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Updated February 26, 2021
Can you name what all the major vitamins do for your body?
We all know by now that Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits and is great for the immune system. Vitamin D is good for the skin. Vitamin A is key to healthier eyes. But what about Vitamin B? That’s where it gets a little more complex.
Vitamin B doesn’t do just one main thing; each vitamin in the Vitamin B complex plays a special role in how your body functions and even how you feel. And because they all work together to boost your health benefits, they’re often sold in—you guessed it—a supplement called the “B Complex.”
Here are a dozen fast facts about the B Vitamins to keep in mind, whether you’re wondering whether to add it to your supplement routine or have no clue why you really need all those numbered “Bs.” (Hint: you do.)
12 Vitamin B Facts
Vitamin B supplements are more effective than Vitamin Cs
A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology looked at the effects of regular vitamin intake over a period of years. The burning question at hand: did a daily dose of recommended vitamins improve health?
The answer was pretty disheartening for multivitamins. While vitamins and minerals, including calcium and Vitamin D, didn’t hurt participants, they offered no significant improvement to health either. Vitamin B, however, did produce significant results.
Scientists have been researching B1 for nearly a century
B Vitamins were one of the first to be isolated and studied in laboratories. Thiamine, which was later renamed “B1,” became a main focus of Merck Laboratories in the 1930s.
B1 keeps you stress-free
B1 (thiamine) aids with cell production and keeps the immune system healthy. This vitamin is also essential for breaking down carbohydrates in the body. B1 is one of the B Vitamins that you can find in plant-based foods, including peanuts, beans and whole grains.
B2 works like an antioxidant, and you need more of it in the summer.
B2 (riboflavin) aids in cell production—particularly red blood cells. Without B2, oxygen would have a hard time moving through the body, where it’s needed to help different muscles and tissues do their jobs. During the summer, you should be consuming more B2; the ultraviolet rays in the sun can reduce the amount of B2 in your food.
B3 balances cholesterol
When you up your B3 (niacin) intake, you’ll boost “good” cholesterol levels and decrease “bad” ones. Studies have also suggested that B3 can boost brain and skin function.
B5 can be found everywhere
B5 is called “pantothenic acid,” which is derived from the Greek term that means, literally, “from everything.” It’s a good thing that you can find B5 in all food groups, because it helps to process the rest of the vitamins in the B Complex. B5 also helps the body produce sex hormones, derive energy from carbohydrates and create red blood cells.
B6 produces happy chemicals
Like B1, B6 (pyridoxine) keeps you stress-free. B6 aids in the production of serotonin, which makes you feel happy, and melatonin, which helps you sleep and thus keeps us feeling very happy. Like B3, studies suggest that B6 can reduce inflammation caused by arthritis.
B7 is the most popular vitamin in the beauty aisle
B7 (biotin) is advertised by celebrities and beauty companies for giving you sleek hair and long nails. While there isn’t much scientific evidence to prove that you B7 can make you more beautiful, this crucial B Vitamin does help women during pregnancy. B7 is essential for a baby’s growth. It’s also naturally produced in gut bacteria.
B9 is folic acid (and there’s no B10 or B11)
B9 (folate) is another very popular B Vitamin. It’s also very similar to B7 in that it’s recommended for pregnant women. Folic acid has neurological benefits for people of all ages.
B12 is only found in animal products
B12 (cobalamin) helps to produce red blood cells and bring oxygen to where it needs to go throughout the body. But this crucial vitamin can often be missing from vegetarian and vegan diets. This is the only B Vitamin that is strictly found in animal products; if plant eaters are concerned about Vitamin B deficiency, they should prioritize B12 vitamins over others
Vitamin B is one of the top-selling vitamin supplements
B12 supplements are recommended for people on a plant-based diet, but people with all diets have been turned on to the wonders of the Vitamin B Complex. Vitamins are some of the most popular supplement options for adults in the United States; within that category, Vitamin B is a heavy hitter. Of the 170 million Americans that take dietary supplements, 24% take B or B Complex vitamins.
Your body will flush out Vitamin B if you take too much
Most vitamins in the B complex don’t require high doses; all you need is a few milligrams each day. But you also don’t have to stress about taking too much. Like the other water-soluble vitamins, an excess of Vitamin B will be washed away when you use the bathroom. It’s almost impossible to have too much—though it’s still important to follow recommended daily doses.
Compared with the other popular vitamins out there, Vitamin B is backed by some pretty robust research. You’ll find all the B Vitamins together in the form of a B Complex, or separately in certain blended supplements.