The B complex vitamins are a group of nutrients that are required by the human body for optimal health. Often found in the same foods, B vitamins are water-soluble and are not stored in the body for too long. These nutrients must be consumed every day to maintain health and prevent anemia and other problems. The B complex vitamins are grouped together because they are often found together in foods and depend on one another to perform.
Types of Vitamin B
There are nine types of B vitamins that should be consumed daily, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture:
- Folic Acid
- Thiamine (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pantothenic Acid (B5)
- Pyridoxine (B6)
- Cobalamin (B12).
In general, B vitamins function as co-enzymes, substances that initiate or speed up important reactions such as energy conversion, digestion of nutrients and nerve function.
The best food sources of B complex vitamins are whole grains, brewer’s yeast, liver, some beans, peas and nuts.
The government established recommended dietary allowances, or RDAs, for each of the B complex vitamins. Intake below this RDA can result in deficiency diseases such as beriberi from a lack of B1.
Illness from a deficiency of any of the B vitamins is more likely during fasting or weight loss, and in individuals with gastrointestinal absorption diseases.