B Vitamins – Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B6 and Folate

Pantothenic acid is a water-soluble vitamin that helps create energy from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It also helps form hormones – messengers that deliver information from one place in the body to another.

A pantothenic acid deficiency is uncommon because it’s found in adequate amounts in so many foods; if it does occur, symptoms can include fatigue, nausea, abdominal cramps, or difficulty sleeping.

Excessive pantothenic acid does not appear to cause any adverse or toxic symptoms or effects.


Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that helps release energy from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. It also helps create fatty acids and DNA.

The biotin content for many foods is unknown. However, it is found in a variety of foods, especially peanuts, almonds, egg yolks, milk, cheese, and vegetables.

Although a biotin deficiency is uncommon, some people might be at increased risk. Raw egg whites contain avidin, a protein that binds to biotin and could prevent its absorption. (Those who consume a lot of raw eggs are also at risk for foodborne illness caused by Salmonella). People who take certain anti-seizure medications can also be at risk for a biotin deficiency. Symptoms can include hair loss, dry skin; fatigue; loss of appetite; and muscle pains. It can also contribute to delayed growth and development and convulsions and other neurological problems.

Excessive biotin intake does not appear to cause any negative health effects.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 (in various forms, including pyridoxine, pyridoxal, and pyridoxamine) helps the body metabolize and absorb proteins, use fats, break down glycogen (stored glucose), and create red blood cells. It also helps convert tryptophan (an essential amino acid) into niacin, another B vitamin.

Vitamin B6 is found naturally in organ meats, starchy vegetables, and noncitrus fruits as well as in some fortified foods.

Vitamin B6 deficiencies are rare. People who are alcoholic or have a damaged liver because of cirrhosis or hepatitis can be at risk for a vitamin B6 deficiency. Symptoms can include anemia, dermatitis and other skin problems, and neurological problems such as depression or consusion.

High intakes of supplemental B6 (2,000 mg or more per day) can lead to permanent nerve damage that causes numbness in the extremities and difficulty walking.


Folate is a water-soluble vitamin that plays several key roles in the body. It helps
• Form red blood cells
• Metabolize proteins
• In cell growth and division
• Lower blood homocysteine levels (that can reduce heart disease risk)

Folate is found naturally in a variety of foods, especially dark leafy vegetables, legumes (beans and peas), and orange juice. It is also found in fortified foods such as enriched cereals and grains. Foods naturally contain folate, whereas fortified foods and supplements contain folic acid – a more stable and better-absorbed form of folate.

A lack of folate in the diet can raise homocysteine levels (that can increase heart disease risk). It can also impair DNA synthesis; this can lead to megaloblastic anemia with symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, depression, irritability, forgetfulness, and disturbed sleep. Impaired DNA synthesis can also lead to diarrhea and impaired immune function. Too little folate in early pregnancy can cause an unborn fetus to develop neural tube defects such as spina bifida or anencephaly.

People are at greater risk for a folate deficiency if they are poor or suffer from eating disorders or alcoholism. Higher folate needs because of pregnancy or lactation or because of certain conditions (blood disorders or leukemia) can also make it a challenge to meet daily folate needs. Alcoholism or taking certain prescription medications can also lower folate absorption and increase deficiency risk.

Too much folate can cover up a deficiency of vitamin B12 by preventing the formation of altered red blood cells, an indicator that you’re not getting enough vitamin B12. Too much folate can also make symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency worse.

Some people might get hives or suffer from respiratory distress when they consume excess amounts of folic acid from vitamins supplements.

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