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B-Complex vitamins for good health

Published:Thursday | March 15, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Heather Little-White, PhD, Gleaner Writer

The vitamin B complex is a team of vitamins that work together for good health. The team players are folate, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and the less- known pantothenate, para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), inositol, biotin and choline. Since vitamin fits into the metabolic workings of the cell for specific functions, when these vitamins are included in the diet, it means that your health should improve.

What can result if there are dietary deficiencies of vitamin B complex? Physically, ailments could include itchy dermatitis, premenstrual tension, and insomnia. Mental outcomes as a result of vitamin B deficiencies include schizophrenia, mood changes or depression, memory loss, disorientation and dementia.

Food processing

Modern food processing is partially responsible for some of the dietary deficiencies of vitamin B complex. Milling, for example, removes substantial portions of the B vitamins in wheat and enrichment does not add back enough. White refined flour can never add up to the benefits of wholewheat flour as significant amounts of B6, folate and pantothenate are lost during processing.

Foods that offer complete B complex include:

  • lean beef
  • Brewer's yeast
  • chicken meat
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • wholewheat flour
  • milk products
  • beef liver
  • kidneys
  • whole grains
  • chopped peanuts
  • brown rice
  • salmon steak
  • sunflower seeds
  • chickpeas
  • wheatgerm

Thiamine

Thiamine or vitamin B1 is important for maintaining the brain and nervous system, for example coordination of arms and legs. Lack of thiamine causes the eye to freeze and amnesia and poor memory set in. Other symptoms include the inability to concentrate, irritability, depression and lethargy. As the deficiency progresses, senility could result. It has been found that thiamine deficiency is common among teenagers who consume large amounts of sodas and junk foods. Drinking excessive amounts of coffee also depletes the body of thiamine.

Riboflavin

Riboflavin or vitamin B2 deficiency may cause nervousness and digestive disorders. If you experience cracks at the corner of your mouth, blurred vision, red, inflamed eyes or flaky areas around the nose, you may be suffering from riboflavin deficiency. Red blood cells do not thrive with the B2 deficiency and it may result in muscle cramps during pregnancy.

Niacin

Niacin is important to maintain the vital areas of the tissues in the skin, tongue, intestine and nervous system. Mild deficiencies of niacin may cause dermatitis, irritability and arthritis. Medically supervised doses of niacinamide do not cure arthritis, but provide immense relief from the pain. Niacin deficiency may also cause hallucination and, later, schizophrenia. Niacin is a natural tranquilliser, with its effectiveness surpassing that of the well-known valium.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is an answer for circulation problems and the prevention of blood clots. It may also prevent the build-up of cholesterol in the blood. When cholesterol builds up in bile, gallstones are formed. Women get relief from the symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome - depression, breast pain, bloating - if extra doses of vitamin B6 are taken ten days before each menstrual period. Vitamin B6 is also known as the 'pep up' vitamin. High doses of Vitamin B6 taken under doctor's supervision may be the answer to unexplained infertility in women.

Vitamin B12 and vegetarians

Vegetarians may need extra B12 which is found in eggs, meat and dairy products not eaten by vegetarians. Pregnant and lactating vegetarians will find the need greater. Vegans can get B12 from other sources such as fermented soy products like miso, soy sauce and tempeh.

Folate

Folate or folic acid is important for the formation of healthy red blood cells. Deficiencies of folate may lead to anaemia and fatigue and restless leg syndrome which is creeping, irritating sensations in the lower legs during the last stages of pregnancy.

Pantothenate

Pantothenate is the anti-stress vitamin and produces energy in the body through to the building of coenzyme A which acts as a catalyst to convert fats, carbohydrates and proteins to energy.

Choline

Choline is another versatile and therapeutic member of the B-complex family. It prevents lapses in memory and provides relief from serious nervous disorders.

Biotin

Biotin deficiency is uncommon as it is found in a wide range of foods, but intestinal bacteria could lead to its deficiency, especially in people who eat large amounts of raw egg white. Researchers believe that infants who are victims of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) may have had lower amounts of biotin than normal.