B complex is actually a group of water-soluble vitamins that includes vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B7 (biotin), vitamin B9 (folate) and vitamin B12 (cobalamin). B complex vitamins are utilized in nearly every metabolic pathway in the body.
Effects of a Deficiency
Overt deficiencies of most B vitamins are very rare in developed nations. However, insufficiency of B vitamins due to an imbalanced diet, impaired digestion or special metabolic needs are fairly common, even amongst otherwise well-nourished populations. B complex vitamins are necessary for healthy skin and deficiencies may contribute to a number of skin disorders including dermatitis, dry skin, cracking of the corners of the mouth and frequent bruising along with wounds that don't heal promptly.
An insufficiency in many B complex vitamins is also associated with muscle weakness, poor coordination, wasting of muscle mass and pain or soreness in muscles or joints. In some cases mental confusion, headaches, insomnia irritability, numbness or tingling in the extremities may occur.
According to the August issue of the Harvard Health Letter, the most common nutritional deficiency reported in the developing world is vitamin B12 deficiency. The early symptoms of a B12 deficiency are often difficult to distinguish from other health problems. For example, there may be fairly subtle cognitive or energetic changes typically associated with aging or simple fatigue. These can progress to dementia or anemia as the shortage becomes more severe or prolonged.
Who is Most at Risk?
Breast-fed infants of mothers deficient in B12 are at risk for severe developmental abnormalities as well as irreversible neurological damage.Vegans are most at risk for B12 deficiency, since the only dietary sources of vitamin B12, apart from fortified breakfast cereals, are animal-derived products. Even vegetarians who consume eggs and dairy products take in, on average, less than half of the adult recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of B12. Older populations are at risk for B12 deficiency due to atrophic gastritis, which affects up to 30 percent of people ages 50 and over. A thinning of the stomach lining, atrophic gastritis reduces the amount of B12 that can be absorbed by the small intestine.
B12 insufficiency may be diagnosed through ordinary blood testing at the doctor's office and treated through prescribed supplementation. However, other B vitamin insufficiencies may only be determined indirectly through measurement of certain metabolic markers in the urine and may require a visit to a dietitian, nutritionist or naturopathic doctor with specialized training in nutritional insufficiencies.
Check the Label
Unless a special need has been identified, choose B vitamin supplements that consist of whole food formulas without isolated, singular vitamins. Look for these names to identify vitamins on a label: Thiamine or thiamin, pyridoxine, niacin or niacinamide, ascorbic acid, palmitate, riboflavin, B12, mixed tocopeherols and cyanocobalamin.
How to Avoid a Deficiency
Prevention is the best medicine. Here are some basic tips to avoid B complex deficiency:
Consume lean meats such as beef, venison and calf liver, and some seafood, including scallops, shrimp and fish like halibut, snapper and salmon, which are all rich in B12.
Include vitamin-fortified breakfast cereals. Check the labels, however, because not all cereal manufacturers add B vitamins.
Try adding soy foods and vitamin-fortified beverages. Several brands of soy milk and tofu are fortified with vitamin B12.
Consume dairy products and eggs, natural sources of B vitamins.
Include spinach, avocados, walnuts, poultry, bananas and brown rice, all good sources of vitamin B6.
Consume cultured and fermented foods, as probiotic bacteria in the small intestine are capable of manufacturing vitamin B12 internally.
Additionally, reducing consumption of coffee and alcohol, which deplete vitamin stores from the body and reducing stress through exercise, meditation or pleasurable hobbies are helpful in avoiding a vitamin B complex deficiency.
Keep yourself free from all of problems associated with a vitamin B deficiency and have a happy New Year.
Products you may like:
Now Foods B-100 Why you may like this product? This formula provides recommended potencies of the most important B vitamins and is designed to supply your body's required daily intake in one complete supplement.
New Chapter Coenzyme B Food Complex Why you may like this product? Cultured in live probiotics which help to increase digestive tract function. Also provides an energy boost and supports a healthy nervous system.
Statements made about specific vitamins, supplements, procedures or other items sold on or through this website have not been evaluated by eVitamins, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) or the United States Food and Drug Administration. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. As always, please consult with a licensed doctor or physician before starting any diet, exercise or supplement program, before taking any vitamin or medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a problem.