B Vit_Part I cover image

“B” In Harmony With Vitamin B Complex

  • Why Are Bs Called “the energy vitamins”?
  • How Do They Help With Stress?
  • Which One Can Lower Cholesterol?
  • Why Is B6 Important To Women?

B Healthy

Although vitamins are essential by definition, the B vitamins are particularly important to those of us living (and making a living) in the Age of Technology. These are stressful times. The B vites are important to stress reduction – and energy building!

Our body’s response to stress is governed by the nervous system and the hormonal system. The B vites are imperative to the healthy functioning of both. Any lack of these nutrients results in less than optimal coping physically – and mentally.

These nutrients serve as co-enzymes that facilitate the work of every cell. They are involved in metabolism and help release energy from food.

They are also essential to the synthesis of genetic material (DNA and RNA), and to the creation of new cells.

The Multi-Talented B Vites Even Fight

Inflammation. Look Inside….

B Vit_Part I cover image

TOPIC: Vitamin B Complex, Part 1

If you take B vitamins or the entire vitamin B complex and don’t get a lift, or if you get a lift that fades after a while, chances are that you need more magnesium. Subclinical magnesium deficiency is extremely common among Westerners. [It works along with the B vitamins] to support your physical and emotional health. Add a magnesium citrate supplement in a daily amount to meet the RDA of 420 mg (men) and 310 mg (women). 

From H.L. Newbold, MD, psychiatrist and nutrition pioneer

“B” In Harmony With

Vitamin B Complex

• Why Are Bs Called “the energy vitamins”?

• How Do They Help With Stress?

• Which One Can Lower Cholesterol?

• Why Is B6 Important To Women?

The Multi-Talented B Vites Even Fight

Inflammation. Look Inside….

B Healthy

Although vitamins are essential by definition, the B vitamins are particularly important to those of us living (and making a living) in the Age of Technology. These are stressful times. The B vites are important to stress reduction – and energy building!

Our body’s response to stress is governed by the nervous system and the hormonal system. The B vites are imperative to the healthy functioning of both. Any lack of these nutrients results in less than optimal coping physically – and mentally.

These nutrients serve as co-enzymes that facilitate the work of every cell. They are involved in metabolism and help release energy from food. They are also essential to the synthesis of genetic material (DNA and RNA), and to the creation of new cells.


here are eight water soluble vitamins and three co-factors in the vitamin B complex. The eight are thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), biotin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin B12. The co-factors are choline (KOH leen), inositol (in OH sih tall), and PABA. Together, these nutrients are the vitamin B complex. They are closely related to one another, work together, and frequently occur in the same foods.

Frequently called “the energy vitamins,” the B vitamins don’t actually provide energy, they facilitate energy production from food. This is why a lack of B vitamins results in a lack of energy. Also, prolonged stress can rob the body of B vitamins. If you are always “on the run” (physical) and/or “under the gun” (psychological), make sure your B vitamin intake is adequate. Otherwise, you may become rundown and sluggish. And, that is not all….

There is very little clinical B vitamin deficiency among Western populations, yet many people don’t get enough.1 This is possible because of diet and/or because stress levels are too high for diet alone to cover the need. A subclinical deficiency of vitamin B complex can materialize in a number of complaints. Number one is chronic tiredness. Other symptoms are feeling irritable, nervous, and/or depressed. Further signs are poor appetite, poor hair quality, various skin problems, insomnia, constipation, and general weakness.

In the US, the temptation to eat junk food is great (perhaps overwhelming). Most of this food contains loads of unhealthy carbohydrates. Examples are sugars in sweet drinks (fruit juice, sodas, coffee and tea), and candy; starches from fries, chips, bread — which break down into sugars; and combinations of the two from pastries such as cookies and donuts. 

The B complex is essential to the body’s process of releasing energy from sugars. This energy-releasing process is called the Krebs cycle. B vitamins are used throughout this cycle. If the necessary B vitamin is missing, proper energy release is impossible, leaving us tired. This makes junk food a stressor. Plus, our bodies are robbed of the Bs we need to cope with non-food stressors.

If you are stressed and/or you don’t eat a healthy diet, you are probably lacking B vitamins. To get them, a variety of whole foods must be eaten. In addition, since they are water soluble, they must be replaced daily. Sources include liver and all organ meats, eggs and dairy products, meat and fish, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, bran, wheatgerm, nuts, seeds, legumes, and nutritional yeast. Taking a B complex formula can help, and should be taken along with a healthy diet.

