Why Is Vitamin B Important & Where To Find Them

Written by Dr. Lynda Odoh - Anikwe on Tue, 04 June 2024

Key Highlights

  • Vitamin B consists of eight different types, each with unique health benefits.
  • It’s crucial for energy production, brain function, and cell metabolism.
  • Foods rich in vitamin B include lean meats, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables.
  • Deficiencies can lead to fatigue, brain fog, and even nerve damage.
  • Proper intake amounts vary by age, lifestyle, and individual health needs.
  • Overconsumption can lead to potential health risks like nerve damage and skin lesions. 

Did you ever wonder why your energy levels dive down out of the blue or why you just can’t shake off that annoying brain fog despite maintaining a balanced diet? Well, for a lot of us multitasking women, this can be a familiar scenario. Stress from juggling multiple roles, the constant pressure to stay on top of everything, and a hectic lifestyle can certainly take a toll on our health.

One key nutrient that might be quietly slipping off our radar in this whirlwind is Vitamin B! This ‘B’eloved vitamin has a significant role to play in keeping us buzzing with health and vitality.

In this blog, we’re going to chat about Vitamin B, its importance, how it can make a difference in our daily lives, and how to ensure we’re getting enough of it.

So, grab a cup of your favorite herbal tea and settle in for a friendly and informative session on everything ‘Vitamin B.’

What are the different types of Vitamin B?

What are the different types of Vitamin B?

Vitamin B is not just one vitamin but a group of eight different vitamins. Each type plays a profound role in overall body functioning and health. They include:

  • Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamine, which helps the body convert carbohydrates into energy.
  • Vitamin B2, or Riboflavin, is crucial for growth and red blood cell production.
  • Vitamin B3, also known as Niacin, aids in the functioning of the digestive system, skin, and nerves.
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) helps with the production of hormones and cholesterol.
  • Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine is involved in brain development and function.
  • Vitamin B7, also known as Biotin, is vital for the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates.
  • Vitamin B9 (Folate) is needed for cell growth and reproduction.
  • Lastly, Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) is integral for nerve function and the formation of red blood cells.

What are the benefits of Vitamin B?

The benefits of Vitamin B are vast and encompass several bodily functions:

  • Energy Production: Vitamins like B1, B2, B3, and B7 play vital roles in energy production by converting food into fuel.
  • Red Blood Cell Formation: Vitamins such as B2, B6, B9, and B12 help in the formation and maintenance of red blood cells.
  • Nervous System Function: Vitamins like B1, B3, B6, and especially B12 support the health of the nervous system.
  • Metabolism: Vitamins like B5 support metabolism by helping to break down fats and carbohydrates for energy.

What foods are high in Vitamin B?

What foods are high in Vitamin B?

Consuming a varied diet can help you get enough of each type of Vitamin B. Here are some food sources for each:

  • Vitamin B1: Whole grains (brown rice, oats), legumes (black beans, lentils), nuts (sunflower seeds, peanuts).
  • Vitamin B2: Dairy alternatives (fortified soy milk, almond milk), leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale), mushrooms.
  • Vitamin B3: Legumes (peanuts, lentils, beans), whole grains (brown rice, quinoa), nuts (almonds, peanuts).
  • Vitamin B5: Avocados, broccoli, sweet potatoes, whole grains (whole wheat bread, brown rice).
  • Vitamin B6: Chickpeas, potatoes, bananas, nuts (pistachios, walnuts), seeds (sunflower seeds, flaxseeds).
  • Vitamin B7: Nuts (almonds, walnuts), seeds (sunflower seeds, chia seeds), whole grains (barley, oats).
  • Vitamin B9: Leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale), citrus fruits (oranges, lemons), legumes (beans, lentils).
  • Vitamin B12: Fortified foods (fortified cereals, fortified plant-based milk such as soy or almond milk), nutritional yeast, fortified meat substitutes (tofu, tempeh).

What are the symptoms of Vitamin B deficiency?

