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, read about the first 4 B Vitamins 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 continue with the remaining B Vitamins, starting with Vitamin B6 to learn about their functions, sources, recommended daily intakes, and more!
Pyridoxine assists more than 100 enzymes in the body to perform functions such as the breakdown of macronutrients into energy, maintaining normal levels of homocysteine (an amino acid), and supports immune function and brain health. There are different recommended amounts of Vitamin B6, presented in the chart below.
|14-50 years old||1.3 mg per day|
|51 years old or older||1.7 mg per day|
|14-18 years old||1.2 mg per day|
|19-50 years old||1.3 mg per day|
|51 years old or older||1.5 mg per day|
When it comes to health, Vitamin B6 is studied for its role in disease prevention, as it can decrease the risk of some cancers, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive decline. Pyridoxine can be found in food sources such as tuna, salmon, dark leafy greens, oranges, and fortified cereals.
Vitamin B7 plays a vital role in assisting enzymes to break down the macronutrients of food, and also helps regulate cell signals and the activity of genes in the body. There is no RDA for Biotin, as there is not enough evidence for the amount needed for people who don’t have health conditions, but the recommended Adequate Intake (AI) is 30 mg per day for adults. Biotin is a glamorized supplement, as it is advertised to help with hair loss and promote healthy skin and nails. Outside of supplements, you can find Biotin in foods such as cooked eggs, avocados, salmon, and sweet potatoes. The reason it’s found in cooked eggs and not raw is because avidin, a protein found in eggs, binds to biotin and prevents absorption. When you cook an egg, the avidin breaks down and the body is then able to absorb the biotin when consumed!
Folate, also known as Folic Acid, helps form DNA and RNA and is also involved in protein metabolism. Vitamin B9 plays a key role in breaking down the amino acid homocysteine, which increases risk of developing blood clots and can damage the inside of arteries if there are high amounts of homocysteine in the body. Folate also helps produce healthy red blood cells and is critical at times of rapid growth, such as pregnancy. The RDA of Vitamin B9 is 400 micrograms (mcg) a day in DFE (dietary folate equivalents). If you regularly consume alcohol, it is recommended to have at least 600 mcg DFE a day since alcohol impairs the absorption of folic acid. Food sources of Folate include dark leafy greens, whole grains, legumes, eggs, and fresh fruit.
Cobalamin is needed to form red blood cells and DNA in the body, and is also a key player in brain and nerve cell development and function. Vitamin B12 binds to the protein of foods we eat, having sources such as meat, seafood, dairy products, fortified cereals, and enriched soy milk. After digesting foods containing Cobalamin, hydrochloric acid in the stomach and other enzymes unbind the vitamin into its free form. Supplements also provide Vitamin B12 in its free form, and it is highly recommended for vegans and vegetarians to take a B12 supplement to avoid deficiency and meet the RDA requirement of 2.4 mcg per day for men and women over the age of 14. Cobalamin deficiency can lead to increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and cognitive decline, and also increases homocysteine levels in the body (previously mentioned for Vitamin B6 and B9).
Stay tuned next month to learn about our next vitamin in our series: Vitamin C!