B-Vitamins

Out of all the vitamins presently known to humankind, none are quite as numerous as the B vitamins.

The B vitamins are a group of eight unique chemicals that are critically important for many living species, each one playing an active role in various processes, made up of the following: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin (or niacinimide, or nicotinamide riboside), pantothenic acid, pyridoxine (or pyridoxal, or pyridoxamine), biotin, folate, and cobalamins. Some of these have multiple forms; though they are chemically unique from one another, they are able to fulfill the same role in the body.

What makes all of these different vitamins “B vitamins” are the common role they all share in cell metabolism and the synthesis of red blood cells.

While each B vitamin has unique functions, they generally help in converting food into energy (metabolism), creating new blood cells, and maintaining healthy skin cells, brain cells, and other body tissues. They are water-soluble, meaning they are not stored in the body and must be replenished regularly through diet. This shared solubility and their interconnected roles in metabolic processes are key reasons why they are classed together as B vitamins.

Considerations

Deficiency in B vitamins is a very real thing. Comprising eight different chemicals, each one with a number of important roles played in the body, the number of potential deficiency symptoms are too great to go into here, as they are covered in much better and more authoritative detail than I am able to share.

While most people likely get enough out of their diet to avoid serious deficiency symptoms, it is highly likely that we are all mildly to moderately deficient in one or more, which can produce subtle but impactful symptoms, especially given their role in converting food to energy, creating new blood cells, and maintaining the body.

To combat deficiency, a number of foods are now enriched with certain members of the B vitamin family. Unfortunately, these enriched foods tend to also be processed convenience foods, which many of us avoid with good reason. As a result, we may unintentionally be cutting ourselves short on proper amounts, thinking that eating healthier, less-produced food will make things better for us.

The B vitamins are generally considered to be water-soluble, meaning that they are eliminated in urine, and typically only produce transient side effects when taken in excess, with the one exception being pyridoxine. That being said, it is important to arrive at a dose that takes into consideration your current dietary intake from food, as well as your own unique needs, to arrive at a dose that is safe and effective.

Dosage

As with most vitamins, minerals, and supplements, a wide variety of information exists on research and beliefs surrounding what’s considered adequate.

TVG is not and does not pretend or claim to be an authority on this, but there are several points to consider on a strictly informational, awareness basis; great points to consider and discuss with your doctor or a nutritionist in determining what’s right for you.

One of the best things we can do for ourselves is reviewing a variety of different sources to see what different authorities have to say, and to understand their reasoning as well as their research. Even though we have learned a lot about nutrition and how to take care of our bodies through food, we continue to discover new things every day. At one point in time, there were other B vitamins that filled in the gaps in the current list – 4, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 4, f, m, p, T, v, W, and x – we have since discovered that what we thought made them a B vitamin, or otherwise important to us was wrong. Such is the evolutionary nature of science!

What’s right for you is dependent on a number of factors. Your current diet may supply all, some, or none of what you need in these. Those who avoid fortified foods may be at greater risk of deficiency. Generally-speaking, plant-based diets can provide lower amounts of B vitamins than omnivorous diets, specifically vitamin B12. As a result, many vegans and vegetarians are recommended to determine if they have a need, and supplement as is necessary.

Though they are all considered water-soluble and generally unlikely to produce adverse effects in higher dosages, you should aim for a proper dose. Additionally, as we learn more about our genetic differences, we are discovering that different people have different genetic traits that can influence our ability to absorb these vitamins.

There are several clinical tests you can take to get a read on your current levels, although since B vitamins are water-soluble, these tend to provide current levels, which can change from day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, depending on diet, activity level, lifestyle, etc.

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