B vitamin basics
Years ago, scientists believed that there was only one B vitamin. But over the years, research proved that the B vitamins are actually separate nutrients, each with its own jobs to perform in the body. To distinguish between these different B-vitamins, most were given numerical designations, like B1, B2 and so on. Other nutrients, such as biotin, folic acid and choline have also been found to be part of this large B-vitamin family.
While it is possible to purchase each B-vitamin separately, most physicians and nutritionists strongly recommend taking them together in a complex formula. The reasons for this are two-fold: one, the B-vitamins tend to work very well together and two, most of us need to supplement with all of them, not just one or two.
Meet all the family members!
In order to get a better understanding of this amazing group of nutrients, it is important to get to know each one on an individual first-name basis. First in line is Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine. Thiamin is essential for proper carbohydrate metabolism. It also works to promote healthy nerves, improve mood, strengthen the heart, and improve digestion and cognitive ability.
Next in line is Vitamin B2, or riboflavin. Riboflavin is necessary for red blood cell formation, as well as for assisting with fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism. It also helps our tissues utilize oxygen.
Third is Vitamin B3, or niacin. This nutrient is needed for circulation, healthy skin, and it may also help lower our cholesterol. It may also be used to treat depression, insomnia and arthritis.
Next up is Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid. Nicknamed “the anti-stress vitamin,” it has been shown to help with depression and anxiety.
Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is needed for almost every function in the body. It plays a major role in forming red blood cells, helps balance our sodium/potassium levels and is needed for proper synthesis of DNA and RNA.
Vitamin B12, or cyanocobalamin, helps with digestion, the formation of cells, and with memory.
Moving on through the family tree, Biotin is well-known for its proven ability to help keep our hair and fingernails healthy, as well as with cell growth and the production of fatty acids, while Choline is needed for nerve impulses to be sent throughout our nervous system and for hormone production.
Folate, or folic acid, is needed at all times during our life, but especially before and during pregnancy. It can also help keep the immune system strong. Inositol is found in all cell membranes and plays a role in the brain, skeleton, male reproductive organs and the heart.
Last but far from least, we have PABA. This amino acid, which is sometimes called Vitamin Bx, helps many of the other B vitamins do their jobs and also helps to form red blood cells.
Clearly, this important group of vitamins has an overwhelming influence on our bodies’ ability to function. By taking them in a high-quality supplement or complex form, we can all rest assured that we are getting healthy amounts of these vital nutrients, which in turn may lead to increased health and well-being.
Balch and Balch, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Third Edition, 2000, pages 13-20
Various internet sources