B vitamins are so important to so many aspects of our health at all ages, from preventing birth defects through to preventing diseases that are common in older people. With our busy lifestyles, B vitamins can help us cope with our daily work and stresses. I thought it would be helpful to provide you with a summary of the many benefits of the B vitamins to our health and the best sources of B vitamins.
The B complex vitamins are a group of 8 vitamins which include:
- Thiamine (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pantothenic acid (B5)
- Pyridoxine (B6)
- Folic acid (B9)
- Cyanocobalamin (B12)
Thiamine (B1), when combined with pyruvic acid forms a coenzyme which then combines with other substances to form an enzyme that is essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates into glucose. Thiamine is also important for the proper functioning of the nervous system, acting as a coenzyme in the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
Riboflavin (B2) is important in the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, and, like thiamine, acts as a coenzyme in the process. It plays an important role in the maintenance of skin and mucous membranes, the cornea of the eye, and for nerve sheaths. Riboflavin also acts as a coenzyme for oxidation-reduction reactions throughout the body. Oxidation-reduction reactions involve the addition of either oxygen or hydrogen to a substance, for example, this process can act to inhibit chemical reactions with oxygen or highly reactive free radicals, thus avoiding damage to our cells.
Niacin (B3)is needed for the metabolism of food, the maintenance of healthy skin, nerves, and the gastrointestinal tract. It is also used in the oxidation-reduction reactions.
Pyridoxine (B6) is needed for the breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Pyridoxine is also used in the production of red blood cells, as well as in the biochemical reactions involved in the metabolism of amino acids (the building blocks of protein).
Folic acid or folate (B9) one of the B vitamins that interacts with B12 for the synthesis of DNA, which is important for all cells in the body. Folic acid, together with B12 and vitamin C is necessary for the breakdown of proteins and the formation of hemoglobin, a compound in red blood cells that transports oxygen and carbon dioxide. Folic acid is also essential to virtually all biochemical reactions that use a one-carbon transfer and is produced by bacteria in the stomach and intestines. Folate is found in foods; folic acid is the synthetic form.
Cyanocobalamin (B12)is needed for processing carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and to help make all types of blood cells. Vitamin B12 is required for maintenance of our nerve sheaths, and also acts as a coenzyme in the synthesis and repair of DNA. Vitamin B12 can only be absorbed or used by the body when it is combined with a mucoprotein made in the stomach called intrinsic factor. Once B12 becomes bound to the intrinsic factor, it is able to pass into the small intestine to be absorbed and used by the body.
Pantothenic acid (B5) and biotin– Pantothenic acid is used in the breakdown of carbohydrates, lipids and some amino acids, as well as for the synthesis of coenzyme A for biochemical reactions in the body. Biotin functions as a coenzyme in carboxylation reactions (-COOH), which are used in many of the body’s functions. Pantothenic acid, biotin and folic acid are often used in tandem by the body. Bacteria in our intestines produce both pantothenic acid and biotin.
Thiamine (B1) is found in whole grains, bread, red meat, egg yolks, leafy green vegetables, legumes, sweet corn, brown rice, berries, yeast, and the germ and husks of grains and nuts.
Riboflavin (B2) is found in whole-grain products, milk, meat, eggs, cheese and peas.
Niacin (B3) is found in protein-rich food such as meats, fish, brewer’s yeast, milk, eggs, legumes, potatoes and peanuts.
Pyridoxine (B6) is found in liver, other organ meats, brown rice, fish, butter, wheat germ, whole grain cereals, soybeans and many others.
Folate (B9) is found in yeast, liver, green vegetables, whole grain cereals and many other foods. The need for folate/ folic acid increases during pregnancy, due to high requirements of folate/ folic acid by the fetus.
Cyanocobalamin (B12) is not found in any plant sources and is produced almost solely by bacteria, such as streptomyces griseus. Rich sources of B12 include liver, meat, egg yolk, poultry and milk.
Pantothenic acid (B5) and biotin – Pantothenic acid is abundant in red meats, legumes and whole grain cereals. Biotin is found in beef liver, egg yolk, brewer’s yeast, peanuts, cauliflower and mushrooms.
One of the more recent, well known health benefits is the reduction in birth defects – neural tube defects (spina bifida and anencephaly) in infants whose mothers have had adequate levels of folate/folic acid during pregnancy.
Folate as well as vitamins B6 and B12 are also credited with fighting aging-related mental decline. A study followed 321 men aged 50 to 85, participating in the Veterans Affairs Normative Study on Aging. Blood levels of B vitamins and homocysteine were measured; information on diet was collected, and 4 tests of cognitive functioning were administered at the beginning of the study and again 3 years later. It was found that men who obtained more folate in their diets showed significantly less decline in verbal fluency skills than men with lower dietary folate intake. Recall ability and spatial copying (copying various shapes and figures) also declined less in men with low homocysteine levels. Folic acid, B6 and B12 lower homocysteine levels. The researchers concluded that homocysteine may be neurotoxic.
