Vitamin B Complex

 

Vitamin B Complex

What is the vitamin B complex? When should you take supplements? Info on dosage, side effects, product types and importance of B complex supplements.

Vitamin B Complex: the B Vitamins Work Together

Vitamin B12 belongs to vitamin group B. There are 8 in total and they serve as precursors of coenzymes and occupy a central function in a number of metabolic processes. B vitamins are necessary for the digestion of sugars, proteins and fats and are essential for DNA syntheses, blood formation, hormones and neurotransmitters and also for a fully functioning nervous system.

The primary role of the B complex vitamins is to activate specific enzymes and they usually all work closely together. It is therefore very important that a healthy balance of each B vitamin is maintained within the body. If there is a lack of individual vitamins or an imbalance in the levels problems can arise: a high quantity of one vitamin can cause deficiency in another. 

To ensure vitamin supplies remain consistent supplements are often sold as B complex. Whether this is suitable depends on the diet. Unlike vitamin B12 most of the other B vitamins are easily sourced in foods, which is preferable to synthetic supplementary vitamin forms. The B vitamins will now be analysed in detail.

Effects of Vitamin B12 and Where it can be Sourced

Unusually, the B vitamins are not numbered consecutively. This is because vitamins once regarded as belong to this category have since been removed. The eight vitamins belonging to this category are:

Recommended daily dose:

1.0-1.5mg

Effects:

  • Conduction of impulses in the nervous system
  • Metabolism of neurotransmitters
  • Cellular energy metabolism – energy generation

Food sources:

(per 100g)

Dry yeast (2.3mg), wheat germs (2.00mg), sunflower seeds (1.9mg), groundnuts (0.9mg); pork (0.8mg), peas (0.8mg), amaranth (0.8mg), pistachios (0.7mg), lentils/chickpeas (0.5mg), oatmeal (0.6mg), whole grains (approx. 0.3-0.5mg)

Recommended daily dose:

1.2-1.6mg (warning: turns urine neon yellow)

Effects:

  • Cellular respiration (energy generation from oxygen)
  • Energy generation from foods
  • Immune system support
  • Antioxidant, detoxification of xenobiotics

Food sources:

(per 100g)

Dry yeast (4.5mg), offal of most animal types (2-3mg), dried chanterelles/porcini mushrooms (1.8mg), wheat germs (0.7mg), camembert (0.6mg), almonds (0.6mg), blue cheese (0.5mg), chicken egg yolk (0.4mg), mushrooms (0.4mg)

Recommended daily dose:

13–17mg

Effects:

  • Energy metabolism
  • Cellular respiration
  • Antioxidant (cell protection)
  • DNA and cell regeneration
  • metabolism of cholesterol

Food sources:

(per 100g)

Almost all foods: Dry yeast (42mg), Groundnut (15.3mg), pork liver (15.7mg), beef liver (13.6mg), oyster mushroom (10mg), chicken (10mg), sardines (9.7mg), tuna (8.5mg), salmon (8.2mg), pumpkin seeds (7.8mg), mackerel (7.7mg), ham (6.9mg), chanterelle (6.5mg), wholemeal flour (5.5mg), brown rice (5.2mg), dried apricot (3.3mg)

Recommended daily intake:

6mg

Effects:

  • Energiestoffwechsel
  • Auf- und Abbau von Kohlenhydraten, Fetten, Aminosäuren
  • Synthese von Cholesterin, Sexualhormonen, Q10, Gallensäure
  • Wundheilung

Food sources:
(per 100g)

Offal (3-8mg), groundnut (2.9mg), porcini (2.7mg), mushroom (2.1mg), peas (2.0mg), rice (1.7mg), lentils (1.6mg), eggs (1.6mg), raw broccoli (1.3g), cashews (1.2mg), wholemeal flour (1.1mg), avocado (1.1mg), camembert (0.9mg), walnuts (0.8mg), almonds (0.5mg), fruit, vegetables (~0.3mg), dairy products (~0.3mg)

Recommended daily intake:

1.2–1.8mg need increases with protein intake
Overdose possible at over approx. 500mg. 2g can cause nerve damage

