From a mental health perspective, deficiencies in the various B-vitamins have been associated with depression, anxiety, irritability, fatigue and sleep disorders.
Some of the specific functions of the the B-vitamins are as follows:
- B1 (Thiamine): equips the body to utilize carbohydrates appropriately and plays an important roles in the proper function of nerves and muscles (including the heart). Those with diabetes and a history of alcohol abuse are frequently deficient in this vitamin.
- B2 (Riboflavin): assists in converting carbohydrates into energy, absorbing other nutrients (ie. iron, B1, B3, B6 & folic acid), maintaining a healthy liver, and many other functions.
- B3 (Nicotinamide): helps convert our food into cellular energy, as well benefitting the skin, hair and nervous system. B3 deficiency is rare in the United States.
- B5 (Pantothenic Acid): aids in converting food into glucose, creating cholesterol, making gender-related hormones, and forming red blood cells. B5 deficiency is considered to be rare in the United States.
- B6 (Pyroxidine): is involved in over 100 enzyme reactions, including the formation of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. It may also improve memory in those with cognitive impairment.
- B7 (Biotin): helps metabolize the food we eat and may promote healthier skin and nails.
- B9 (Folate): required for making both red and white blood cells, metabolizing food, and synthesizing DNA & RNA. An inadequate diet and alcoholism are commonly known to cause deficiencies.
- B12 (Cobalamin): crucial for proper nerve and brain health, as well as the production of red blood cells. B12 deficiency is considered common in the United States, particularly among vegans, vegetarians, and the elderly.
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For recommended daily values, refer to chart above. However, if a deficiency is suspected, then higher doses are indicated.
While high doses of B-vitamins are generally safe as they are water-soluble (aka. you urinate out the excess), prolonged administration of very high doses have caused toxicity in some individuals.
Unless recommended by a health care professional to supplement with a specific B-vitamin, it is generally preferred and more convenient to simply take a B-complex or a multivitamin with adequate vitamin B levels.