Vitamin B12 may help protect your brain against shrinking as you age. A small observational study conducted by British researchers followed 107 men and women, with an average age of 73, for 5 years. They found that older people with low (but still normal) levels of B12 were 6 times more likely to experience brain atrophy (wasting away of the brain) than those with the highest levels. The low B12 group lost twice as much brain volume on average. Up to 50% of those aged 50 and over are estimated to have weaker production of stomach acid that prevents them from absorbing sufficient B12 from food. However, these individuals are able to absorb the synthetic B12 in fortified foods and dietary supplements.
Vitamin B1 may be helpful to people with Alzheimer’s disease. It mimics acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter critical to memory. People with Alzheimer’s disease who take 3 to 8 g per day of B1 (thiamin) have better mental function and fewer senility and memory problems. Any older adult with less severe mental impairment may also benefit from additional thiamin.
B vitamins may help relieve migraines. An Australian clinical trial split 52 migraine sufferers into 2 groups, 1 receiving a daily dose of 2 mg of folic acid, 25 mg of vitamin B6 and 400 micrograms of B12; the other receiving a placebo. After 6 months there was a 39% reduction in homocysteine levels and significant improvement in migraine attacks in the treatment group while the placebo group showed no change.
Vitamin B6 together with a common amino acid called methionine has been found to lower the risk of lung cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) involving nearly 400,000 participants, regardless of smoking status. The researchers suggest that this may be because B vitamins may protect against DNA damage and therefore against the development of cancer.
Folate and fish may protect your hearing. The US Blue Mountain Hearing Study found that we may need more folate and fish to help prevent hearing loss. Those with the lowest levels of folate were 39% more likely to suffer hearing loss. People with the highest levels of homocysteine were at 64% greater risk. Again, high homocysteine levels are associated with low B vitamin levels. People who ate fish at least twice a week were 42% less likely to suffer hearing loss. Even eating fish once or twice a week was associated with a reduced risk.
The B vitamins that lower homocysteine (B6, B12 and folate/folic acid) help to prevent cardiovascular disease. However, treating patients who have already suffered a heart attack with B vitamins does not reduce the risk of further heart attacks.
Low levels of vitamins B6 and B12 may increase the risk of depression in older adults, according to a study of 3,503 seniors followed for 12 years in the Chicago Health and Aging Project. Both dietary and supplement intake of B6 and B12 was linked with reduced risk of depression. An effect was not seen for folate, but the researchers speculate that may be because folate deficiency is rare in the US.
Vitamin B1 (thiamin) is necessary to prevent a disease called beriberi. This disease reached epidemic proportions in Asia when rice was first refined, and the outer brown layer was removed. A similar problem occurred in countries where wheat was a dietary staple when refined white flour began to replace whole wheat flour.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) can help prevent cataracts, likely because of its close relationship with glutathione, an antioxidant. In a study of 408 Boston-area women, those with the highest intake of B2 had the lowest level of cataract formation and lens opacity.
Vitamin B3 (niacin) is necessary to prevent pellagra. Niacin also raises levels of HDL (good) cholesterol; it is especially beneficial in combination with oat bran. Another form of B3, niacinamide, helps during the early onset of type 2 diabetes. It also helps people with arthritis.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) may be useful for treating rheumatoid arthritis, and for lowering blood pressure and triglyceride levels. It is commonly found in anti-stress formulas because it works with the adrenal gland to produce stress hormones and keeping the adrenal gland healthy.
Important note: Many other B vitamins on the market have fillers, dyes and ingredients like sodium laurel sulfate which is a foaming agent used in soaps and shampoos, and propylene glycol which is also found in windshield washer fluid.
In children’s vitamins, aspartame may be included which is neurotoxic and could cause headaches in children. There are also artificial dyes which can cause hyperactivity in ADHD children, and many children have a sensitivity to dyes (orange, red, yellow (tartrazine) etc.).
Nature’s Sunshine products do not have any filler or dyes or other toxic ingredients in either adults’ or children’s vitamins.
Folic Acid Plus. Along with vitamin B12, folic acid is better known to help prevent and ward off anemia. Considered a brain food, it is needed for energy production and the formation of red blood cells. It helps reduce a woman’s risk of having a child with a brain or neural tube defect. It may relieve depression and anxiety. Along with folic acid, this combination contains bee pollen and vitamin C.
GreenZone Capsules and GreenZone Powder. GreenZone consists of green foods like sea algae and long-grown cereal grasses. Full of nutrient-rich goodness, green foods are the most healthful foods nature has to offer. Green foods not only help us sustain energy but boost the immune system, strengthen connective tissues and provide the body with the benefits of cleansing and detoxification. GreenZone contains the finest blend of whole foods, algae, and herbs balanced for the best utilization by our bodies. The 40-30-30 principle (% of carbohydrates, protein, and essential fat) has been incorporated into the formulation of this product. Folate is found in green foods.
Pantothenic Acid. This B vitamin is known as the antistress vitamin. Panthothenic acid can improve mental processes and help treat anxiety and depression. It can lower both cholesterol and triglycerides. Because the brain contains one of the highest concentration of pantothenic acid, mental symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue and depression can be the result of a deficiency.