Because it is impossible to cover the B-complex adequately within a single issue of Nutrition News, the information is presented in two parts. Next month, we’ll continue our discussion, covering folate, vitamin B12, and the B vitamin co-factors. Although we consider these nutrients separately, keep in mind that they are all interdependent. Their actions can be so overlapping that scientists do not always know which one is responsible for a given effect.

In B Major

Niacin — Vitamin B3

Niacin is familiar to many as the B vitamin which can cause facial itching and flushing. It is converted by the body into niacinamide, the major form of niacin found in the blood.2 In addition, if there is sufficient protein, the body uses the amino acid tryptophan as a niacin precursor. Along with iron, riboflavin and vitamin B6, the body converts tryptophan into niacin. At a rate of about 60 mg tryptophan to 1 mg of niacin, it is possible for over half the niacin RDA to be obtained this way.

Niacin is involved in over 200 enzyme reactions. Besides energy metabolism and nervous system function, niacin is essential to healthy skin, digestive tract tissues, and the formation of red blood cells. It is used in the synthesis of a number of hormones, including the sex hormones and insulin. It is part of the glucose tolerance factor (enhances the action of insulin). Lastly, it is involved in the repair of the genetic damage which takes place when the body is subjected to infection, drugs, or other toxins.

Niacin may be best known for its use in reducing cholesterol. A classic study involving 244 patients compared B3 with lovastatin (a cholesterol-lowering drug). Although niacin was not as effective as lovastatin in reducing total cholesterol, it made up for this by raising HDL (good cholesterol) levels by 16.3 percent! This is compared with only 1.5 for the drug. Very high levels of niacin are needed to obtain this effect (1000-3000 mg/d). Because large amounts can raise liver enzymes, straight niacin is seldom used, and then with medical supervision.  

These days, a better choice is niacin bound to inositol (a B vitamin cofactor) called inositol hexaniacinate. This form has been used in Europe for nearly 50 years. It brings better results, does not cause flushing, is better tolerated, and is much safer. In addition, it has been shown to improve blood flow in the treatment of intermittent claudication (leg cramping from too little oxygen to the calf muscle) and Raynaud’s disease (painfully cold hands and feet).

Niacinamide has been shown to prevent the development of type 1 diabetes in animals. It appears to do this by increasing the efficiency of insulin and stopping the body’s attack on the beta cells (the insulin producers in the pancreas). A New Zealand study involving 173 at risk children showed that over a five year period niacinamide reduced the development of the disease by 50 percent.

Pellagra is the niacin deficiency disease. Classically, it is characterized by the “three Ds”: diarrhea, dementia, and dermatitis. The dementia of niacin deficiency resembles schizophrenia and large doses of the vitamin have been used to treat this disorder (with inconsistent results). Like tryptophan, niacin has also been used to treat depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

RDAs range from 14-18 mg. The richest sources are fish (tuna, 1 cup, 41.8 mg), chicken (3 ½ oz, 7.9), legumes (peanuts, ½ cup, 8.8 mg) and enriched cereals (Special KTM, 1 cup, 22.6 mg). Remember niacin can produce flushing and intense itching. Flushing is caused by certain prostaglandins dilating the blood vessels. Again, the niacinamide form does not cause flushing.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is not a single vitamin but a group of chemically-related compounds. (Think of it as a family within a family.) Like all the Bs, B6 is involved in the enzyme systems which release energy from foods. (On a macro level of food into fuel, B6 is involved in the production of hydrochloric acid.) It plays a role in almost all bodily processes and is especially important to the synthesis of protein-related compounds. It is essential to the manufacture of prostaglandins.3 As with the other B vitamins, B6 plays a part in DNA and RNA replication, immune function, skin and hair health, and hormone production. A deficiency may be involved in the development of some types of kidney stones. Supplements have been useful therapeutically in a variety of poor health conditions. These include asthma, mood disorders, carpal tunnel, heart conditions, and women’s problems.

