be useful in relieving symptoms of PMS. Also helps prevent clogged arteries and reduces risk of heart disease.

Best animal sources of vitamin B6 are beef liver and other organ meats, tuna, salmon, chicken breast and turkey. Eggs and diary products such as milk and ricotta cheese are also good source of pyridoxine.

Best Plant based sources of vitamin B6 are chickpea, potatoes, carrots, sweet potato, spinach, green peas, avocado, bananas and other non-citrus fruit.

For more detailed information on niacin or vitamin B3 you can refer to this official pyridoxine fact sheet.

Chickpea is among the best food soures of pyridoxine

Vitamin B6 deficiency is many times associated with low amounts of other B-complex vitamins in body and is almost always connected with weakened immune system function. This deficiency can be followed by confusion, anemia, depression, swollen tongue, cracks on the lips and corners of the mouth.

Pyridoxine or vitamin B6 deficiency can also be a result of kidney diseases and severe digestive problems such as celiac disease, Chron’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Vitamin B7:

is also called biotin, which is a component found in hair, skin and nails. It is used as a “beauty vitamin” for brittle nails and improving skin conditions and problems with hair loss or hair thinning.

Biotin plays a major role in gene expression, an important process for normal function of cells (6). The breakdown of amino acids, fats and carbohydrates are also regulated by vitamin B7. The whole group of B-vitamins work very well together and enhance the effects of each other.

Best animal sources of biotin are meat, organ meats, eggs, fish (salmon, tuna), milk, yogurt, cheese, chicken and pork.

Best plant based sources of biotin include avocado, brewer’s yeast, sunflower seeds, sweet potato, almonds, spinach, broccoli, nuts, barley, corn, legumes and mushrooms.

For more detailed information on biotin or vitamin B7, you can refer to this official biotin fact sheet.

Avocado fruit is among richest sources of biotin

Biotin deficiency causes thinning hair which can progress to hair loss, red rashes (around mouth, nose, eyes), skin infections, brittle nails, and neurological issues like depression, lethargy, hallucinations (7).

People with healthy and mixed diet are not in danger of becoming biotin deficient.

Vitamin B9:

is also called folate or folic acid, an extremely important vitamin B that helps form red and white blood cells, regulates amino acid metabolism, cell growth and cell division.

One of more important functions of folic acid is its role in DNA and RNA synthesis, especially during pregnancy and puberty. Studies show an extremely important role of vitamin B9 in preventing birth defects (8).

It may also reduce the risk of cancer, enhance brain function, help prevent heart disease, is natural antidepressant and strong antioxidant. Folic acid also helps remove toxic heavy metals from the body, helps strengthen liver, kidneys and the immune system.

Best animal sources of folic acid are beef liver, other meats, seafood, eggs and diary products.

Best plant based sources of folic acid are dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, chard, lettuce), black-eyed peas, asparagus, brussels sprouts, broccoli, rice, green peas, nuts, legumes, beets, citrus fruits, papaya, avocado and banana.

It is mandatory in many countries around the world to add folic acid to cereals, grains, breads, white flour, pastas, rice and other grain products.

For more detailed information on folate (folic acid) or vitamin B9, you can refer to this official folate fact sheet.

Alcoholism and poor diets may lead to vitamin B9 deficiency which causes blood complications, weakness, fatigue, concentration difficulties, headaches, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, irritability, changes in hair and fingernail pigmentation. And the most disturbing and dangerous fact is that pregnant women with insufficient folate (folic acid) intakes risk the health of their children.

Vitamin B12:

is the most well known of all the B vitamins and is also called cobalamin. It is vital for DNA production, red blood cells development and of course neurological function. It is extremely important for keeping blood cells healthy and prevents a type anemia that makes people very weak and tired.

Similarly as folate, vitamin B12 also prevents birth defects. Also, studies confirm that it supports bone health and helps prevent osteoporosis – a chronic disease that is highly present in elderly (9).

Vitamin B12 also supports eye health but probably the most known effects of this vitamin are for brain and mental health. It helps improve your mood and symptoms of depression. Amazingly, vitamin B12 protects your brain from losing neurons, thus slowing down mental decline (10), and may even improve memory and help your brain stay health long term (11).

Vitamin B12 is mostly found in animal food sources such as meat, fish (trout, salmon, tuna, haddock, sardines), clams, poultry, meat organs, eggs, milk and milk products.

It is rarely found in plant based food sources! Some nutritional yeast products and cereals are fortified with vitamin B12.

If you follow a diet that contains very little or no animal products, be aware that you might be low on this vitamin. I recommend adding fortified cereals to your diet or taking a supplement.

For more detailed information on vitamin B12 or cobalamin, you can refer to this official vitamin B12 fact sheet.

Vitamin B12 is among most important vitamins for regulating brain function

Vitamin B12 deficiency is linked to fatigue, weakness, unhealthy loss of appetite and weight loss. Deficiencies also lead to neurological changes, such as tingling and numbness in the hands and feet. It may lead to other severe problems such as depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory, difficulty maintaining balance, movement disorders and severe blood complications.


Some of the vitamin B deficiencies may cause permanent damage to your body. People following certain diets, especially vegans and people eating lots of low quality foods like fast foods and industrially processed foods are at high risk of being vitamin B deficient.

These vitamins are water soluble, which basically means that it is easy for your body to remove them from your body through urine – so it is hard to get too much of them.

From my experience and research I’ve found that most of the food we are eating today contains less and less B-complex vitamins. Unless you grow your own non GMO food in clean environment far away from big cities, you are in danger of being vitamin B deficient.

I am on a healthy and diverse diet, yet, still I always take a B-complex supplement, just because I am highly aware how the food quality is rapidly declining – because of the extremely polluted environment we live in.

I highly recommend the B-complex vitamins from Bauer Nutrition which you can check out clicking on the link bellow!

This article is informational only and is not a medical advice! If you have concerns, doubts or a medical condition consult with a medical professional before taking B-Complex supplements.

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