Vitamin B deficiency can lead to various health issues. The symptoms depend on which type of vitamin B you lack: 

  • Deficiency of vitamin B1 could lead to weakness, fatigue, and nerve damage.
  • Lack of vitamin B2 might affect skin health, causing cracks in the corners of the mouth.
  • Deficiency in vitamin B3 may cause a condition called Pellagra that includes symptoms like diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, and even death if untreated.
  • Lack of vitamin B5 can cause fatigue and depression.
  • Vitamin B6 deficiency might lead to weakened immune function, skin conditions, or neurological problems in infants, such as seizures.
  • Deficiency in vitamin B7 can cause thinning of the hair or a red scaly rash.
  • Lack of vitamin B9 (Folate) could cause birth defects during pregnancy and could also lead to anemia.
  • A vitamin B12 deficiency can result in anemia, fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, and weight loss.

Who is at risk of Vitamin B deficiency?

Specific groups are more susceptible to Vitamin B deficiencies. These include:

  • Older Adults: They may have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12 from food.
  • Vegans/Vegetarians: They may struggle to get enough vitamin B12 because it is predominantly found in animal products.
  • Pregnant Women: They have higher nutritional needs and may require additional B9 and B12.
  • Individuals with certain medical conditions: Conditions such as Celiac disease or Crohn's disease can interfere with the body's ability to absorb these vitamins.

Daily requirements of Vitamin B

The required amount of Vitamin B varies by age, gender, and other factors such as pregnancy. The recommended dietary allowance for adults ranges from:

  • Vitamin B1: 1.1 to 1.2 mg
  • Vitamin B2: 1.1 to 1.3 mg
  • Vitamin B3: 14 to 16 mg
  • Vitamin B5: 5 mg
  • Vitamin B6: 1.3 to 1.7 mg
  • Vitamin B7: 30 mcg
  • Vitamin B9: 400 mcg
  • Vitamin B12: 2.4 mcg

The risk of excessive Vitamin B

While it’s uncommon, it is possible to get too much of certain types of Vitamin B. This is most likely to occur with supplementation rather than food intake. Too much niacin, for example, can lead to skin flushing and, in extreme cases, liver damage.

Excess Vitamin B6 can cause nerve damage. As with any supplement, it's always best to consult a healthcare professional before starting a new regimen.

Is Vitamin B supplementation necessary?

Is Vitamin B supplementation necessary?

While many people can get the necessary amounts of Vitamin B through a balanced diet, certain groups may benefit from supplementation – for instance, vegans and vegetarians, older adults, or those with certain medical conditions might lack sufficient Vitamin B intake.

Vegans and Vegetarians

Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal products, so individuals following vegan or vegetarian diets may have difficulty obtaining adequate amounts from food alone. In such cases, supplementation or consuming fortified foods is often recommended to prevent deficiency.

Older Adults

As people age, their bodies may become less efficient at absorbing certain nutrients, including Vitamin B12. Additionally, older adults may have decreased appetites or dietary restrictions, which can further impact their ability to get enough B vitamins from food sources. Therefore, supplementation may be necessary to ensure they meet their nutritional needs.

Certain Medical Conditions

Some medical conditions or treatments can interfere with the absorption or metabolism of Vitamin B. For example, individuals with gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn's disease or celiac disease may have difficulty absorbing nutrients, including Vitamin B12. Similarly, individuals undergoing certain medical treatments, such as chemotherapy, may require supplementation to address deficiencies caused by treatment side effects.

In these cases, supplementation can help bridge the gap between dietary intake and recommended levels of Vitamin B, ensuring optimal health and well-being. However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplementation regimen to determine individual needs and avoid potential interactions with medications or underlying health conditions.

How does Vitamin B interact with other nutrients?

Vitamin B interacts with other nutrients in various ways, contributing to overall health and well-being.

