B-Vitamin Fact Sheet
B-vitamins have many therapeutic benefits, but can be confusing to figure out. This is designed to give you quick facts about B-vitamins.
Vitamin B12 is the largest and most complex of all the B Vitamins. It is unique in that it contains the metal cobalt. B12 in most of its forms will have the suffix -cobalamin. Common forms used in supplements include cyanocobalamin and hydroxocobalamin. These forms will be converted by the body to the active form of methylcobalamin.
B-12 is primarily found in animal products. The highest amounts being in clams and mussels, but is also found in fish, chicken, beef, and milk in smaller amounts. Vegans are commonly deficient and should supplement with B-12 daily. Some other common reasons for B-12 deficiency include: deceased gastric acid in the stomach, Crohn’s disease, bacterial growth in the intestines, pernicious anemia, HIV, MS, Celiac disease, and certain drugs such as proton pump inhibitors, or acid blockers can interfere with absorption.
Deficiency symptoms include: fatigue, neurological symptoms such as numbness and tingling in feet, lower legs, and hands, memory loss, difficulty walking, mood changes, disorientation, and dementia. Gastrointestinal symptoms include a sore tongue, appetite loss, and constipation.
Only 1% of Vitamin B-12 is absorbed across the intestinal lining. Supplementation with by injection of sublingual B-12 is important to get more into the blood supply.
Typical doses range between 500-1000 mcg per day.
Vitamin B-1 is also known as Thiamine. Thiamine is found in highest amounts in whole grains, lentils and beans, nuts, and lean pork. Most of the thiamin is lost in the production of white flour and white rice. Often times breads and pastas are fortified with thiamin. Thiamin is required by in higher amounts by the bodies of people who are more physically active, children, and pregnant and lactating women. Thiamin is an important vitamin involved in energy production, and sugar metabolism. Thiamin is also important for neurological system and is found in the nerves and the brain. Alcohol, coffee, and tea have been associated with thiamin depletion in humans. Deficiency usually occurs with inadequate intake of thiamin from diets high in white grains (breads, rice), and diets high in alcohol consumption. Seizure medications, cancer therapy drugs, and diuretics such as Lasix may also lead to Thiamin deficiency. Naturopathic doctors commonly use in impaired mental function in the elderly, insomnia, neurosis, sciatica, anemia, depression, and sensory neuropathy.
Riboflavin is Vitamin B-2. Most plant and animal foods contain small quantities of riboflavin. The greatest concentration is found in meats, organ meats (liver, kidney), Fish, Eggs, Green Leafy veggies, fruits, nuts, and root vegetables. Milk has the highest concentration of Riboflavin. Riboflavin is easily destroyed by exposure to light. Up to 50% of riboflavin found in milk kept in a clear glass bottle can be destroyed around 2 hours of exposure to sunlight. Riboflavin is essential for the body to produce coenzymes that are involved in important oxidation-reduction reactions. These reactions include energy production, break down of fatty acids, detoxification pathways, and iron absorption/hemoglobin production. Deficiency symptoms include: sore throat, redness and swelling of the lining of the mouth, cracks or sore on the corners of the lips and mouth, inflammation of the tongue, and most, scaly skin inflammation (seborrheic dermatitis). The most common causes of riboflavin deficiency are: inadequate dietary intake, decreased absorption from lactose intolerance, diarrhea, celiac disease and infectious enteritis, Increased destruction form phototherapy, drugs (tricyclic antidepressants) and athletes.