Stress Pak. In our society, the sources of stress are all around us. Of particular concern to us in the modern world is the fact that these stress factors never let up and they don’t go away. When stress continues over a long period of time, certain essential nutrients can become depleted, and your body eventually gets run down and worn out. That’s why it’s important to do all you can to feed your body with proper nutrition during times of prolonged stress. Because of its effect on immune response, stress increases susceptibility to illness and slows healing.
Clinical studies show a relationship between stress and lower resistance to infection. For example, people under stress are more prone to contract common colds. Stress Pack conveniently bundles together four different products, all formulated to deal with different aspects of the symptoms of stress, the first of which contains several B vitamins.
Stress Formula /Nutricalm Medicinal Ingredients: Each tablet contains Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) 400 mg; Vitamin B1 (thiamine) 20 mg; Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) 20 mg; Niacin (niacinamide) 40 mg; Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine HCl) 20 mg; Folic Acid 125 mcg; Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) 34 mcg; Biotin 100 mcg; Pantothenic acid (d-calcium pantothenate) 80 mg; Schisandra chinensis (Schizandra) fruit, 60 mg; choline bitartrate,40 mg; Inositol, 20 mg; Bee Pollen, 15 mg; Para Aminobenzoic Acid (PABA), 15 mg; Lemon bioflavonoid, 10 mg; Valeriana officinalis (Valerian) root, 7.0 mg of a 4:1 concentrate; Passiflora incarnata (Passion Flower) flowers, 7.0 mg of a 4:1 concentrate; Humulus lupulus (Hops) flowers, 7.0 mg of an 8.5:1 concentrate. Non-medicinal ingredients: Dicalcium phosphate, microcrystalline cellulose (plant fibre), stearic acid (vegetable source), hydroxypropylcellulose (plant fibre), silicon dioxide, modified cellulose gum, and magnesium stearate (vegetable source).
Stress Pak also contains Stress-J, Adapta Max, and Nerve Eight. For further information about these, please see our web site.
Synerpro B Complex Vitamins and Vitamin B Complex. B-complex vitamins are particularly important for the nervous system. They are also vital for good digestive function and enzyme reactions that control energy, circulation, hormones and overall health. SynerPro concentrate is a blend of various vegetable powders that provides extra nutrient value, prevents free radical damage, and increases immunity. These vitamins are also essential for the metabolism of fats and protein, and for the maintenance of muscle tone in the gastrointestinal tract, as well as healthy digestive function. B-complex vitamins even play a role in the health of the eyes, hair, liver, mouth and skin.
Vitamin B12 Liquid. Vitamin B12 supplements may be essential for vegetarians since dietary sources of vitamin B12 are mostly foods of animal origin. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency may take more than five years to appear after the body stores have been depleted. People at risk for deficiency are those who have digestion problems or have had intestinal surgery or radiation, anyone aged 60 or older, strict vegetarians, breast-fed infants of vegetarian mothers, drinkers and people taking drugs to lower cholesterol. Supplementing with Liquid B12 helps replenish the body’s supply of this essential nutrient. Nature’s Sunshine Vitamin B12 is taken sublingually, so it gets absorbed directly into the blood stream and there is no concern if you don’t have the intrinsic factor to absorb it.
Vitamin B6 50 mg. Vitamin B6 is a co-factor which helps activate over one-hundred different enzymes involved in hundreds of biochemical tasks in the body. It is used to metabolize amino acids, lipids and nucleic acids. It is important for the production of energy and for proper nervous system functioning. It helps the body tissues get rid of excess fluid in premenstrual women. Vitamin B6 should be taken together with Vitamin B Complex since the latter contains very little B6.
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The suggestions and recommendations in this newsletter are not intended to be prescriptive or diagnostic. The information is accurate and up to date to our knowledge, but we are not responsible for any errors in our sources of information.
1)Gordon J. Ultimate guide to B vitamins. http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/vitamin-b.htm Accessed August 4, 2011.
2)Lindsay J, Evans J. Rate of periconceptional folic acid supplementation. Canadian Perinatal Health Report, 2008 Edition. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008. Available at http://www.publichealth.gc.ca/cphr/
3)Folate and other B vitamins may fight mantal decline with aging. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2005;23(10):6.
4)Vitamin B12 could help protect your brain against shrinking as you age. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2008;26(10):1-2.
5)Brett J. How vitamin B1 works. http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/vitamin-b-1.htm Accessed August 4, 2011.
6)B vitamins spell migraine relief. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2009;25(7):8.
7)Lung cancer odds lower with higher vitamin B6. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2010;28(7):8.
8)Folate and fish might protect your hearing. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2010;28(8):1-2.
9)B vitamin supplements fail to protect heart patients. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2008;26990;6.
10)Low in B vitamins? Depression may be lurking. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2010;28(8):6.
11)Brett J. How vitamin B2 works. http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/vitamin-b-2.htm Accessed August 4, 2011.
12)Brett J. How vitamin B3 works. http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/vitamin-b-3.htm Accessed August 4, 2011.
13)Brett J. How vitamin B5 works. http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/vitamin-b5.htm Accessed August 4, 2011.