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The benefits of the beautiful B Vitamins

And before you say anything yes i know the title is a bit cliche ... but that's just me haha.

There are so many different vitmains and minerals out there and it can be hard to understand what each of them do and why they are good for us. In this blog post I am going to explain about all the different B vitamins and break them down so that you know what each of them does and why you need to eat them.

The B group vitamins are part of the water soluble vitamins together with Vitamin C.

As the name suggests water soluble vitamins are soluble in water unlike the fat soluble vitamins ( Vitamins A, D, E and K) which as you guessed it needs "fats" to be able to be absorbed.

A little fun fact - the word vitamin literally means vital to life

Vita = life

amine = an element containing nitrogen.

They are considered essential nutrients which are required in tiny amount ( well less than the macronutrients carbohydrates, proteins and fats) to promote growth, reproduction and the maintenance of health.

So before we get started I'll introduce you to them all

B1 - Thiamin

B2 - Riboflavin

B3 - Niacin (Nicotinic acid and NIcotinaminde)

Biotin - (Isn't assigned to a number)

B5 - Pantothenic acid

B6 - Pyridoxine

B9 - Folate, Folacin or Folic Acid

B12 - Cobalamin

Thiamin - Vitamin B1

Thiamin is the vitamin part of the coenzyme TPP (Thiamin Pro-Phosphate) which assists in energy metabolism. Thiamin can occur in small quantities in food such pork, oats, pecans, wholegrain bread, soy milk, squash, yeasts and vegemite. There are two diseases that can occur because of a thiamin deficiency are Beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Both of these diseases affect the nervous system and can cause nerve irritability and degeneration along with dilated blood vessels, odemea (swelling), heart and kidney problems. Alcohol can severly impair thaimin absorption and enhances thiamin excretion in the urine which further increases the risk of deficiency. Cooking foods can destroy the thaimin content so the best way to retain all the essential nutrients are cooking methods that require little or no water such as steaming.

Riboflavin - Vitamin B2

Like Thiamin Riboflavin acts as a coenzyme and helps in the release of energy from nutrients in all body cells. A lack of Riboflavin can cause inflammation of the membranes of the mouth, skin, eyes and gastro intestinal tract. Riboflavin is heavily present in milk and milk products, wholegrain or nriched bread, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and asparagus. Unlike Thiamin Riboflavin doesn't get oxydized when heated, however ultraviolet light does (another fun fact - that is the reason that milk is solf in cardboard or opaque plastic containers).

Niacin - Vitamin B3

NIacin and the two coenzyme forms of niacin are central in energy transfer reactions especially in the metabolism of glucose, fat and alcohol. Niacin is a unique vitamin in that the body can make it from the amino acid (protein) tryptophan. Meat, poultry, legumes and whole grains contribute about half of the niacin that people consume. Mushrooms, potatoes and tomatoes are among the richest vegetable sourecs. Niacin is also less vulnerable to loss during food preparation and storage than the other water soluble vitamins and is fairly heat resistant. The condition Pellagra is associated with a Niacin deficiency and produces the 4 D's - diarrhoea, dermatitis, dementia and in very severe circumstances even death, however this is extremely rare in the health population of Australia.


The vitamin Biotin helps in gluconeogenesis (the creation of glucose (energy) from non carbohydrate sources such as proteins and fats) and also in both fatty acid and protein breakdown. Biotin deficiences rarely occur - however can readily occur with the ingestion of numerous raw egg whites. Egg whites contain a protein that binds biotin and thus prevents its absorption. (More than 2 dozen raw eggs must be consumed daily for several months for this to occur so it is not very likely) Cooking the eggs however denatures (breaks down) that protein and thus allows biotin to be absorbed. Biotin deficiency symptoms include skin rash, hair loss and neurological impairment.

Pantothenic Acid - Vitamin B5

Pantothenic acid is part of the coenzyme structure Coezyme A and is used in the synthesis (creation) of lipids (fats), neurotransmitters (neurological signals), steroid hormones and haemoglobin (part of red blood cells). Although a B5 deficiency is rare its symptoms include a general failure of the whole bodys systems including general fatigue, Gastro intestinal problems and naurological problems. The main sources of B5 are Beef, poultry, wholegrains, potatoes, tomatoe and broccoli. B5 is readily destroyed by the freezing, canning and refining process so you must be carefuly how you store and prepare your foods.

Pyridoxine - Vitamin B6

Pyridoxine play a vital role in amino acid (protein) metabolism. Many people (especially body builders) believe that increasing their levels of B6 can enhance muscle strength and physical endurance however this has not been proven. Without adequate B6 in the body, synthesis or key neurotransmitters (neuroloical pathways) dimishes. The early symptoms of a B6 deficiency are depression and confusion with advanced symtoms including abnormal brain wave patterns and convulsions. Alcohol severly contributes to the destruction and loss of Vitamin B6 - Alcohol produces acetaldehyde which can be associated with a higher risk of heart diseases. Meats, fish, poultry, broccoli, tomato, banana and watermelon are among the best sources.

Folate - Vitamin B9

Folate is also known as folacin or folic acid. Food mainly delivers folate in the "bound form" combined with a string of amino acids (glutamate) known as polyglutamate. Folic acid is te term used for the synthetic form of Folate that is used exensively in dietary supplements and food fortification. Because folate is actively secreted back into the GI tract with bile, it has to be reabsorbed repeatedly, so if the gastrointestinal tract cells are damaged (such as with alcohol abuse) folate deficiency rapidly develops. In pregnancy, Folate has been proven to be effective in reducing the risks of neural tube defects and central nervous system disorders. It is therefore recommended that folate supplements taken one month before conception and 3 months into the pregnancy can significantly reduce neural tube defences in their child. FSANZ (Food Standards Australia and New Zealand) has mandated that flour millers are required to add folic acid to all flour used ofr bread making except for "organic" bread. However, because high folate intakes can complicate and mask a Vitmin B12 deficiency, folate consumption should not exceed 1000 micrograms per day. Folate is also crucial in protecting against heart disease. High levels of the amino acid homocystine and low levels of folate increase the risk of fatal heart disease - one of folates main role is to break down homocystine, without folate homocystine accuulates which enhances coagulation (blood clotting) and arterial wall deteriation leading to heart problems. Fortified foods and folate supplements can raise blood folate levels and reduce homocystine levels to an extent that they may help prevent heart disease.

Folate deficiency can impair cell division and protein synthesis which can lead to anaemia and GI tract deterioration. Naturally occuring folate from food alone causes no harm, however excess folate from fortified foods or supplements can mask a Vitamin B12 neurological deficiency which cna delay diagnosis and lead to further damage.

Legumes, fruits adn vegetables are abundate in folate and as the name suggests, foliage, leafy green vegetables are the best sources.

Cobalamin - Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 and folate are closely related and depend on each other for activation. Vitamin B12 maintains and protects nerve fibers and promotes their normal growth. Bone cell activity and metabolism also depend on B12. Because most of B12 is reabsorbed, most healthy people rarely get a deficiency even when their intake is minimal and as such most B12 deficiencies relate to inadequate absorption not poor intake. A vitamin B12 deficiency can take up to 3 years to manifest as the body conserves most of its supply. Because B12 is required to convert folate to its active form, the most obvious sign of a B12 deficiency is the anaemia associated also with folate deficiency. Either B12 or folte can be given to clear up the anaemia but if folate is given when B12 is needed the neurological symptoms can be very dangerous.

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