Vitamin B6 has been called “the women’s vitamin”. Estrogen can suppress B6 metabolism. This means supplements may be necessary for women on The Pill or using hormone replacement therapy, for pregnant women, and for pregnant women suffering from morning sickness. It is also useful in deterring the symptoms of PMS. In all of these conditions, mood swings and depression serve as a clue to supplement need. For PMS, recommended doses are 50-150 mg per day from cycle day 10 to day 3 of the next cycle. For morning sickness, women in a University of Iowa study found that taking 25 mg every 8 hours was effective in stopping nausea and vomiting. For The Pill and HRT, be sure your multivitamin-mineral contains over 100 percent of the RDA of the complete vitamin B complex.

Research suggests that some children with asthma have a partial defect in tryptophan metabolism. Because of the role of B6 in protein metabolism (tryptophan is an amino acid), some research indicates that supplementing B6 may help. Although not all studies have found beneficial effects, several have shown that children taking up to 200 mg per day suffered fewer attacks and had a decreased need for medication. (Start with 25 mg. 2x/d.) In addition, B6 is lowered by theophylline, a bronchodilator used as an anti-asthma drug. Supplements may also be useful in eliminating drug side effects.

Vital to the nervous system, concentrations of B6 are 25-50 times higher in the brain than in the blood. Because of its involvement in the synthesis of neurotransmitters (including serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline), B6 influences mood and mental processes. Even a marginal deficiency can affect the production of neurotransmitters. It follows that this vitamin can help improve mood. A Harvard study has shown that it also helps improve the effects of antidepressants when given in combination with vitamins B1 and B2 (10 mg each).

While some infants are born with an inability to metabolize B6 and must be supplemented to avoid convulsions and mental retardation. It follows that deficiencies cause convulsions in young children. 

The use of this vitamin in treating carpal tunnel syndrome has been known for several decades. Doses of 50-200 mg have improved symptoms. However, it does not work in every case. Finally, B6 has also been used to treat headaches, low blood sugar, fatigue, prostatitis, skin problems, kidney stones, muscle pain, and nerve disorders such as diabetic neuropathy.

RDAs range from 1.3 mg-2.0 mg. (The tolerable upper limit is set at 100 mg.) Some researchers have suggested that levels for women are still not adequate and should be around 2.0 (the current RDA for lactating women). The richest sources of this vitamin are chicken, fish, liver, kidney, pork, eggs, milk, wheatgerm, and brewer’s yeast. Other sources are brown rice, soybeans, oats, whole wheat, peanuts and walnuts. B6 content can be reduced by cooking and destroyed by long term storage.

Supplements are available as pyridoxine hydrochloride and pyridoxal-5’-phosphate (the more active form, recommended in cases of faulty liver function). Additional individuals who may need supplements include adolescents, athletes, seniors, drinkers, people with heart disease, on restricted diets or high sugar diets, and those under stress. 

FYI: More is not better! Nerve damage can be caused by large doses (2000 mg+) and daily doses of 300 mg taken over months or years. This damage is not reversible by discontinuing the B6.

In B Minor

Thiamin — Vitamin B1

Thiamin was the first B vitamin discovery. By the late 19th century, “beriberi” (the B1 deficiency disease) was common in Asia. A Dutch physician noticed that feeding chickens white (polished) rice led to symptoms similar to those of human beriberi. When the chickens were also fed the rice polishings, they recovered. Some thirty years later, pure thiamin, the antiberiberi vitamin, was isolated.4

Thiamin is necessary for the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter affecting several brain functions including memory. There is some evidence that thiamin supplements improve mental function in people with epilepsy. Thiamin supplements have been used to treat other nerve problems, including multiple sclerosis, Bell’s palsy, and diabetic neuropathy. 

Among the signs of the need for thiamin is reduced stamina. This is an indication of inhibited carbohydrate metabolism. It is followed by depression, irritability, and the reduced ability to concentrate. There can also be fatigue, muscle cramps, and various pains as well as nausea, lack of appetite, weight loss, and constipation.

Thiamin maintains the muscle tone of the stomach, intestines, and heart. Heart enlargement and other symptoms of cardiac failure such as ankle swelling, breathlessness, and fatigue may be present in beriberi. Even subclinical thiamin deficiency can contribute to heart disease.

Alcohol reduces thiamin absorption. (One reason B complex helps hangovers.) Binge drinkers and alcoholics are susceptible to thiamin deficiency. This deficiency is associated with some symptoms of alcoholism such as mental confusion, visual disturbances, and staggering gait.