Here are some key interactions:

  • Vitamin B12 and Folate: Vitamin B12 and folate work closely together in several important biochemical reactions, including the synthesis of DNA and red blood cells. A deficiency in either nutrient can lead to megaloblastic anemia. Folate supplementation can mask a Vitamin B12 deficiency, so it's essential to address both nutrients if deficiencies are suspected.
  • Vitamin B6 and Magnesium: Vitamin B6 is involved in the metabolism of magnesium, and magnesium is required as a cofactor for several enzymes that utilize Vitamin B6. Adequate magnesium levels are essential for proper utilization of Vitamin B6.
  • Vitamin B2 and Iron: Vitamin B2 converts iron to its active form, facilitating its absorption and utilization in the body. Adequate Vitamin B2 levels are necessary for optimal iron metabolism and the prevention of iron deficiency anemia.
  • Vitamin B3 and Tryptophan: Vitamin B3 can be synthesized in the body from the essential amino acid tryptophan. Adequate levels of Vitamin B6 are necessary for the conversion of tryptophan to niacin. Thus, Vitamin B6 deficiency can impair niacin synthesis.
  • Vitamin B5 and Coenzyme A: Vitamin B5 is a precursor to coenzyme A, a molecule involved in numerous metabolic processes, including the synthesis and oxidation of fatty acids. Coenzyme A also plays a role in the citric acid cycle, a central pathway in cellular energy production.
  • Vitamin B1 and Magnesium: Vitamin B1 requires magnesium as a cofactor for its conversion into its active form, thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP). Adequate magnesium levels are essential for proper utilization of Vitamin B1.

Latest research findings on Vitamin B

Latest research findings on Vitamin B

Recent studies on Vitamin B have revealed some interesting findings. For instance, a trial found that high doses of Vitamin B6 can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, suggesting potential use in treating mood disorders.

New research on Vitamin B12 has shown it significantly boosts cellular reprogramming, which could be beneficial for regenerative medicine.

Furthermore, a recent study linked a breakdown product from excess niacin (Vitamin B3) to heart disease, providing new insights into how this vitamin affects cardiovascular health.


In conclusion, the complex family of B vitamins plays a crucial role in maintaining our overall health, from supporting metabolism to facilitating cell growth.

While most people can ward off deficiencies through a balanced diet rich in foods like legumes, lean meats, eggs, and green vegetables, certain groups may need additional help through supplements.

Nevertheless, as with all dietary changes or supplement use, it's essential to involve healthcare professionals in your decision-making process. In the end, understanding our bodies' unique needs and nurturing them accordingly is the key to long-lasting health.

Frequently Asked Questions

While Vitamin B does play a role in converting food into energy, taking supplements does not necessarily translate into increased energy if you're not deficient. However, if you have a deficiency, then supplementation could potentially improve your energy levels. Always consult with a healthcare provider to understand your personal needs. 

There's no specific time you must take Vitamin B supplements. However, because some B vitamins can boost energy, you might find it beneficial to take them in the morning or early afternoon to align with your body's natural energy rhythms. 

Generally, Vitamin B supplements are considered safe without severe side effects when taken as directed. But like any supplement or medication, overdose or misuse can lead to unwanted effects like nausea, vomiting, or skin rashes. 

Absolutely! A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and dairy products can provide sufficient amounts of Vitamin B. However, certain people may have difficulty absorbing these vitamins and may need supplements. 

While Vitamin B is water-soluble, and excess is usually excreted through urine, taking too much can sometimes lead to adverse effects. These can include skin flushing, nausea, increased urination, and even nerve damage. Always stick to the recommended doses unless advised otherwise by your healthcare provider. 

Yes! Certain B vitamins play key roles in cell metabolism and the preservation of brain health. Regular intake of Vitamin B, especially B12 and Folate (B9), can help slow the aging process and improve cognitive function.


Dr. Lynda Odoh - Anikwe

Dr. Lynda Odoh - Anikwe (M. B. B. S) is a MPH  candidate at the University of Manchester. Dr Odoh is also currently a member of the Society of Lifestyle Medicine Nigeria, and aiming to get certified by the International board of lifestyle medicine as a Lifestyle Medicine Physician by the last quarter of 2022.

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