The remarkable B Complex packs a punch in health benefits of B vitamins. It is not a single vitamin, as the name suggests and is essential for the body to perform a myriad of functions.
Eight B vitamins make up the B complex vitamin as well as some other related substances. Many of these vitamins are familiar names you have probably heard, but do you know the function of each one?
More importantly, what would a deficiency of any one of them cause as the body experiences changes with aging? This article will provide answers.
Healthy eating typically translates into good health and the maintenance and disease prevention of cells of various body organs. Getting the recommended daily doses of these vitamins is really the key to a healthy lifestyle.
Ask a doctor before taking any supplements to be sure they will not interact with any medications you may already be taking.
Composition of Vitamin B Complex
The B vitamin complex is made up of water-soluble vitamins. Because the body cannot store water-soluble vitamins in B complex, this means that a regular daily intake is required to ensure that essential amounts are available in the body.
Eight vitamins make up the B complex vitamin each with their own function. These are listed below. Click on their individual names to learn more about each one :
Vitamin B1 – thiamine
Vitamin B2 – riboflavin
Vitamin B3 – niacin
Vitamin B6 – pyridoxine
Vitamin B12 – cobalamine
Vitamin B9 – Folic acid,
Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic acid and
Vitamin B7 – Biotin.
Other related substances found in the B complex vitamin include choline, para-aminobenzoic acid, and inositol.
Every component of the B complex vitamin performs an individual function within the body. However, it is when they work together as the B complex vitamin that they provide essential maintenance for the body to remain healthy.
They help a variety of enzymes do their jobs, ranging from releasing energy from carbohydrates and fat to breaking down amino acids and transporting oxygen and energy-containing nutrients around the body.
Recommended Daily Dose
The health benefits of B complex vitamins are extremely supportive for several conditions and may be needed in additional quantities at certain times in a person’s life. There is a recommended daily dose for each of the B vitamins that vary according to gender and age.
However, doctors and other health professionals have discovered the benefits of increasing the intake of the B complex vitamin to help overcome certain illnesses.
Elderly people or those suffering from certain diseases or illnesses are other groups of people that may need to take a vitamin supplement.
A vitamin supplement may be prescribed to compensate for a person not being able to consume the recommended daily allowance of certain vitamins through their normal diet.
B vitamins each have their own unique functions, but they depend upon one another for proper absorption and the best health benefits. Eating a healthy, varied diet will generally provide all the B vitamins a person needs.
People can treat and prevent B vitamin deficiencies by increasing their dietary intake of high-vitamin foods or taking vitamin supplements.
Health Benefits of B Vitamins
B vitamins are important for making sure the body’s cells are functioning properly.
They help the body convert food into energy (metabolism), create new blood cells, and maintain healthy skin cells, brain cells, and other body tissues.
Anxiety and stress – Research has found that the B complex vitamin can be beneficial in helping alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and stress.
Fatigue can be a symptom of a multitude of illnesses as well as simply overdoing things, but the B complex vitamin can help alleviate general tiredness and lethargy.
Dermatitis – Some skin conditions, such as dermatitis, can also benefit from addition B complex vitamin intake. In fact, a number of creams and other skin preparations contain added vitamin B complex that can be absorbed by the skin to alleviate the condition.
Hair – The hair condition will also be greatly improved with sufficient B complex vitamin intake.
B vitamins often occur together in the same foods. Many people can get enough B vitamins by eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods.
However, those who struggle to meet their daily needs can use supplements.
People may develop B vitamin deficiencies if they do not get enough of the vitamins from their diet or supplements. They may also have a deficiency if their body cannot absorb nutrients properly, or if their body eliminates too much of them due to certain health conditions or medications.
Each B vitamin has a specific recommended daily amount that varies depending on gender, age and other variables like pregnancy.
|B Vitamin||Women – Daily Dose||Men – Daily Dose|
5 mg (RDI not established; Adequate Intake, or AI, provided)
5 mg (AI)
30 mcg (AI)
30 mcg (AI)
Source: Jillian Kubala (2018)
Pregnant and lactating women need higher amounts of B vitamins, while infants and children require less. Supplements with higher doses are used to correct deficiencies but self-medication is not the answer.
Speak with your doctor regarding your specific nutrient needs based on your age and health. For these reasons, it’s important to choose a B-complex supplement based on your individual requirements for each B vitamin.
Effects of Using High Doses of Off the Shelf B Complex
It is possible to buy doses of B complex such as B50 or B100. This means that each B vitamin in the B50 (for example) would have equal quantities – 50 mcg. Looking at the recommended dosage for men and women, it is easy to see that this is excessive for certain B vitamins.
Because B vitamins are water-soluble, it is not likely that you consume too much of these nutrients through diet alone or by taking a B-complex supplement as directed.
However, taking supplements that contain excessively high and unnecessary quantities of B-complex vitamins could lead to serious side effects.
High doses of B3 may lead to vomiting, high blood sugar levels, skin flushing and even liver damage. Furthermore, high doses of B6 can cause nerve damage, light sensitivity and painful skin lesions.