Effects:

  • Breakdown and construction of amino acids
  • Maintenance of neurones
  • Production of neurotransmitters and histamine
  • Cell division of embryo

Food sources:
(per 100g)

Beef liver (0.9mg), yeast (0.68mg), lentils (0.55mg), chickpeas (0.55mg), pork fillet (0.55mg), chicken (0.53mg), avocado (0.53mg), wheat germs (0.5mg), beef (0.5mg), nuts (0.2-0.8mg), wholemeal foods (0.44mg), garlic (0.38mg), banana (0.36mg), brussel sprouts (0.34mg), potatoes (0.31mg), camembert (0.25mg), lamb’s lettuce (0.25mg)

Recommended daily intake:

30–60μg

Effects:

  • Metabolism of protein, fat and carbohydrate
  • Production of skin and hair cells
  • Epigenetic regulation of over 2000 genes

Food sources:
(per 100g)

Trockenhefe (200μg), beef liver (103μg), egg yolk (50μg), soya beans (30μg), oatmeal (20μg), walnuts (19μg), mushrooms (12μg), husked rice (12μg), wholemeal flour (8μg), fish (7μg), spinach (6μg), beef and pork (5μg), bananas (5μg)

Recommended daily intake:

400μg

Effects:

  • Cell production, cell division
  • Blood formation
  • Homocysteine regulation
  • DNA syntheses

Food sources:
(per 100g)

duck/turkey liver (600µg), beef liver (590µg), wheat germs (400µg), yeast (290µg), green cabbage (185µg), groundnuts (169µg), peas (160µg), spinach (145µg), broccoli (114µg), asparagus (108µg), brussell sprouts (100µg), dried chanterelle mushrooms (90µg), beetroot (83µg), eggs (67µg), wholemeal foods (20µg)

Recommended daily intake:

3μg

Effects:

  • Blood formation
  • DNA syntheses
  • Syntheses of neurotransmitters
  • Homocysteine regulation

Food sources:
(per 100g)

Only found in animal foods: pork/beef liver (60µg), caviar (16µg), oysters (14µg), herring (8.5µg), beef (5µg), camembert, emmental (3.1µg), salmon (2.9µg), egg yolk (2.0µg)

High Dose Vitamin B Complex?

In recent years vitamin B complex supplements have received criticism because believe their dosages to be far too high. The foundation Ökotest negatively reviewed products that contained vitamin levels above official recommendations.1

On the one hand this is a sensible response, as the intake of high vitamins will affect metabolic processes that are highly sensitive to these levels, as they depend on a delicate balance of various micronutrients. ‘The more the merrier’ is not necessarily the correct approach in this circumstance then, as different imbalances may arise. 

On the other hand many researchers believe and also practical experience from vitamin therapy suggests that the suggested daily allowance figures are far too low.

Generally there is a distinction between what is recommended for those wishing to prevent a deficiency (RDA) and those treating a pre-existing problem. In both cases the recommended amount is much higher from the perspective of vitamin researchers compared with official information concerning daily requirements. Doses for treatments can be up to one thousand times higher. 

An advisable dose probably lies probably somewhere in between, but this will of course depend of what the B complex is to be used for (treatment or prevention). It is always advised to consult a doctor or medical professional when considering a high dose.

Vitamin B Complex Dosages

Below is some guidance regarding dosages from B vitamins expert Uwe Gröber:

Vitamin B1

1.0-1.5mg

5-20mg

100-900mg

Vitamin B2

1.2-1.6mg

5-20mg

40-400mg

Vitamin B3

13–17mg

20-50mg

100-3000mg

Vitamin B5

6mg

10-100mg

100-5000mg

Vitamin B6

1.2–1.8mg

5-20mg

50-500mg

Vitamin B7

0.03–0.06mg

0.03-0.1mg

0.5-15mg

Vitamin B9

0.4mg

0.4-1.0mg

1-15mg

Vitamin B12

3μg

10-100µg

100-5000µg

Source: Uwe Gröber: Mikronährstoffe. Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft. 2011

Vitamin B Complex and Side Effects

Water soluble vitamins are known to some of the safest available. Minor negative side effects and the possibility of over dose are only known to occur in three of the B complex vitamins:

When taken long-term with a dosage of over 500mg per day, B6 can cause nervous damage.2

Vitamin B5 may cause digestive discomfort when 200mg or higher is taken daily. Other than this no other resulting toxicity is known.

