A group of vitamins known as the B complex are some of the most essential vitamins to our daily functioning, and are found in (or added to) a wide variety of common foods. Yet some of the latest research suggests that up to 40% of American adults are deficient in these critical nutrients.
The term B complex includes eight B vitamins: B-1, B-2, B-3, B-5, B-6, B-7, B-9, and B-12. Each one plays a different role in our overall health and functioning, and some have a complementary relationship with each other. Being deficient in any of the B complex vitamins can cause problems, especially if you have insufficient levels of more than one or two of them.
Various forms of vitamin B deficiency can result in:
- Depression and mood changes
- Nerve and muscle dysfunction
- Decreased energy levels
- Memory problems, including greater risk of dementia in older adults
- Developmental delays in infants and children
- Slow wound healing or easy bruising
These symptoms are all directly related to the way that our bodies utilize B complex vitamins. Without sufficient levels of vitamin B in your blood, almost every major organ system will suffer the effects. That’s why it’s vital for us to make sure that we’re getting enough B complex vitamins, either through diet or high-quality supplements, to keep our bodies functioning at an optimal level.
Vitamin B-1, also known as thiamine, helps convert the foods we eat into glucose—our body’s main source of energy. Thiamine also boosts immune function. Vitamin B-6 has an essential role in hormone production throughout the body. Along with B-12, B-6 is further responsible for the production of mood-regulating chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
Vitamin B-12 has an important protective function within the nervous system, shielding nerves from harm and regulating the signals that travel along the cranial, spinal, and peripheral nerves. B-12 also produces the essential fatty acids necessary for proper nerve function.
Niacin (vitamin B-3) is highly effective at lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol and raising “good” HDL cholesterol, which not only helps to prevent heart disease but may help to preserve cognitive and neurological function in senior citizens.
Along with converting food to glucose, vitamin B-6 allows glycogen stored in our muscles to be released during exercise. Lack of B-6 can make it difficult to maintain muscle mass, to the point that balance and coordination can be affected. In young children, these issues can manifest as developmental delays.
And … a bonus?
Some research suggests that an optimal daily intake of B complex vitamins may act as a natural mosquito repellent—a significant benefit in the South during the summer! While this effect is somewhat theoretical and not yet fully understood, the current hypothesis is that these vitamins change our natural pheromones in a way that makes us smell less appealing to pests like mosquitoes. B complex vitamins, at the very least, present a much safer, more natural option than typical commercial insect sprays.
Regardless, there’s no harm in making sure your daily intake of B complex vitamins is adequate, and the potential benefits are immense. If you suspect you may be deficient in any of these vitamins, a simple blood test can offer an answer, and a high-quality B complex supplement can have you feeling and functioning much better in a short time.