The B vitamins are a group of eight water-soluble nutrients essential to the optimal functioning of the body. The B vitamins are also known by their individual names or by denominations such as B1, B2, etc. For optimal results, it is ideal to consume the B vitamins as a group, rather than individually, although supplementation of certain B vitamins may be necessary in certain cases, as they do not accumulate in the body and cannot be stored for later use. The B vitamins include:
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Necessary for the health of the nervous system, energy production, and physical strength. A lack of this vitamin may lead to beriberi, a disease that causes weight loss and limb weakness.
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Essential for skin health, a riboflavin deficiency may lead to extreme sun sensitivity, dermatitis, and cracks in the lips.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): Also known as Vitamin P over the past few years, vitamin B3 is one of the most controversial B vitamins, as many experts claim it should be considered as a separate nutrient. Niacin is essential for mental health, and is especially important in the prevention of mental confusion and memory loss.
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid): Essential to metabolize proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Deficiencies are extremely rare.
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxamine): Helps in the production of red blood cells and maintains cardiovascular health. B6 is also related to skin health, which makes it a desired nutrient for people suffering from psoriasis and other skin conditions.
- Vitamin B7, (Biotin): Essential for growth, especially in infants. In adults, B7 is essential for the synthesis of fatty acids and to maintain blood sugar level. Biotin is now being studied as a complementary treatment for diabetes patients.
- Vitamin B9 (Folic acid): Folate is one of the most common B vitamins, and it can be found in most green vegetables, dried beans, and fortified grains such as certain breads and cereals. Although no definitive studies have been done, B9 seems to be effective at helping prevent heart disease and anemia.
- Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): B12 is essential against anemia. Because it aids in the production of red blood cells, B12 alone can reverse anemia even more effectively than iron.