RDAs vary from 1.1 mg (women) – 1.5 mg (lactating women). As mentioned thiamin is found in rice bran. Especially rich sources are pork (1 chop, 1.23 mg), oats (1 cup, 1.19 mg), soybeans (1/2 cup dry, 1.14 mg). With prolonged cooking, up to 40 percent of thiamin in food can be lost into the cooking liquid. (This is a case for drinking the liquid or using it in other dishes.) 

Riboflavin — Vitamin B2

Riboflavin overlaps many vitamin B1 functions and is crucial for breaking down food components, absorbing other nutrients, and maintaining tissue. (Incidentally, riboflavin is the in B vitamin that causes urine to be bright yellow.) Although no deficiency disease has been identified, a lack can result in cracks in the corners of the mouth as well as a red, swollen, and cracked tongue. Other symptoms include fatigue, depression, anemia, and greasy scaly skin on face and body. A deficiency is thought to contribute to cataract formation.

Riboflavin is used by the blood cells for iron metabolism. Plus, it is involved in adrenal function and in the synthesis of certain hormones. Because riboflavin is necessary for the action of an anti-inflammatory enzyme, people with inflammatory diseases may need supplements. A British study of persons with rheumatoid arthritis showed low levels were more common in patients who were experiencing flare-ups.

Riboflavin supplements have demonstrated their usefulness in migraine, carpal tunnel syndrome, sickle cell anemia, and skin problems (e.g., acne, dermatitis, and eczema). Riboflavin is involved in the activation of B6, which is also recommended for these conditions. Thus, taking them together is often suggested. (Try 2 mg of each.)

RDAs of B2 range from 1.1 mg to 1.6 mg. Food sources include milk (1 cup, 0.40 mg), lamb’s liver (very rich at 4.03 mg per 3.5 oz), almonds (1/2 cup, 0.98 mg), spinach (1 cup cooked, 0.42) and egg yolk (1 medium, 0.25).


Biotin is produced by our intestinal bacteria. Enough is made that a healthy person excretes up to six times more biotin than is eaten. It follows that supplements are needed only by persons with the following conditions: gut disturbances (e.g., C. albicans overgrowth or candidiasis); long term antibiotic use; intravenous feeding; inherited deficiency disorders. In addition, eating large amounts of raw egg white inhibits biotin absorption.

Biotin is important to healthy hair, skin, and nails. It interacts with folic acid, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B12. Adequate intake for biotin is set at 30 mcg per day. In the US, most people ingest 28-42 mcg daily.

Pantothenic acid

Pantothenic acid is found in so many foods that its name means everywhere (Greek, panto). Like biotin, it is produced by intestinal bacteria. Necessary to energy production, it is used in the manufacture of an important compound called coenzyme A. Besides its shared importance to metabolism and nervous system function, pantothenic acid is important to the production of the steroid hormones, including the stress hormone cortisone. Involved in the production of hemoglobin for healthy red blood cells, it also assists in wound healing.

A pantothenic acid deficiency is unknown in humans. Adequate intake is 5 mg. Most people eat 4-10 mg daily.

Siri Says: Agents which interfere with vitamin B complex metabolism include smoking, alcohol, and caffeine, plus estrogen, sulfa drugs, and anti-malarial drugs. B uptake may also be inhibited by some tranquilizers and antidepressants. In all these cases, higher amounts of the complex or the individual vitamin need to be taken.

As for me, in addition to the Bs in my MVM, I keep a bottle of B complex vitamins which I use as an antidote when I overindulge in high carbohydrate foods. (My latest example is eating waaay too much birthday cake.)


1 When a person is so lacking in a nutrient that a specific nutrient deficiency disease occurs, then a clinical deficiency is defined. (A common example is scurvy, the vitamin C deficiency 

   disease.) One theory is that individuals can be so low in essential nutrients that symptoms of a lack are present without the deficiency disease. This is called a subclinical deficiency.  

2 When taken in supplement form as niacinamide, no niacin flush occurs.

3 Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances produced from fatty acids at the cell site. Among their many functions, prostaglandins are involved in blood pressure regulation,  heart 

function, uterine contraction, and inflammation.

4 Beriberi is rare in Western countries because white rice is usually enriched with thiamin. This is not true in Asia where this rice constitutes about 80 percent of people’s diets. (There is no 

   deficiency issue when brown rice is eaten.)