Vitamins are an essential part of our diet, as they are crucial for our health and wellbeing. We make vitamins after we consume food or supplements, and they provide many health benefits such as preventing health issues due to deficiencies, promoting organ health, and they are involved in every bodily process. In our series Vitamins & Why They Are Vital, we will go over each vitamin’s health benefits, foods you can consume or supplement in order to get the necessary amounts, and how vitamins function in the body, continuing our series with Vitamin B. And in case you missed it, check out our blog about Vitamin A here!
While all vitamins have a letter assigned to them, Vitamin B has 8 different variations within itself! Vitamin B, a water-soluble vitamin, is meant to help a variety of enzymes in the body do their jobs, such as releasing energy from carbohydrates and fats, breaking down amino acids, and transporting oxygen and energy containing nutrients around the body!
The different forms of Vitamin B are:
Pantothenic Acid (B5)
Folate/Folic Acid (B9)
The most well known B Vitamins are B6, B9, and B12, but let’s go over the first four of the B Vitamins to learn about their functions, sources, recommended daily intakes, and more! Stay tuned for Part II of our Vitamin B blog
Thiamin plays an important role in growth and cell function in the body. Small amounts of it are stored in the liver, but not enough to meet daily recommended amounts. The RDA recommends 1.2 mg/day for men 19 years and older and 1.1 mg/day for women 19 years and older. To help meet the daily requirement, Thiamin can be consumed in foods such as meats, fish, whole grains, fortified cereals and breads, as well as baby formulas. Oftentimes Thiamin is added to foods as it gets destroyed in high heat cooking or during commercial food processing methods. You can also meet the RDA amount by taking a Vitamin B1 supplement. Deficiency in Vitamin B1 can lead to decreased cognitive function and increased risk of cardiovascular disease such as congestive heart failure.
Riboflavin is a key component of coenzymes involved with the growth of cells, energy production and breakdown of fats, steroids, and medications in the body. Most of the time, the body will use riboflavin immediately, so it is not stored in the body or is excreted if there is an excess amount. The RDA for Vitamin B2 is 1.3 mg per day for men and 1.1 mg per day for women, and it can be found as a supplement or in foods such as meat, nuts, green vegetables and milk.
Have you ever wondered why milk is stored in an opaque container or in a carton instead of a clear container? It is because Riboflavin deactivates once it is exposed to light. Keeping it enclosed in a dark/dimmed container keeps the Riboflavin active and allows you to get its full benefits when consumed!
Deficiency of Vitamin B2 can increase the risk of migraines, as Riboflavin decreases oxidative stress, which is when the free radicals and antioxidants in the body are out of balance, and can lead to other health issues such as heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s), and diabetes. It also increases the inflammation of nerves, being another contributor to migraines. Vitamin B2 deficiency can also lead to the development of heart disorders such as cardiovascular disease.
Niacin converts tryptophan (an amino acid) to nicotinamide, being another form of Niacin or nicotinic acid. Niacin works in the body as a coenzyme, having over 400 enzymes depending on it in order to convert nutrients into energy, creating cholesterol and fat, creating and repairing DNA, and exerting antioxidant effects. Since the body will use tryptophan or Niacin as B3, for the RDA, it is important to note that 1 mg of nicotinamide is equal to 60mg of tryptophan. It is recommended that men get 16 mg NE (niacin equivalents) per day and 14 mg NE for women per day.
Nicotinic acid is used as a form of treatment for dyslipidemia, which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease as it is a combination of high concentration of fats or lipids in the body and low levels of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). Deficiency of Vitamin B3 can be associated with decreased cognitive function such as memory loss or dementia. Luckily deficiency of this B vitamin is rare, as it can be found in many foods such as meat, whole grains, nuts, and bananas.
Pantothenic Acid (B5)
Vitamin B5, also known as Pantothenic Acid, is used to make Coenzyme A (CoA), which is a chemical compound that helps enzymes break down and build fatty acids. While bacteria in the gut can produce Pantothenic Acid, it is not enough to meet the RDA of 5 mg per day for men and women. Since Vitamin B5 breaks down fats, it plays a role in decreasing cholesterol levels, especially for those with dyslipidemia. Outside of supplements, Vitamin B5 can be found in meat, fortified cereals, and some vegetables like broccoli.