Vitamin B-3 is also known as Niacin. Good sources of Niacin include yeast, meat, poultry, fish with red meat (tuna, salmon), cereals, legumes, and seeds. Milk, green leafy vegetables, coffee and tea also provide some niacin. Chicken, salmon, turkey, and fortified cereals have the highest amounts of niacin. Niacin is extremely important as approximately 200 enzymes in the body require niacin as a cofactor. Niacin is also extremely important for energy production, sugar metabolism, break down of fatty acids, and alcohol metabolism. Niacin is also important for production of steroid hormones, DNA, and cholesterol. Niacin has been used to treat and reduce blood cholesterol since 1955. Niacin deficiency results in a condition called Pellagra which can be very serious and fatal. Other symptoms related to the digestive system include: a bright red tongue, vomiting, and headache. Neurological symptoms include: Headache, apathy, fatigue, depression, disorientation, and memory loss. Most common causes of deficiency include: inadequate dietary intake or either niacin or its precursor tryptophan. Taking too much Niacin can cause flushing and itching of the skin, GI disturbances, blood sugar disturbances, skin rashes, gout, and liver damage. Administration of certain types of Niacin with Lovastatin can result in rhabdomyolysis (muscle cell break down sometimes resulting in kidney failure)
Pantothenic Acid is known as Vitamin B-5. Food sources rich in pantothenic acid include liver and kidney, yeast, egg yolk, and broccoli. Fish, shellfish, chicken, milk, yogurt, legumes, mushrooms, avocado, and sweet potato are also good sources. Whole grains are also good sources as long as they are not white, processing and refining grains results in a 35-75% loss of the nutrient. Pantothenic acid concentrations are found in the liver, adrenals, kidney, brain, heart and testes. Pantothenic acid is a component of Coenzyme A (CoA) an essential coenzyme in a variety of life sustaining reactions. CoA is required for energy production from food, synthesis of cholesterol, and important membrane lipids. Groups at risk for deficiency include those with alcoholism, diabetes mellitus, and inflammatory bowel disease. Deficiency symptoms may include abnormal skin sensations of the feet and lower legs. Naturopathic doctors use for adrenal support, stress, atherosclerosis, osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, high serum lipids, eczema, anemia, and systemic lupus erythematosis
Pyridoxal is also known as Vitamin B-6. Pyridoxal phosphate is the biologically active form which functions as a coenzyme in many reactions. Rich sources of B-6 include: whole grains, bananas, legumes, nuts, potato, chicken, liver, beef, legumes, fruits, vegetables, egg yolk, fish, milk, cabbage. Vitamin B-6 is important in Amino acid metabolism which is essential to producing new proteins for the body, and breaking down old ones. Nervous system functions include: production of serotonin ( an important neurotransmitter) from the amino acid tryptophan, and synthesis of other neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA). Vitamin B-6 is also an important coenzyme in the synthesis of heme (a component of hemoglobin). Vitamin B-6 is important for hormone function as it binds to steroid receptors in such a way that decreases their effects. These hormones include estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone among others. Deficiency symptoms include: irritability, depression, confusion, inflammation of the tongue, sores or ulcers of the mouth, and at the corners of the mouth, peripheral neuropathy, dermatitis, anemia. Deficiency can be caused by alcoholism, increased dietary protein, and poor dietary intake. Naturopathic doctors use for treatment of side effects of oral contraceptives, premenstrual syndrome, depression, morning sickness, carpal tunnel syndrome, and decreased propensity for kidney stones.
Biotin or Vitamin B-7 in important for healthy skin, hair, and nails. Biotin is found in egg yolk, liver, soybeans, and yeast. There area also some plant sources of biotin such as avocado, raspberries, and cauliflower. The active form of biotin is essential to a few metabolic reactions such as reactions involving fatty acid synthesis, gluconeogenesis (formation of glucose from sources other than carbohydrates which is important for brain function and to keep us from starving) and a reaction that is essential to an important amino acid. Biotin deficiency symptoms include: hair loss, red scaly rash around the eyes, nose, mouth and genital area. Neurological symptoms include depression, lethargy, hallucinations, and numbness and tingling of the extremities.
Dr. Teresa Richter
Dr. Teresa Richter is a graduate of Bastyr University. She completed her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine as well as a Bachelor of Science in Herbal Sciences at Bastyr University.