Turn the tables on that bumbling B-deficiency
While all vitamins are required for optimal brain health and function, there are a few that stand out above the rest.
The pursuit in getting all the vitamins your brain needs from diet alone, is virtually impossible in today’s hectic age. Stress, sugar, caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, medications, and poor digestion are just some of the issues that increase your bodies need for vitamins. Thanks to the digitalisation of pretty much everything, there is an abundance of evidence online that taking the right vitamins can improve how well your brain works and to protect it from mental decline in the future.
What is Vitamin B? And What are the uses and side effects of B complex?
B vitamins help the body convert food into glucose, glucose provides energy to the body. B Vitamins also aid in fat and protein metabolizing, and in healthy nervous system functioning. Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, helps boost the immune system and strengthen the body under stressful conditions. Vitamin B6, known as pyridoxine, helps the body make certain hormones, as well as chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. It also helps boost immune system functioning.
Known Side Effects:
B vitamins are water-soluble; the excess of these vitamins get excreted through urine. If taken in large doses (as with any supplement), however, vitamin B complex can have negative side effects. Side effects are said to include gout, high blood sugar and skin problems. Overdoses of B vitamins can lead to heart and liver complications, and high doses of vitamin B3, or niacin, can cause vision problems, nausea and vomiting and worsening of existing stomach ulcers. If you are on chemotherapy, high doses of folic acid can interfere with these drugs.
Types of vitamin B
There are eight types of vitamin B:
- Thiamin (B1)
- Pantothenic acid
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
- Folate (called folic acid when included in supplements)
- Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin)
How does vitamin B12 deficiency affect the body?
B vitamins are essential for preventive care. Found in abundance in green vegetables, whole or enriched grains, dairy, and meats, B vitamins help promote a healthy metabolism and are also said to be linked to a reduced risk of stroke.
Signs of vitamin B12 deficiency can include:
- Difficulty maintaining balance
- Intestinal problems
- Mood disturbances
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
- Poor memory
- Soreness of the mouth or tongue
Vitamin B12, like that of Natural Factors B12 sublingual tablets, plays a significant role in nerve function, the formation of red blood cells, and the production of DNA. While most people get plenty of vitamin B12 from a varied, balanced diet, if you are vegan or on a vegetarian diet, you are at higher risk for vitamin B12 deficiency.
What's the relationship between vitamin B-12 and depression?
Studies have shown that some of those with B vitamin deficiencies experience depression, anxiety, and mood swings. Folate (vitamin B9) is in the forefront of mood management. Studies show that many people with depression have lower levels of folate in the blood. Folate is found in green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, peanuts, and other legumes, and citrus fruits. To ensure the adequate intake of folate, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began requiring manufacturers to add folic acid to enriched breads, cereals, flours, cornmeal, pasta, rice, and other grain products in 1998.
Image courtesy of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Above are brain scans from the control group (marked “placebo”) and the group that took B vitamins. The areas of brain atrophy are in yellow. You can see that the placebo group (top row) shows significantly more brain atrophy than the group that took B vitamins (bottom row).
An Oxford University study found that taking B6, B12, and folic acid together reduced brain atrophy, improved brain function, and dramatically reduced brain shrinkage in the part of the brain most affected in Alzheimer’s. These vitamins work by reducing levels of homocysteine, a toxic amino acid that’s a natural byproduct of digestion. High levels of this amino acid double your risk for developing Alzheimer’s.
What is the most important B vitamin for the brain?
Although, all of the B complex vitamins are essential for your overall health, three of them — B6, B12 and B9 — are especially vital for brain health. Studies have shown that these vitamins work together to help prevent mental decline, dementia and Alzheimer's disease. A very important role of B vitamins for brain health is the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and GABA. Imbalances of these major brain chemicals can significantly alter your mental health.
A serotonin deficiency is said to contribute to anxiety, insomnia, low self-esteem, negative thoughts, OCD and SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Without sufficient GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), you can be easily stressed, overstimulated and overwhelmed. Dopamine helps you focus and concentrate. Signs of a low dopamine level are low energy and motivation, leaving you to rely on things like caffeine, sugar or other stimulants to get you through the day. Boosting your B vitamins intake can improve your neurotransmitter balance and your mental well-being.
B Vitamins in foods
A variety of foods contain different types of B vitamins, the best way to add them to your diet is by eating whole, unrefined foods. Most B vitamins are stripped from foods like grains, for example, during the refinement process, which is why a lot of them are found in meat, dairy and eggs. If you're a vegan/vegetarian, you may want to stock up on those vitamin B-rich veggies and nuts.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Foods enriched with Vitamin B1 include cereals, rice and wheat. Also, you can have multi-grain bread, fortified cereals, whole-wheat pasta, or lentils as they are loaded with Vitamin B1. You can also try some whole pulses which include, red kidney beans, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, fenugreek, lettuce and cabbage.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Best sources of riboflavin or vitamin B2 include eggs, chicken, fish, legumes (like peas and lentils). Also, milk and milk products like yogurt, cheese, and nuts are loaded with vitamin B2. It can also be found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, asparagus, and fortified cereals.
Vitamin B3 : Vitamin B3 is found in chicken and salmon. Apart from these, tuna is an excellent source of niacin. For vegetarians, choose legumes, whole-wheat pasta and whole wheat as your source of niacin.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): To fulfill the requirement of vitamin B5, try including avocados, broccoli, kale, meat, whole grains, potatoes, eggs, and legumes.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): Foods such as potatoes, eggs, beans, red meat, and fortified cereals contain high amounts of vitamin B6.
Folate: Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, fenugreek, turnip greens, asparagus have high folate content. You can also try fresh fruits and vegetables which are excellent sources of folate. Another example, liver, legumes, dried beans and fresh orange juice. Also, fortified bread, cereals and rice are loaded with folate.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): Natural sources of vitamin B12 are found in fish, red meat, eggs, poultry, milk, milk products and cheese. Soy products and cereals also have high vitamin B12 content.
Biotin: The richest dietary sources of biotin are liver and egg yolks. Avocado, salmon and pork are some other good sources of biotin too.
Pantothenic acid: Try including yogurt and avocado in your diet. Pantothenic acid is widely available in large variety of foods such as legumes, sweet potatoes, broccoli and mushrooms.
The B-complex vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, vitamin B12, folic acid and biotin) play a vital role in keeping the brain and nervous system healthy. Most of these B-vitamins are also essential during pregnancy to ensure that the brain and nervous system of the foetus develop properly. If you suffer from symptoms such as tiredness, irritability, depression or nervousness, it may be a good idea to take a B-complex supplement. As with any supplement or new addition to your diet, it is always best to consult your healthcare practitioner first.
If you found this article interesting and are interested in adding a B-complex supplement to your diet, you may be interested in our current Natural Factors promotion. For further reading on these powerful B Vitamins, we have a great article on the benefits B5 has on your hair.