B vitamins help the body produce energy and keep the skin, nervous and digestive systems healthy. B-complex vitamins include vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12. You may also know these vitamins by their other names, including thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folic acid or folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12).
A deficiency of B vitamins is known to cause: anemia, tiredness, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, depression, numbness and tingling in the arms and legs, muscle cramps, respiratory infections, hair loss, eczema, poor growth in children, and birth defects.
In addition to their basic functions, B vitamins may help reduce the risk of certain diseases and conditions. For example, B6 and folate may help reduce the risk of death from stroke and heart attack. B vitamins may help slow the development of Alzheimer’s. Folate may help reduce cancer risk. And a diet rich in B vitamins may play a role in reducing the effects of PMS.
A Guide to B Vitamins
B1 and B2 help the body produce energy and work with enzymes that affect the muscles, nerves and heart. Sources of B1: cereals, whole grains, potatoes, pork, seafood, liver, kidney beans. Sources of B2: cereals, whole grains, enriched bread, dairy products, liver, leafy green vegetables.
B3 plays a role in energy production in cells and helps keep skin, nervous and digestive systems healthy. Sources: liver, fish, chicken, lean red meat, nuts, whole grains, dried beans.
B5 plays a role in normal growth and development. Sources: B5 is present in a wide variety of foods and high in both plant and animal sources.
B6 assists in breaking down protein and helps to maintain the health of red blood cells, the nervous system and parts of the immune system. Sources: fish, liver, pork, chicken, potatoes, wheat germ, bananas, dried beans.
B7 also helps break down protein and carbohydrates, and aids in healthy hormone function. Sources: peanuts, liver, egg yolks, bananas, mushrooms, watermelon, grapefruit.
B9 helps make DNA and plays a role in the production of red blood cells. Sources: leafy green vegetables, liver, citrus fruits, mushrooms, nuts, peas, dried beans, wheat bread.
B12 is essential to the body’s growth and development; plays a role in the production of blood cells; aids nervous system function; and helps the body utilize folic acid and carbohydrates. Sources: eggs, meat, poultry, shellfish, milk, milk products.