Vitamin B3 can also cause critical side effects when taken in nicotinic acid form at high dosages of 750mg plus. Other more commonly reported side effects resulting from dosages of 3mg and above include feeling warm, reddening of the skin, excessive urination and liver damage.3 Significantly less side effects have been reported from the use of B3 in nicotinamide form, which today is typically used as the active ingredient in nutritional supplements. Despite this, side effects such as nausea, vomiting and signs of liver toxicity have been observed in high dosages of 3mg.

B-Vitamins: is Neon Yellow Urine a Cause for Concern?

It is vitamin B2 that is responsible for altering the urine color in this way, which some find concerning and often mistake for a sign of a serious side effect. However, this is only excess B2 that is being passed out with the urine and throughout the course of the day this color will return back to normal. Although the vibrancy may initially be alarming it is no cause for concern.

Vitamin B Complex: Best Taken Naturally

Most B complex supplements on the market are produced using synthetic vitamins that don’t occur naturally in foods. Because of this some critics claim these synthetic forms do not produce the same effect as natural B vitamins from fresh foods.

Extensive studies have been carried out to examine the differences between synthetic and natural vitamins C, D and E. Unfortunately there seems to be no equivalent for the B complex vitamins, but it is suspected that synthetic folic acid in particular can negatively impact health and may be carcinogenic. 

For us it makes sense that natural forms of vitamins should be preferable to their synthetic isolated imitations. Vitamins from natural sources are bound to special transport molecules and cofactors that are missing entirely from synthetically produced vitamins. Natural vitamins work together as a complex of other vitamins, minerals and enzymes to influence their absorption and utilisation in the body. So the differences lie not only in bioavailability but also in missing natural molecules or in the additives present in synthetic supplements that have effects of their own.

Dr. Brian Clement has stated the following:
“The best vitamin supplements are those with labeled potencies derived from naturally-occurring, full-spectrum food extracts. [….] The entire vitamin complex is captured intact, retaining its functional and nutritional integrity, and a full spectrum of nutritional values.”5

Today there are a number of supplements produced from raw plant food extracts available, which contain a whole spectrum of natural nutrients. The label should be checked carefully when identifying these products, however, as the word ‘natural’ is not trademarked and some synthetically produced supplements may still use the word on their packaging.

If a supplement is to be used for the prevention of a deficiency, then natural products really are the best answer. However, in therapy and with extremely high doses it is often not possible to find a suitable natural supplement since high concentrations are difficult to achieve naturally.

When is it Necessary to Take a Vitamin B Complex Supplement?

With the exception of vitamin B12, the vitamins that make up the B complex can be found in many foods. Nevertheless a good supply cannot be guaranteed if the diet is poor. Only those who eat a balanced diet containing animal products, vegetables, nuts and legumes can be sure they are obtaining the right nutrients.

Since the B complex vitamins are extremely important and difficult to overdose through conventional measurements, a B complex is a useful dietary supplement in most cases. When selecting a supplement care should be taken to choose one with appropriate dosages and that is comprised of natural ingredients where possible. If in doubt consult a doctor, nutritionist or natural health professional.

Sources

1 ÖKO-TEST Jahrbuch Gesundheit für 2010. 2009 (http://www.oekotest.de/cgi/index.cgi?artnr=94085&bernr=06)
2 Bender DA. Vitamin B6 requirements and recommendations. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1989 May;43(5):289-309. Review. PubMed PMID: 2661220.
3 Knopp RH. Evaluating niacin in its various forms. Am J Cardiol. 2000; 86(12A):51L–56L.
4 Kim YI. Folate and carcinogenesis: Evidence, mechanisms, and implications. J Nutr Biochem 1999;10:66-88. Medline
5 http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_3697.cfm




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