Vitamin B complex includes all eight essential B vitamins from B1 to B12. All B vitamins are water soluble, meaning it is hard to store too much in the body (1).
Getting adequate amounts of B vitamins in your diet is necessary to maintain energy, immunity, heart health, healthy blood, and much more (2). Eating a wide variety of healthy foods is the easiest way to ensure you are getting the right amount of B vitamins each day.
Summary: Vitamin B complex includes eight essential vitamins, from B1-B12. They are water-soluble, meaning consuming any excess easily passes through the urine. B vitamins are helpful for energy, immunity, and heart, and blood health. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help you get enough of these important vitamins.
Table of Contents
- Health Benefits of Vitamin B Complex
- Health Benefits of Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
- How B2 (Riboflavin) Can Improve Your Health
- How Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Can Help
- Why Get More B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
- How Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) Improves Your Health
- The Importance of Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
- Benefits of Vitamin B9 (Folate and Folic Acid)
- How to Benefit from More Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
- Foods that contain B Vitamins
- Potential Health Risks of Getting Too Much B Vitamins
Health Benefits of Vitamin B Complex
Check out the information below to see the many health benefits of vitamin B complex and follow the links to learn the specifics of each kind. Find out the best dietary sources and potential risk factors of taking too much, as well.
Health Benefits of Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamin, is a critical water-soluble B complex vitamin that most people get sufficiently from their diet (3). Many foods contain thiamin.
Some functions of thiamine include:
- Maintains function in the nervous system (4)
- Plays a role in energy metabolism (5)
- Assists in the growth, development and functioning of cells (6)
Summary: Vitamin B1 (thiamin) is helpful for supporting the nervous system and energy metabolism. Many plant and animal-based foods contain vitamin B1, so it is rare to have a B1 deficiency.
How B2 (Riboflavin) Can Improve Your Health
It is critical to have adequate levels of Riboflavin or B2 for many functions in the body, including energy metabolism and normal cell function (7). Some other potential health benefits of riboflavin include:
- May decrease risk of cataracts (8), (9), (10)
- May reduce migraines (11), (12)
Overall, these studies on these benefits of riboflavin are inconclusive, and more research is needed to fully understand this (13).
Riboflavin also acts as an antioxidant in the body, which is an essential function to decrease inflammation and the level of free radicals (14). Riboflavin is also necessary to activate an enzyme that helps recycle the folate in the body (15).
Summary: Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) is also an antioxidant, helpful for reducing inflammation and fighting off free radicals. It also activates an enzyme used in folate recycling. There is also some mixed evidence showing riboflavin may decrease risk of cataracts or reduce migraines, but more studies on these potential benefits are needed.
How Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Can Help
Vitamin B3 or Niacin is a potent vitamin for maintaining heart health and blood cholesterol levels (16).
The functions of niacin include (17):
- Energy metabolism
- Proper functioning and development of cells in the body
Studies have found that high doses of niacin can lower blood cholesterol levels. However, niacin does not appear to reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke (18). Using niacin to lower blood cholesterol must be done under medical supervision to monitor for unwanted side effects (17).
Summary: Vitamin B3 (niacin) helps maintain heart health and is also used in high doses as a treatment for high blood cholesterol.
Why Get More B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Vitamin B5 is necessary for the human body to take in from food or supplements, but many people are not deficient in this B vitamin. That is mainly because many foods are high in vitamin B5 (19). Pantothenic acid plays a significant role in heart health and red blood cell formation (20).
The health benefits of B5 include:
- Helps regulate triglycerides (improving heart health) (21)
- May improve acne (22)
Get more vitamin B5 from many popular starchy vegetables, meat, and more.
Summary: Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) is very helpful for promoting heart health and improving acne. It plays a major role in heart health and red blood cell formation. Starchy vegetables and meat are especially rich in B5.
How Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) Improves Your Health
Vitamin B6, also known as Pyridoxine, is essential for many aspects of your health.
The top health benefits of vitamin B6 include (23), (24):
- Prevent anemia
- Maintains normal immune function
- May improve PMS symptoms
- Lessen nausea and vomiting symptoms during pregnancy
Unlike most other essential B vitamins, B6 blood levels can deplete from outside factors. For example, oral contraceptives have been found to deplete B6 levels in the blood (25). Consult your doctor if you are taking these medications.
Summary: Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) improves prevents anemia, maintains immune function, and may lessen PMS symptoms. Levels of B6 can be depleted by some medications, including oral contraceptives, so be sure to ask your doctor about your levels.
