Benefits, Side Effects and Dosage of the Vitamin B category

B vitamins are a group of nutrients that play many important roles in your body.

Most people get the recommended amounts of these vitamins through diet alone since they are found in a wide variety of foods.

However, factors like age, pregnancy, dietary choices, medical conditions, genetics, medication and alcohol use increase the body’s demand for B vitamins.

In these circumstances, supplementing with B vitamins may be necessary.

Nutritional supplements that contain all eight B vitamins are referred to as B-complex vitamins.

Here are the health benefits of B-complex vitamins as well as dosage recommendations and potential side effects.

What Are B-Complex Vitamins?

B-complex supplements usually pack all eight B vitamins into one pill.

B vitamins are water-soluble, which means your body does not store them. For this reason, your diet must supply them each day.

B vitamins have many important functions and are vital for maintaining good health.

B-complex vitamins usually contain the following:

  • B1 (thiamine): Thiamine plays an essential role in metabolism by helping convert nutrients into energy. The richest food sources include pork, sunflower seeds and wheat germ (1Trusted Source).
  • B2 (riboflavin): Riboflavin helps convert food into energy and also acts as an antioxidant. Foods highest in riboflavin include organ meats, beef and mushrooms (2Trusted Source).
  • B3 (niacin): Niacin plays a role in cellular signaling, metabolism and DNA production and repair. Food sources include chicken, tuna and lentils (3Trusted Source).
  • B5 (pantothenic acid): Like other B vitamins, pantothenic acid helps your body obtain energy from food and is also involved in hormone and cholesterol production. Liver, fish, yogurt and avocado are all good sources (4).
  • B6 (pyridoxine): Pyridoxine is involved in amino acid metabolism, red blood cell production and the creation of neurotransmitters. Foods highest in this vitamin include chickpeas, salmon and potatoes (5).
  • B7 (biotin): Biotin is essential for carbohydrate and fat metabolism and regulates gene expression. Yeast, eggs, salmon, cheese and liver are among the best food sources of biotin (6Trusted Source).
  • B9 (folate): Folate is needed for cell growth, amino acid metabolism, the formation of red and white blood cells and proper cell division. It can be found in foods like leafy greens, liver and beans or in supplements as folic acid (7Trusted Source).
  • B12 (cobalamin): Perhaps the most well-known of all the B vitamins, B12 is vital for neurological function, DNA production and red blood cell development. B12 is found naturally in animal sources like meats, eggs, seafood and dairy (8Trusted Source).

Although these vitamins share some characteristics, they all have unique functions and are needed in different amounts.


Who Should Take a B-Complex Vitamin?

Since B vitamins are found in many foods, you are most likely not at risk of developing a deficiency as long as you follow a well-rounded diet.

However, certain circumstances increase the need for B vitamins, making supplements necessary.

Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women

During pregnancy, the demand for B vitamins, particularly B12 and folate, grows to support fetal development (9Trusted Source).

In women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, especially those who follow vegetarian or vegan diets, supplementing with a B-complex vitamin is crucial.

B12 or folate deficiency in pregnant or breastfeeding women can lead to severe neurological damage or birth defects in the fetus or infant (10Trusted Source).

Older Adults

As you age, your ability to absorb vitamin B12 decreases and your appetite declines, making it difficult for some people to get enough B12 through diet alone.

The body’s ability to release B12 from food so that it can be absorbed depends on adequate amounts of stomach acid.

However, it’s estimated that 10–30% of people over 50 don’t produce enough stomach acid to properly absorb B12 (11Trusted Source).

Deficiency in B12 has been linked to increased rates of depression and mood disturbances in elderly people (12Trusted Source13Trusted Source).

Deficiencies in vitamin B6 and folate are also common in the elderly population

Who Should Take a B-Complex Vitamin?

Since B vitamins are found in many foods, you are most likely not at risk of developing a deficiency as long as you follow a well-rounded diet.

However, certain circumstances increase the need for B vitamins, making supplements necessary.

Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women

During pregnancy, the demand for B vitamins, particularly B12 and folate, grows to support fetal development (9Trusted Source).

In women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, especially those who follow vegetarian or vegan diets, supplementing with a B-complex vitamin is crucial.

B12 or folate deficiency in pregnant or breastfeeding women can lead to severe neurological damage or birth defects in the fetus or infant (10Trusted Source).

Older Adults

As you age, your ability to absorb vitamin B12 decreases and your appetite declines, making it difficult for some people to get enough B12 through diet alone.

The body’s ability to release B12 from food so that it can be absorbed depends on adequate amounts of stomach acid.

However, it’s estimated that 10–30% of people over 50 don’t produce enough stomach acid to properly absorb B12 (11Trusted Source).

Deficiency in B12 has been linked to increased rates of depression and mood disturbances in elderly people (12Trusted Source13Trusted Source).

Deficiencies in vitamin B6 and folate are also common in the elderly population

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