Another side effect of B-complex supplements is that it can turn urine bright yellow.
Although discolored urine can be shocking, it’s not dangerous but simply your body getting rid of excess vitamins that it can’t use.
Effects of Deficiencies of B Vitamins
Not taking enough daily B vitamins can result in certain deficiencies.
Pantothenic Acid (B5).
The B5 vitamin is found in every food type. Some sources are better than others, but a balanced diet provides enough amounts to convert food into energy and also release energy from fat cells when it is combined with other B vitamins especially B1, B2, B3, B6, and biotin.
B5 is also considered to be helpful in reducing stress. This is because during periods of stress, the body produces more of certain hormones such as adrenalin and this process requires B5 vitamin.
There are no adverse effects to consuming too much B5 vitamin, other than bright yellow urine.
It is impossible for anyone to consume less B5 vitamin than they need or to have a deficiency of this vitamin.
Foods with the highest B5 vitamin content are salmon, eggs, organic meats, beans, milk, and whole grains.
Processed grain foods such as bread, pasta, rice, breakfast cereal, and baked goods are not good sources of the B5 vitamin because the vitamin is lost when grains are milled into flour.
Without B12 our metabolism would be affected as it helps to form red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body, and maintain the nervous system. Fairly high levels of vitamin B 12 may be found in eggs, poultry, beef, pork, shellfish, and dairy products, especially milk.
Because vitamin B12 is one of the few vitamins that can be stored in the body, it is very rare to have extreme deficiency. If you don’t get enough vitamin B12, you develop a condition known as pernicious anemia.
Symptoms include numbness and tingling in your arms and legs, weakness, low of balance, and other neurological symptoms.
However, if your body cannot use vitamin B12 properly or absorb it from foods in the intestinal tract, vitamin supplements may be required to help with this.
Because Vegans and vegetarians do not eat animal protein, they are especially prone to numbness and tingling in the arms and legs and generally take vitamin supplements as most of the vitamin B12 we get in our diets is found in meat.
Signs of vitamin B12 deficiency, many of which characterize aging adults as follows:
- Poor memory
- Balance issues
- Intestinal problems
- Mood disturbances
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
- Soreness of the mouth or tongue
Because a deficiency in B12 negatively impacts the central nervous system, people with low or deficient B12 levels may experience poor focus, memory decline, forgetfulness, and have difficulty concentrating and completing tasks.
Older adults are especially at risk for these side effects because the risk of B12 deficiency increases with age and low B12 has been linked to worsening mental function in older adults (Tahani Boumenna (2020; L Nadler 2021)
Fortunately, studies show that mental impairment related to low B12 levels can improve with B12 treatment (Shazia Jatoi et al (2020).
Pyridoxine – B6 Vitamin
Our bodies only requires a relatively small amount of B6. The B6 vitamin works closely with all the other B vitamins, especially niacin, folic acid, and Cobalamin and contributes to numerous functions in the body.
The B6 vitamin also ensures that the correct forms of proteins are available for use in the body.
For example, the B6 vitamin will create hemoglobin for carrying oxygen in the blood cells, hormones for regulating blood pressure, neurotransmitters, and various enzymes.
It is also required to convert the proteins consumed into proteins that the body needs and carbohydrates from the form that they are stored in the body to a form that can be used for extra energy.
The best sources of the B6 vitamin are high-protein foods such as eggs, fish, poultry, and meat and it is also added to breakfast cereals and bread to ensure that everyone can consume their recommended daily allowance, even if they do not eat meat products.
Vegetables and fruits are poor sources of the B6 vitamin.
Large doses of B6 vitamin can be toxic.
Deficiency of B6 is known to cause many conditions seen in seniors and the elderly:
- Weakened immune system
Folate – B6 Vitamin
It has been known that some people with B vitamin deficiencies experience depression, anxiety, and mood swings. Folate (vitamin B9) helps with mood management.
Findings show that many people with depression have lower levels of folate in the blood. Folate is found in green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, peanuts, and other legumes, and citrus fruits.
Health benefits of B vitamins are seen in older adults, pregnant women, vegans and those with certain medical conditions taking a B-complex supplement.
Taking these supplements may also improve mood, cognitive function and symptoms of depression.
Side effects are unlikely if you follow the recommended dosage, which varies depending on age, nutrient demands, gender and health.
Jennifer Berry (2019) A complete guide to B vitamins https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325292#what-are-b-vitamins
Jillian Kubala (2018) B-Complex Vitamins: Benefits, Side Effects and Dosage
Shazia Jatoi et al (2020) Low Vitamin B12 Levels: An Underestimated Cause Of Minimal Cognitive Impairment And Dementia Cureus. 2020 Feb; 12(2): e6976. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7077099/
Tahani Boumenna et al (2020) Folate, vitamin B-12, and cognitive function in the Boston Puerto Rican Health Study
Am J Clin Nutr 113(1):179-186 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33184638/
L Nalder et al (2021) Vitamin B12 and Folate Status in Cognitively Healthy Older Adults and Associations with Cognitive Performance J Nutr Health Aging 2021;25(3):287-294