The Importance of Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
Consuming adequate amounts of biotin or vitamin B7 helps maintain many bodily processes. Luckily, biotin is found in many foods, and most people get adequate amounts from the food they eat (26).
Some other functions of biotin include (27):
- Maintains energy metabolism
- Rebuilds tissues
There is little evidence to support the claim that additional biotin from supplements can improve the health of hair, skin and, nails (27). There is also some limited evidence that biotin may help to stabilize blood sugars, but more research is needed to confirm this. (28)
Summary: Vitamin B7 (biotin) maintains energy metabolism metabolism and helps with rebuilding tissues.
Benefits of Vitamin B9 (Folate and Folic Acid)
Folate or vitamin B9 is another critical B vitamin that is necessary for healthy development and cellular function (29).
Taking adequate amounts of folate is vital for women before they are pregnant and during pregnancy to prevent proper development of the nervous system in the fetus and prevent potential defects in brain development, also called neural tube defects (30). Many women benefit from taking a folic acid supplement for this reason.
Folate and folic acid are not the same, either. Folate comes from foods, and folic acid is made synthetically and is absorbed slightly better. You should not take more folic acid from supplements than is recommended unless directed by a health care provider. 1000 micrograms of folic acid daily is the recommended upper limit for adults (31).
Summary: Vitamin B9 (folate and folic acid) is critical for cellular function. Folate is the natural form of B9, whereas folic acid is created synthetically.
How to Benefit from More Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Vitamin B12 is necessary to carry out many functions in the body with a specific emphasis on red blood cell formation and DNA synthesis. Red blood cell formation helps to prevent anemia and much more (32).
The health benefits of B12 include:
- Prevents anemia (33)
- Prevents birth defects (33)
- May play a part in promoting bone health (34), (35)
- May reduce risk of macular degeneration (36)
There is evidence that for those who are deficient in vitamin B12, taking a supplement may improve mood and energy levels, but taking a supplement when you have adequate intakes will not provide these health benefits (33), (37).
Summary: Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) helps to prevent anemia and birth defects, may support bone and eye health. It is especially important for red blood cell formation and DNA synthesis.
Foods that contain B Vitamins
B vitamins help with many functions throughout the body. Foods that contain B vitamins include (5), (13), (18), (20), (24),(27), (33), (38):
- Organ meats
- Fish and shellfish
- Dairy products
- Nuts and seeds
- Dark leafy greens
- Citrus fruits
- Beans and lentils
- Whole grains
- Nutritional yeast
- Fortified cereal and other fortified foods
There is a variety of foods you can choose from to get an adequate amount of B vitamins in your diet. There are fewer plant-based sources of vitamin B12, so some vegans and vegetarians find it helpful to supplement with vitamin B12 (39).
Summary: A variety of foods such as fish, eggs, beef, liver, dairy foods, nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, avocado, bananas, beans, lentils, whole grains, and nutritional yeast are rich in B vitamins. Eating a varied diet is important to support adequate intake of all vitamins.
Potential Health Risks of Getting Too Much B Vitamins
It is very rare to get too many B vitamins in your diet. Because B vitamins are water-soluble, any excess intake is usually easily removed through the urinary system. Getting too much B vitamins usually only occurs through high dose supplements (1).
Some potential health risks that can occur from too much vitamin B include (18), (24):
- Abdominal pain
- Nerve damage
- Impaired vision
- Skin rashes
- Hypertension or hypotension
Keep in mind that many prescribed drugs and even over the counter medications can deplete your vitamin B levels. These include some antibiotics, antacids, and stomach acid suppressors, antidiabetic and asthma drugs, and blood pressure drugs (5), (13), (18), (20), (24),(27), (33).
Speak with your doctor if you take any of these drugs regularly about checking your levels of B vitamins.
Summary: Since B vitamins are water-soluble, it is difficult to consume too much. It generally happens when you take a high dose through supplement form. Symptoms of toxicity include nausea, constipation, diarrhea, gastrointestinal problems, nerve issues, hair loss, skin rashes, mood swings, and hypertension. Some medications may deplete vitamin B levels, so be sure to talk to your doctor if you are concerned.
All eight B vitamins are essential to consume for all humans, as humans cannot produce vitamin B on their own. Some B vitamins act as vital antioxidants, while others work to keep red blood cells healthy and prevent anemia.
Always seek out a healthcare professional if you would like to know your vitamin B levels through routine bloodwork. Knowing your numbers is a critical first step to living a healthy and thriving life.