B vitamins are a group of eight essential nutrients that play roles in many organs and bodily systems. Although they can work together in the body, they also carry out their own unique functions.
Thiamin (vitamin B-1)
The heart, liver, kidney, and brain all contain high amounts of thiamin. The body needs thiamin for:
- breaking down sugar (carbohydrate) molecules from food
- creating certain neurotransmitters (brain chemicals)
- producing fatty acids
- synthesizing certain hormones
Foods with thiamin: whole grains, pork, trout, acorn squash, legumes, seeds, nuts
Riboflavin (vitamin B-2)
Riboflavin is essential for:
- energy production
- helping the body break down fats, drugs, and steroid hormones
- converting tryptophan into niacin (vitamin B-3)
- converting vitamin B-6 into a coenzyme that the body needs
Foods with riboflavin: organ meats, oats, yogurt and milk, mushrooms, almonds
Niacin (vitamin B-3)
The body converts niacin into a coenzyme called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). NAD is a necessary part of more than 400 different enzyme reactions in the body, the highest of all vitamin-derived coenzymes. These enzymes help with:
- changing the energy in carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into a form the body can use
- metabolic processes in the body’s cells
- communication among cells
- expression of DNA in cells
Foods with niacin: meat, poultry, and fish are high in NAD which the body can easily use. Plant-based foods including nuts, legumes, and grains contain a natural form of niacin that the body cannot use as easily. However, manufacturers add niacin to foods such as cereals, and the body can easily use this form.
Pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5)
Pantothenic acid is necessary for the body to create new coenzymes, proteins, and fats.
Red blood cells carry pantothenic acid throughout the body so it can use the nutrient in a variety of processes for energy and metabolism.
Foods with pantothenic acid
Many foods contain at least some pantothenic acid, but some of the highest amounts are present in: beef liver, shiitake mushrooms, sunflower seeds, chicken, tuna, avocados
Vitamin B-6, or pyridoxine, plays a role in more than 100 enzyme reactions. The body needs vitamin B-6 for:
- amino acid metabolism
- breaking down carbohydrates and fats
- brain development
- immune function
Foods with vitamin B-6: organ meats, chickpeas, tuna, salmon, poultry, potatoes
Biotin (vitamin B-7)
The human body needs biotin for:
- breaking down fats, carbohydrates, and protein
- communication among cells in the body
- regulation of DNA
Foods with biotin: organ meats, eggs, salmon, pork, beef, sunflower seeds
Folate (vitamin B-9)
The natural form of vitamin B-9 is called folate. Folic acid, which is present in fortified foods and some supplements, is a synthetic form of the vitamin.
Folate is also essential for:
- DNA replication
- metabolism of vitamins
- metabolism of amino acids
- proper cell division
Foods with folate: dark green leafy vegetables, beef liver, avocado, papaya, orange juice, eggs, beans, nuts
Vitamin B-12 contains the mineral cobalt and is sometimes called a “cobalamin.” The body uses vitamin B-12 for:
- creating new red blood cells
- DNA synthesis
- brain and neurological function
- fat and protein metabolism
Foods with vitamin B-12: clams, beef liver, salmon, beef, milk & yogurt
Vitamin B supplements
Depending on your dietary intake you might either benefit more from a Vitamin B Complex or from targeted supplementation.
You may also be wondering about Vitamin B 4, 8, 10, 11??
These are no longer considered or labeled vitamins, as they no longer fit the official definition of a vitamin; essential and required for normal human growth and are required to be obtained by diet because they can't be manufactured by the human body. Even though they no longer fit the defined "vitamin" category, many are still in use and recommended for a variety of health needs as other nutritional supplements.
Vitamin B4 (Adenine)
Adenine is most known for its role in speeding up the process by which energy is manufactured in our body. Not only that, as a purine derivative, it plays a crucial role in protein synthesis and accompanying chemical processes. Furthermore, it is an important component of both DNA and RNA, which are nucleic acids that provide our genetic information.
Vitamin B8 (Inositol)
Plays a supporting role in the healthy functioning of cells, and it has shown potential for treating serious diseases as well as some psychological disorders and polycystic ovarian syndrome (a hormonal imbalance for females in which male hormonal production is increased, possibly resulting in weight gain, inconsistent menstrual cycles, infertility, and ovarian cysts).
What makes vitamin B8 also effective in treating psychological conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, and panic disorder, is its ability to influence how much serotonin is available to be supplied to nerves in the brain.
Vitamin B10 (Para Amino Benzoic Acid – PABA)
Formerly known as vitamin R, vitamin B10 is best known for helping in the growth of microorganisms in the body. It also guards our skin from free radicals contained in the harmful chemicals found in air pollution and the sun’s ultraviolet rays that can potentially render our skin vulnerable to infections. Vitamin B10’s role in the growth of microorganisms explain why, as a supplement, it can help heal irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gastrointestinal distress, as well as a variety of inflammatory reactions. As a coenzyme, B10 also assists our cells in their optimal utilization of protein as well as protein metabolism and red blood cell formation. Other reported health benefits of B10 include acting as an anti-allergen for the skin, alleviating rheumatic fever, and as an anti-aging agent working to eliminate lines, wrinkles, and dark spots.
Vitamin B11 (Salicylic Acid)
What’s known as an important “beta hydroxy” vitamin, salicylic acid also is a crystalline and organic acid obtained from the metabolism of salicin. Vitamin B11 often works in tandem with B12 to contribute to the formation of DNA and RNA. It also is essential to the formation and growth of body tissues as well as the fetus’s brains and spinal cord during embryogenesis.
We hope you now have a better insight into what additional B Vitamins might be able to help you optimize your energy levels and your specific needs.
Iron is another energy boosting micronutrient, but that’s a story for another day :).