The B vitamin family comprises eight water-soluble nutrients that are essential for functions and processes throughout the body. Most of us probably take the B vitamins for granted, but if we understood how important they are to our well-being, we would be sure to get adequate daily amounts, both from our diet and from nutritional supplements.
Eight Vitamins for a Thousand Functions
Like Vitamin C and other water-soluble vitamins, B vitamins are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Because the body excretes excess water-soluble vitamins through the urine, we must consume B vitamins regularly. (Fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A and D are stored in fat reserves and released into the bloodstream as needed).
Every B vitamin is necessary for metabolizing proteins, fats and carbohydrates. B vitamins perform thousands of other functions throughout the body, including the creation of metabolic coenzymes, which help enzymes facilitate critical reactions. Some B vitamins facilitate energy-releasing reactions, while some help build new cells that deliver nutrients to others.
Among their many benefits, B vitamins can help alleviate menstrual and PMS symptoms, prevent mild depression, regulate heart function, lower blood levels of homocysteine, prevent nervous system dysfunction and prevent (or lessen) the effects of diabetes. Folic-acid supplementation lowers the incidence of birth defects, and B-complex vitamins in general have been shown to reduce health risks in children whose mothers take them while pregnant and lactating. In various studies, B vitamins have been shown to reduce babies’ susceptibility to diabetes, obesity, spina bifida and possibly even cancer.
B vitamins are usually sold individually or as B-complex supplements, which typically contain all eight B vitamins. To clarify the role and function of each B-vitamin family, let’s review the actions and benefits of each nutrient.
The B-vitamin Family
• B1 – Thiamine
• B2 – Riboflavin
• B3 – Niacin
• B5 – Pantothenic Acid
• B6 – Pyridoxine
• B7 – Biotin
• B9 – Folic Acid
• B12 – Cyanocobalamin