The B vitamins are a group of eight water-soluble vitamins that play an essential role in the functioning of the body's cells. In fact, they participate in the synthesis of DNA and guarantee the good health of the nervous and immune systems (Kennedy et al, Nutrients, 2016). Since the B vitamins are not stored in the body for a long time, they should be replenished regularly through a varied diet (Schellack et al, SAPJ, 2015). Following the Mediterranean diet has shown to increase the levels of minerals and vitamins, including group B vitamins. On the contrary, the Western diet, rich in fats and processed foods, causes a decrease in almost all the vitamins of the group except for B12, which is abundant in food of animal origin. In general, good levels of B vitamins are associated with good health of body and mind while insufficient values are linked to inflammation and oxidative stress (Ford et al, Nutreints 2018). However, a varied and healthy diet guarantees the correct supply of these vitamins and as for supplements, unless your doctor prescribes them because of particular conditions that require a higher intake of B vitamins, it is always better to avoid them. In fact, excessive values of B vitamins, which may happen if supplements are taken when not required, seem to be linked, according to some studies, to an increased risk of developing tumors but the topic is still much debated (Zhang et al, Medicine, 2016). In the following we talk in detail about the single vitamins, their function and food sources (Kennedy et al, Nutrients, 2016).
Vitamin B1 or thiamine
This vitamin plays a key role in the transformation of sugars and fatty acids into energy. A deficiency of it can cause tiredness and difficulty in breathing. Main sources are whole grains, brown rice, leafy greens, eggs, potatoes.
Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin
A deficiency of this vitamin is linked to continuous eye irritations, dermatitis but also mouth ulcers or canker sores. Food sources are leafy greens, legumes, brewer's yeast, mushrooms, dairy products.
Vitamin B3 or niacin
Useful for stomach and intestines, its deficiency may cause weakness and diarrhea. You can find this vitamin in fish, meat, whole grains, legumes, mushrooms, nuts.
Vitamin b5 or pantothenic acid
Vitamin B5 helps in case of stress and a deficiency of it can cause dermatitis, caries but also a greater risk of getting sick. You can find vitamin B5 in meat, whole grains and broccoli.
Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine
Vitamin B6 is involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, but also in the production of collagen, hemoglobin and in regulating the immune system. A deficiency of it can cause weakness, nervousness, poor concentration, hair loss, dry and itchy skin. You can find vitamin B6 in avocado, banana, carrots, bran, wheat germ, whole wheat flour, lentils, brewer's yeast, hazelnuts, rice, tuna.
Vitamin B7 or biotin
It helps the liver and kidneys and possible food sources are eggs, liver, leafy greens.
Vitamin B9 or folic acid
Folic acid, very important in pregnancy, participates in the production of adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine and in the synthesis of DNA. Here's where you can find vitamin B9, orange, green vegetables, Brussels sprouts, lentils, brewer's yeast.
This vitamin is important for the integrity of the nervous system, it is involved in the multiplication and maturation of red blood cells, but also in the proper functioning of the immune system. A deficiency of it can cause anemia and paleness. You can find vitamin B12 in liver, milk and dairy products, eggs, mollusks and sardines.