The moment some people find themselves looking for “vitamin B” they find themselves puzzled. In most pharmacies or stores where vitamins are sold you will find vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7 and B12. In this same group you will also find Folic acid. While this is confusing at first the explanation is simple. B is actually is a group of vitamins all found in the same food sources. All of these nutriments found in B are crucial to the human body, but for different reasons.
Like all nutrients there are benefits to eating foods rich in all the B vitamins, and for many people having supplements aids in not suffering from deficiencies in any the B complex group.
Identifying B Vitamins
To make finding the right B vitamin more complicated some are often referred to by an individual name.
- B1 thiamine
- B2 riboflavin
- B3 niacin
- B5 pathetic acid
- B7 biotin
- Folic acid
Folic acid is technically part of the B complex group of vitamins, but it’s not assigned a number. This acid allows the body to make new cells, and for this reason it’s recommended to have folic acid once a day, and for pregnant women to take supplements containing this acid in order to prevent defects in the developing fetus’s spine or brain.
B Vitamin in Food
Almost all of the B complex group can be found in the same types of foods such as fruits, dried beans, nuts, peas, and leafy green vegetables. Some cereals, breads, and other grain products contain B, but only if they are either enriched or un-processed.
The Reason B is Important
In the 1800’s in the United States a new process of making bread quickly seemingly made it possible to feed more of growing cities at a minimum cost. A few years after this process caught on however, a condition began striking a large segment of the southern population of the country, especially among the poor living in urban areas. The condition caused thick scaling on the skin, swelling of the mouth and tongue, vomiting, and headache. The victims of this strange “plague” became excessively tired, disoriented, and apathetic. Many of these victims died before doctors realized the connection between the diets of these patients and their symptoms.
In the new process of making bread vitamin B3 or niacin was removed from the flour. In the south, and especially in urban areas where foods rich in niacin were scarce this removal cut off a vital source of the vitamin causing many people to develop a condition known as pellagra as a consequence of vitamin B deficiency. It was in fact pellagra and not a contagious disease that caused the deaths.
Today most processed bread and grain products are now enriched with even more niacin than found in natural grains. Supplements for niacin are important for those who eat little or no enriched breads or natural grains.
Other B Deficiencies and Benefits
Each of the B’s offers different benefits and each has different symptoms when a person isn’t getting the necessary amounts of these vitamins daily. Someone who is deficient in B12 might feel weak, tired, have a rapid heartbeat, a sore tongue, and weight loss.
B2 or Riboflavin is found in milk, meat, eggs, nuts and anything containing enriched flour. Too little riboflavin in the diet causes migraine headaches, acne, disorders of the blood, eye fatigue, burning feet syndrome and is linked to developing immune system problems.
B5 or Pantothenic acid is also found in meat such as liver, kidney and chicken. Green, leafy vegetables are also a good source of this vitamin. Someone not getting enough of B5 will have burning sensations in the hands and feet, and muscle problems such as spasms or pain. Extreme deficiency causes diarrhea, vomiting and water retention.
B7 or biotin is found in many foods of the same foods as others in the B complex, and while it’s essential to have it in the diet, not as much is necessary per day as with other B vitamins. It’s more common for people to lose B7 out of the body by oral antibiotic use or taking similar medicines that cause the body to improperly absorption or “dump” the biotin out of the system. This can cause nervous system issues, muscle pains, brittle hair, and abnormal nail growth. B7 deficiency can also cause hair loss, fatigue, nausea, anemia, and depression.
Getting Full Benefit from B
In order to have the full benefit of the entire B vitamin group many doctors recommend taking daily supplements. The typical diet often leaves out many of the foods that contain the B vitamins, and frequently those under stress or who have busy lives will not eat as much of these foods as is necessary to reap the full benefits.