B Vitamins
January 2001

B1 - Thiamin
Assists in carbohydrate metabolism and nerve function. B1, in foods, is destroyed by heat (cooking) and also by the milling process.

Many grains are restored through the enrichment of B vitamins. Deficiencies of B1 can cause nerve dysfunction and poor carbohydrate metabolism, which are symptoms of Beriberi disease.

Thiamin is found in pork and other meats, whole grains, legumes, and nuts.

B2 - Riboflavin
Helps to release food energy, promote good vision, and contributes to healthy skin. Sunlight, ultraviolet light, and the milling of grains destroys B2 in foods. B2 is restored in grains through enrichment.

Deficiencies of B2 can cause dry and scaly skin on the face or inflammation in the mouth area. Riboflavin can be found in dairy products, meats, whole and enriched grains, eggs, and green leafy vegetables.

B3 - Niacin
Niacin assists in carbohydrate metabolism and in the release of energy in the body. This vitamin helps promote healthy skin and nerves, and assists in digestion. Recent studies show that niacin can help lower cholesterol in the blood when taken in specific amounts and prescribed by a health professional.

B3 is found in meat, poultry, fish, peanuts, legumes, and whole enriched grains.

Deficiencies of niacin can cause a disease called Pellagra which is characterized by symptoms such as diarrhea, dementia, dermatitis, and mucous membrane problems.

B5 - Pantothenic Acid
Another member of the water-soluble B vitamin family is Pantothenic Acid. It is very heat sensitive and is destroyed by both acids and alkalis. Pantothenic Acid is integral to the metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. It helps in the promotion, growth, and maintenance of body tissues. B5 is found in meats, fish, organ meats, whole grains, legumes, and egg yolks. Pantothenic Acid usage appears to be safe even in large amounts of over 1,000 mg; however, dosages this high should only be used with the advice and care of a health professional.

B6 - Pyridoxine
This water-soluble vitamin is easily destroyed by heat, long-term exposure to light, processing, and refining. B6 is found in poultry, fish, nuts, white and sweet potatoes, avocados, and bananas. B6 aids in protein, fat, and carbohydrate metabolism. Pyridoxine in large quantities (2-5 grams per day) can be toxic and may cause nerve damage.

B12 - Cobalamin
A very important part of the B-complex family, especially important to vegetarians, B12 is water-soluble and fairly heat stable. Cobalamin is found in meats (especially organ meats), poultry, fish, eggs, and milk. B12 exists in animal foods only, and a deficiency can result in pernicious anemia. Thus, people who exist primarily on plant foods should supplement with B12. In addition B12 helps to promote the development of healthy red blood cells and helps with maintenance of nerve tissue.

This water-soluble component of the B-complex family is found in eggs, milk, meat, nuts, legumes, and whole grains. The biotin coenzymes participate in the metabolism of fat. Biotin is needed for fat production and in the synthesis of fatty acids. This vitamin also aids in the synthesis of amino acids into protein and helps in the formation of DNA and RNA.

There is no known toxicity with biotin, even in high amounts. Excesses are easily eliminated in the urine. Several enzymes depend on biotin to function properly and deficiencies can be seen in hair loss, muscle weakness, impaired fat metabolism, dry or flaky skin, and inflamed eyes.

Folic Acid
A very important B vitamin that helps to promote the formation of healthy red blood cells, folic acid is necessary for the prevention of coronary heart disease in older people and the prevention of neural tube defects in the unborn. Folic acid is water-soluble and very heat sensitive. It can be destroyed by cooking and some folic acid is eliminated when foods are processed. This is one vitamin that all adults should consume on a daily basis.

Folic acid is found in leafy green vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, oranges, and liver.

Many nutritionists and other health professionals believe that folate deficiency will eventually be recognized as the most common of all vitamin deficiencies.

Folate appears to play a key role in the development of the neural tube (central nervous system), which takes place during the first 18-30 days of gestation, often before a woman knows she is pregnant. By taking in folate, a woman can reduce the risk of certain serious and common birth defects which affect the brain and spinal cord in an infant. If a woman is planning on getting pregnant in the future she should prepare her body in advance by supplementing with folic acid as part of her daily routine.
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