Amidst the spike in COVID-19 infections, the one thing that we hear constantly (after ‘wash your hands’ and ‘wear a mask’) is ‘boost your immunity’. And, not to forget the countless hours we spend on the internet reading health articles. The one thing you will notice is while Vitamins C and D, and Calcium are given a lot of attention, Vitamin B and its components are left unspoken. You will be surprised to know this ‘unsung’ vitamin has a huge effect on the whole body — from boosting our immune system to our mood.
Vitamin B complex is essential for the proper functioning of our body. It contributes to creating new blood cells and maintaining healthy body tissues. Read to know the role it plays for maintaining good health and well-being, how much is too much, are supplements really important and a lot more.
Get the basics right
Nutritionist Ruchi Sharma, Founder of Eat, Fit. Repeat, Udaipur, explains the importance of vitamins in maintaining good health and well-being. She explains B vitamins, or vitamin B complex, comprise of eight vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12. B vitamins function as the building blocks of the body, and hence have a direct influence on our energy levels, nervous function and cell metabolism.
Along with providing protection against infections, vitamin B complex helps to support the optimal cell growth, metabolism, growth of red blood cells, hormones production, heart health and nervous function. They are important for pregnant and nursing mothers as these vitamins help in foetal development, and reduce the risk of birth defects.
To maintain good health and well-being, it is important to consume a certain amount of each vitamin on a daily basis. Dr Siddhant Bhargava, Fitness and Nutritional Scientist, Co-Founder of Food Darzee, recommends the daily value of each vitamin one needs to consume to maintain good health. He recommends, “1.1 mg of B1, 1.1 mg of B2, 14 mg of B3, 5 mg of B5, 1.3 mg of B6, 30 micrograms of B7, 400 mcg of B9 and 2.4 mcg of B12.”
For healthy pregnancy
Edibles rich in the eight B vitamins have a significant role to play in bracing a healthy pregnancy. Pregnant and nursing mothers require a high amount of Vitamin B. Vitamin deficiency in pregnant women increases the chances of birth defects.
Dr Siddhanth says, “Vitamin B1 facilitates in fostering restored nerves and muscles in kids and is essential for the child’s body to break down carbohydrates into energy. Vitamin B2 boosts the production of red blood cells and aids in the process of digestion and generates energy. Vitamin B3 helps to convert fats and carbohydrates into energy and aids the functioning of nervous and digestive systems in kids. Vitamin B5 is required to metabolise fats and carbohydrates. Vitamin B6 promotes healthy brain development in infants and facilitates the release of brain chemicals like serotonin that helps to regulate moods, and norepinephrine, which aids in coping with anxiety. Vitamin B7 helps in the metabolism of cholesterol, certain amino acids, and fatty acids in babies. It also stimulates healthy skin, hair, and nails in them. Vitamin B9 plays an important part in the creation of red blood cells. While Vitamin B12 can help in the formation of red blood cells in kids.”
Signs of Vitamin B deficiency
Dr Siddhant mentions common signs of vitamin B deficiency one needs to look out for. He says, “Vitamin B deficiency can lead to symptoms like fatigue, feeling constipated, weakness, loss of weight and appetite, balancing problems, feeling numb in the hands and feet, faulty memory and mouth and tongue soreness to name a few.”
He also talks about the side effects of vitamin B deficiency on mental health. “Psychological conditions resulting due to a deficiency of vitamin B12 are depression, behavioural changes, dementia, paranoia, insomnia, feeling confused and disoriented, amnesia, lack of concentration and attention, irritability, bipolar, panic disorders and phobias to name a few,” he says.
How important are vitamin supplements?
If you have wondered about the importantance of vitamin supplements, Ruchi Sharma has answers to you questions. She explains, “Your body is more likely to need supplements when you are in a specific age or specific phase of your life such as pregnancy, having a chronic condition, consuming only vegan or vegetarian diet or are above 50 years of age.”
She further mentions a few things one needs to keep in mind while buying supplements, such as, “Always read the label carefully and follow the directions provided by the manufacturing company. Always consult a physician before getting your hands on any supplement.”
Vitamin supplements must always be consumed only if recommended by your doctor. As supplementation sometimes has mild side effects such as excess thirst, skin rash, blurry vision, cramps, nausea, excessive urination diarrhoea and skin flushing. If you experience any unusual changes make sure you get in touch with your doctor immediately as in severe cases taking the supplement without any diagnosed deficiency could lead to toxicity and can also result in losing control of the bodily movements.
One can experience vitamin B overdose only through supplements taken without consulting the doctor. Overdose of vitamin B complex is less likely from food sources as it is water-soluble and excreted through urine. Since now you are aware of the importance of vitamin B, talk to your doctor about your desired health goal. Taking into consideration certain factors your doctor may recommend if you need to make any dietary changes or take any additional supplements.
Food sources of each vitamin
Vitamin B is available in most of the foods we consume on a daily basis. Here’s a look at some of the key dietary sources of each of them:
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Peanuts, spinach, kale, whole grains, nuts
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Eggs, spinach, milk, yogurt, almonds, oatmeal, mushroom
Vitamin B3 (Niacin): Green vegetables, milk, eggs, red meat
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid): Legumes, eggs, meat, avocados, chicken
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): Brown rice, carrots, chicken, lentils, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, potatoes
Vitamin B7 (Biotin): Potatoes, chicken, fish, nuts, cauliflower, eggs, sunflower seeds
Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid): Milk, beans, asparagus, leafy vegetables, nuts
Vitamin B12: Eggs, milk, fish