All About Vitamins
May 4, 2020
B Complex Vitamins (Part II)
November 26, 2020
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B Complex Vitamins (Part I)

Vitamin B complex is a group of vitamins that work synergistically to help maintain the health of the nerves, skin, hair, eyes liver and the mouth. They help to keep the muscles in the gastrointestinal wall toned. It also keeps the proper function of the brain. B complex helps enzymes to react chemically with other substances and is involved in energy production. These vitamins may be useful in alleviating depression and anxiety.
Vitamin B is very important for the aged because its absorption deteriorates as we age. Because the B vitamins work together, a deficiency in one often indicates a deficiency in the other. These vitamins, though they work as a team, they will be discussed individually.

1. Vitamin B 1 (Thiamine)

This is a water-soluble vitamin and hence easily lost during food preparation. It cannot be stored in the body in large quantities as there are small reserve areas in the liver, heart and brain and any excess will be excreted in the urine.
Thiamine enhances circulation and assists in blood formation, production of hydrochloric acid for proper digestion. Thiamine also optimizes cognitive activity and brain function. It has a positive effect on learning capacity, growth, energy and helps to normalize appetite
Thiamine is an antioxidant and it is known to protect the cell from the chemical acetaldehyde, which is formed in the cells by the action of free radicals. Acetaldehyde can cause mutation in DNA and cause cancer. Thiamine also protects the body from degenerative effects of ageing, smoking and alcohol
The variant vitamin B 1( Benfotiamine), which is fat-soluble, is found naturally in small amounts in leeks, garlic, onions and shallots. This variant of vitamin B1 lasts longer in the body. It yields a beneficial therapeutic effect that regular thiamine cannot achieve. It may be more effective in controlling damage from diabetes. It activates the enzyme that assists in keeping glucose derived compounds out of healthy blood vessel and nerve cells.

Deficiency may cause

  • Beriberi
  • Constipation
  • Oedema
  • Enlarged liver
  • Fatigue
  • Forgetfulness
  • Irritability
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Tingling sensations
  • Weak and sore muscles
  • Laboured breathing
  • Loss of weight

Best Natural Sources

  • Whole grains
  • Oatmeal
  • Pulses
  • Liver
  • Broccoli
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Spirulina
  • Dried prunes

A high carbohydrate diet may increase the need for thiamine. Heavy alcohol, caffeine consumption and use of oral contraceptives may decrease thiamine levels in the body.

2. Vitamin B 2 (Riboflavin)

Vitamin B 2 or Riboflavin is a water-soluble vitamin that can be partially destroyed by heat and sunlight. Like other B vitamins, it is not stored by the body and should be replaced regularly through whole foods and supplementation. It is not destroyed by acid or oxidation. It is necessary for cell growth, cell respiration, red blood cell formation and antibody production. It promotes growth and reproduction. It promotes healthy hair; eliminates dandruff; skin and nails. Riboflavin is also involved in the production of the brain neurotransmitters.
Consumption of adequate amounts of this vitamin is important during pregnancy. Lack of vitamin B2 may damage a developing foetus even if a woman shows no signs of deficiency.
Vitamin B2 is absorbed in the small intestines and the process is regulated by thyroid gland hormones

Deficiency symptoms

  • Mouth sores
  • Inflammation of the tongue and mouth
  • Eye disorders
  • Skin lesions
  • Insomnia
  • Poor digestion
  • Light sensitivity
  • Slowed mental response
  • Dizziness
  • Hair loss

Sources of Vitamin B2

  • Egg yolks
  • Cheese
  • Yoghurt
  • Fish
  • Legumes
  • Meat
  • Milk
  • Whole grains
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Mushrooms
  • Broccoli Brussels sprout
  • Molasses
  • Nuts

Factors that may increase the need for vitamin B2 include the use of
contraceptives, excessive consumption of alcohol, strenuous exercise.

3. Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Unlike vitamin B1 and vitamin B2, Niacin can be produced in the body from the essential amino acid Tryptophan, this only occurs in small amount and therefore the rest is supplied by food. A person whose body is deficient in Vitamin B1, B2 and B6 will not be able to produce Niacin from Tryptophan.

Vitamin B3 is needed for proper circulation and healthy skin. It aids in the proper function of the nervous system and it is also essential for fat and protein metabolism. It is required by the body for normal secretion of the bile, production of hydrochloric acid and synthesis of sex hormones. It is helpful for schizophrenia as well as other mental illnesses. It improves memory power.
Niacin is one of the few vitamins that is relatively stable in foods and can withstand cooking and storage with little loss of potency.


  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Eggs
  • Wheat germ
  • Whole grain
  • Tomatoes
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Prunes
  • Fish
  • Potatoes
  • Pork
  • Poultry
  • Milk
  • Beef liver
  • Brewer’s yeast

Vitamin B3 deficiency symptoms

  • Depression
  • Indigestion
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscular weakness
  • Skin eruptions
  • Inflammation

4. Biotin (Vitamin H)

Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that aids in the metabolism of carbohydrates, synthesis of ascorbic acid and is essential for the metabolism of fats and protein. Sufficient quantities of this vitamin are required by the body for healthy hair and skin. Biotin also promotes healthy sweat glands, nerve tissue and bone marrow.

Biotin will also keep hair from turning grey. It also prevents baldness. It eases muscle pains, alleviates eczema and dermatitis. Good for brittle and split nails.


  • Liver
  • Egg yolk
  • Soy products
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Meat poultry
  • Whole grains

Biotin levels may fall progressively during pregnancy but there is no association with low birth weight.


Check out our next post for Part II of the B Complex Vitamins series.

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