The B vitamins are part of a group consisting of 8 different micronutrients which are essential for obtaining energy from food.
Most healthy people are able to meet their daily needs through food. In some situations, however, it may be necessary and beneficial to use a supplement that contains them all. In this article we talk about the main uses, recommendations and dosages of B vitamins.
What are B vitamins?
It is well established that vitamins are substances that the body needs to grow and develop normally. Unlike macronutrients, they do not provide energy and are required in very small quantities. However, their deficiency can cause ailments and even some diseases.
So far, a total of 8 B vitamins have been identified. Some substances have been baptized with the same name, yet they are not such; we refer to inositol, carnitine or amygdalin.
All B vitamins have important functions regarding cellular metabolism. They are all water-soluble, so the body eliminates their excess through urine. It is therefore necessary to replenish the adequate quantities daily.
The B vitamins and their functions
At present, a total of 8 vitamins have been identified within this group. The foods in which they are present and the supplements that contain them provide specific amounts. In summary, these are their main functions:
- Thiamine or B1 : vital for the growth and proper functioning of organs such as the brain or heart.
- Riboflavin or B2 : stands out for its antioxidant capacity and its participation in the elimination of substances and toxins from the body.
- Niacin or B3 : stimulates the proper functioning of enzymes. It helps the body to repair DNA and has important functions in the digestive, nervous and integumentary systems.
- Pantothenic acid or B5 : intervenes in the synthesis of hormones and cholesterol. It is essential for brain and nervous system health.
- Pyridoxine or B6 : Helps the body form new red blood cells and keep the immune system healthy.
- Biotin or B7 : promotes the growth of bones, hair and nails.
- Folic acid or B9 : It is used by the body to create genetic material, such as DNA. During pregnancy it reduces the risk of birth defects in the brain and spine of the unborn child.
- Cobalamin or B12 : Helps maintain the nervous system and is necessary for the creation of red blood cells.
Dosage and commercial presentation
In supplements, the 8 substances are usually present all together. However, there are also supplements that provide them separately. They are usually taken in tablet form.
The need for vitamins and minerals is established by specialized bodies. However, it can sometimes vary slightly depending on the regions or countries consulted.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) ensures the amount needed to prevent deficiencies. The Ministry of Health establishes the following for B vitamins:
|B1||1.2 mg||1.1 mg||1.4 mg||1.4 mg|
|B2||1.3 mg||1.1 mg||1.4 mg||1.6 mg|
|B3||16 mg||14 mg||18 mg||17 mg|
|B5||5 mg||5 mg||6 mg||7 mg|
|B6||1.3 mg||1.5 mg||1.9 mg||2 mg|
|B7||30 mcg||30 mcg||30 mcg||35 mcg|
|B9||400 mcg||400 mcg||600 mcg||500 mcg|
|B12||2.4 mcg||2.4 mcg||2.6 mcg||2.8 mcg|
Supplements help meet the daily requirement, but in some cases they provide much higher doses. Although useful in some conditions, it is always recommended to consult your doctor before taking them.
Uses and benefits of B vitamins
This group of micronutrients performs a large number of essential functions in the body. For this reason, taking B supplements offer various health benefits. Let’s see those proven by science.
Mood, anxiety and stress
It is now well established that a person’s nutritional status affects neurological and psychiatric disorders. Some nutrients, in fact, are indispensable in this regard. This is what a systematic study on the effects of supplementing B vitamins on the mood shows.
The study clearly demonstrates that the vitamins mentioned improve mood in healthy and at-risk individuals. The effects are most evident in cases of stress and depression. However, anxiety is not mentioned.
Topical application in case of wounds and injuries
This effect has been studied because of the role of these vitamins in the development of epithelial cells. Some combinations of B vitamins stimulate cell formation and their local application can promote the physiological healing process.
Contraindications and side effects
Since the B vitamins are not stored by the body, it is very unlikely that you can get toxic quantities through food. It is relatively safe to take supplements as long as you follow the instructions and stick to the dosages. Before taking them, however, it is advisable to consult a specialist.
It is true, however, that some side effects can sometimes occur, according to data collected by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). These include:
- Taking very high doses of B6 over a long period of time can cause neuronal damage.
- Folate supplementation can mask the symptoms of B12 deficiency. Consequently, it can be more difficult to make a good diagnosis.
- Pantothenic acid in high doses can cause diarrhea.
- Some forms of B3 (nicotinamide and nicotinic acid) raise blood sugar levels, cause hypotension, fatigue, and liver damage.
B vitamins in the diet and supplements
B vitamins can be obtained through nutrition. We therefore recommend the consumption of green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, legumes, lean meats, eggs and mushrooms. If you suffer from any medical condition, malabsorption or are pregnant, breastfeeding and the elderly, you may need to take supplements.
These can also be prescribed in the presence of specific health problems. However, it is necessary to consult a specialist before starting to take them, so as to identify the most suitable in each case. A good use also requires never exceeding the specific doses and indications of each manufacturer.