Vitamin B complex: benefits and dosage
Your body needs eight essential B vitamins for optimal health and brain function. Explore the benefits in this guide.
We all require a continuous flow of nutrients, and B vitamins are some of the most important for keeping our brains and bodies healthy.
While you can find B vitamins in many foods, Harvard Medical School warns that running low on your B vitamins can be a “sneaky” problem. Many people don’t get enough B vitamins from their food, especially if they follow a strict diet. For instance, up to 86.5% of vegetarians and vegans are low on vitamin B12, which is only found in animal-based foodstuffs.
Other people might consume the recommended B vitamins, but their bodies simply have a hard time absorbing them effectively.
Whether you’re trying to add more B vitamins to your daily meals, or you’re trying to figure out the source of your brain fog, the following supplement guide will outline everything you need to know about B vitamins, including:
The eight different types of B vitamins
The important roles that each B vitamin plays in your body and brain
How B vitamins support, enhance and strengthen your brain, your immune system and your general well-being
How much of each B vitamin you need every day, and how to hit those targets
What to look for in a B-complex vitamin supplement
The functions of each B vitamin
There are eight specific B vitamins that you’ll want to focus on:
Vitamin B1 (thiamin)
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
Vitamin B7 (biotin)
Vitamin B9 (folic acid)
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
You can find all eight B vitamins in a B-complex supplement, but each vitamin has a distinct role to play:
Thiamin is important for the growth and functioning of every single cell in your body.
Riboflavin supports the metabolisation and absorption of dietary fats, medicines and other supplements.
Niacin helps fuel your cells and supports cell communication. It also contributes to digestion, healthy skin, and more.
Pantothenic acid is critical for all aspects of your nervous system and brain.
Pyridoxine supports cognitive development, your immune system, and the production of new red blood cells.
Biotin is essential for healthy skin, hair and nails, and it also supports nerve functioning.
Folic acid plays a foundational role in the formation of your DNA, and it's why pregnant women need higher levels of B9 as the baby develops.
Cobalamin supports the functions of your blood cells and nerve cells.
Vitamin B benefits
You need various B vitamins for core processes like DNA formation, gene expression (the process by which your cells take action based on instructions from your DNA), and the production of blood cells. That’s how integral they are in every single process and system in your body.
Benefits of B vitamins on the body
B vitamins aren’t just good for your brain and cognitive function. They may also:
reduce the risk of cognitive decline and age-related illnesses reducing your homocysteine levels
boost your energy, in part by improving the cellular metabolic processes that convert food into energy and also by supporting the development of oxygen-rich red blood cells
help you achieve more balanced hormone health (for instance, 30% of people with thyroid problems are low in B12)
help you to manage daily pressures, and have been shown to assist in balancing your endocrine system and cortisol levels
How much vitamin B complex do you need?
For optimal braincare and general wellness, aim for the following daily nutritional targets:
B1 (thiamine): 1mg
B2 (riboflavin): 1.3mg
B3 (niacin): 16.5mg
B5 (pantothenic acid): 6mg
B6 (pyridoxine): 1.2-1.4mg
B7 (biotin): 0.9mg
B9 (folic acid): 0.2mg
B12 (cobalamin): 0.002mg
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Food sources for B vitamins
With the exception of vitamin B12, most B vitamins can be found in plant-based foods or fortified cereals and beverages.
Some of the best foods to add to your diet if you want to boost your intake of B vitamins include:
B1 (thiamine): citrus fruits, whole grains, liver and pork
B2 (riboflavin): dairy, eggs, leafy greens, and almonds
B3 (niacin): fatty fish, peanuts, avocado, and poultry
B5 (pantothenic acid): fatty fish, sweet potatoes, dairy and organ meats
B6 (pyridoxine): oats, bananas, peanuts, dairy and fish
B7 (biotin): leafy greens, peas, legumes, nuts and seeds, and salmon
B9 (folic acid): leafy greens, apples, corn, and many types of seafood
B12 (cobalamin): organ meats, beef, salmon, and fortified foods
Vitamin B complex supplements
If you aren’t getting enough of each B vitamin, or if you’re experiencing symptoms of a B-vitamin deficiency, consider taking a B-complex supplement. As its name suggests, a B-complex product provides all of the essential B vitamins you need without requiring you to take eight different supplements.
What other vitamins and minerals should I take with B vitamins?
Some supplements block the absorption of other nutrients, while others do the opposite and actually improve a specific nutrient's bioavailability. And don’t forget the importance of timing timing. Because B vitamins can be energising, take your B-complex vitamins in the morning to give yourself a physical and mental boost all day long.
FAQ about vitamin B supplements
1. What are vitamin B-complex supplements for?
B-complex vitamins protect the healthy functioning of your brain and body by:
Generating new red blood cells that carry nutrients and oxygen throughout your body
Lowering your homocysteine levels, which protects your blood vessels, your organs, your brain and other important systems
Supporting the production of neurotransmitters
Contributing to all cellular processes
2. Who should take a vitamin B-complex supplement?
Anyone who wants to proactively support their health from the cellular level on up will benefit from taking B vitamin supplements.
B-complex supplements may also be especially beneficial to people who are more prone to experience a B-vitamin deficiency, including:
Older people over the age of 50
Individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding
Those on a strict diet that eliminates entire food groups, including those who are vegan, vegetarian, or keto
4. Is taking a B-complex supplement safe?
B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning your body flushes it out of your system when it has used up all the B vitamins it needs in a day. Research shows that most B vitamins are safe in high doses, with potential health drawbacks if you consistently take extremely large doses of B3, B6 or B9.
5. Can you overdose on a B-complex supplement?
Because B vitamins are water-soluble, you can’t overdose on B vitamins the way you would with a fat-soluble vitamin.
6. What are vitamin B-complex side effects?
Some people experience rare side effects of consuming too much of a specific vitamin B. Some side effects may include:
Nausea, cramping and gastrointestinal discomfort
Here's a handful of relevant scientific studies on B-complex supplementation: