Vitamin B Complex Sources & Benefits

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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An adequate supply of vitamin B complex is extremely important for our metabolic and overall health.

What is Vitamin B Complex?

Vitamin B complex is the group of B compounds considered essential for physical and mental health. Vitamin B complex is often taken as a supplement, particularly by vegetarians and vegans. A lack of B vitamins can have negative implications for physical and mental health. If taken according to recommendations, vitamin B complex supplements should be safe to take. Vitamin B compounds are water soluble and any compound that your body doesn’t need will be naturally flushed out.

Vitamin B Deficiency Symptoms: 

  • Dizziness
  • Lack of balance and coordination
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Smooth and red-colored tongue
  • Tingling sensations or numbness in the hands, feet or limbs
  • Unusually pale skin
  • Sensitivity to light or blurred vision
  • Confusion or irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Memory loss
VITAMIN B' written on a tab surrounded by a stethoscope, injection, and glasses, placed on a blue surface.

Doctors recommend regular intake of vitamin B for optimum energy levels. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Benefits

Vitamin B complex is essential for the functioning of a healthy body. Together, these compounds have many benefits, including the following:

See below for details on the benefits of each specific B compound.

Vitamin B Complex Types & Foods

Vitamin B complex includes thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, folate, and cobalamin. Let us take a closer look at them in detail below.

  • B1 (Thiamine): This compound converts sugar and carbs into usable energy, has neurological benefits, and helps maintain a healthy blood flow around the body. It can be found in whole grains, dark green vegetables, such as kale, as well as milk and eggs.
  • B2 (Riboflavin): Like B1, this nutrient is needed for metabolism and it is also good for eye health. It can be found in the same food sources as B1; whole grains, green vegetables, milk, and eggs.
  • B3 (Niacin): B3 is another essential compound for the metabolism of nutrients into ATP, the fuel for human cells. It also helps the digestive system. It can be found in red meat, chicken, whole grains, fish, and peanuts.
  • B5 (Pantothenic Acid): B5 is also important for energy production and for the processing of hormones that keeps the human body balanced. It can be found in strawberries, grapefruit, sunflower seeds, yeasts, meat, yogurt, and eggs. 
  • B6 (Pyridoxine): B6 breaks down stored glucose and regulates body acids in the blood. It can be found in chickpeas, tuna, whole grains, beef, chicken, watermelon, salmon, and spinach.
  • B7 (Biotin): B7 is involved in the conversion of food into energy and helps the body produce fatty acids, which maintain cell health.
  • B9 (Folate): B9 is also called folic acid, and fosters the growth of red blood cells. It is commonly taken by pregnant women to reduce the risk of birth defects. It can be found in fortified cereals, whole grains, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetable, meat, fish, and beetroot.
  • B12 (Cobalamin): B12 is intrinsic for the maintenance of healthy blood cells and nerves. It also helps produce DNA and prevents some types of anemia. The primary natural sources of B12 are from animals – meat, fish, and dairy. It can also be found in fortified breakfast cereals and nutritional yeasts.

Dosage

It is important to take a vitamin B complex supplement in the amount recommended by the brand unless otherwise advised by a doctor. Some of these products will contain different concentrations of various B vitamins, so guidance is advised, particularly if you are suffering from a specific health condition.

Side Effects

The most frequent side effects of vitamin B complex supplements are stomach cramps and diarrhea. Other side effects include the following:

  • Nerve damage
  • Tingling of the limbs
  • Red skin

Exceeding the recommended dose of vitamin B over an extended period of time can lead to the following:

  • High blood sugar
  • Blurred vision
  • Skin problems
  • Heart diseases
  • Liver diseases

It’s recommended to stop taking the supplement and consult with a medical professional should any of these symptoms occur. Contact a medical professional for advice if you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are on any medications that might impact the intake of vitamin B complex.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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