Vitamin B benefits
The B vitamin complex is a group of eight micronutrients that are essential cofactors for myriad metabolic and regulatory processes. B vitamins are crucial building blocks of a healthy body as they stimulate your metabolism, your mood, and your brain and have a direct impact on your DNA synthesis, musculoskeletal systems, energy levels, nervous system, hormone formation and more. In fact, they are essential in nearly every aspect of our bodies. Without B vitamins, your body lacks crucial components for a healthy metabolism. Vitamin B benefits arise from their combined effects on the body’s metabolic processes, however, each B vitamin is unique and plays an important role:
Vitamin B1 / thiamine
Involved in the energy metabolism, thiamine helps to release energy from food, especially from carbohydrates. It also plays a role in muscle contraction (incl. the heart muscle), the conduction of nerve signals (supports strong nerves) and in promoting a normal appetite. Furthermore, thiamine is involved in collagen synthesis, this means a B1 deficiency can lead to a decreased production of collagen and hence to thinner, drier skin, less elastic ligaments, and stiffer joints. B1 is also a cofactor for detoxification in the liver.
Vitamin B2 / riboflavin
Riboflavin helps to release energy from food and is especially important for the protein and lipid metabolism. Our nerve cells need it to send impulses to our muscles. B2 is also important for the growth, development, and maintenance of our body tissues and the formation of red blood cells. In addition, it alleviates eye fatigue and helps prevent damage to the lens of the eye. It also aids the liver to detoxify, which means that deficiency in vitamin B2 inhibits the liver detox pathway that eliminates bacterial toxins. Last but not least, vitamin B2 helps to recycle the body’s own antioxidant glutathione.
Niacin / vitamin B3 (also referred to as nicotinamide or nicotinic acid)
Niacin aids in the synthesis of fatty acids and the synthesis and repair of DNA. It is also involved in energy production. Critical cellular metabolic processes depend on niacin (it is necessary for over 200 enzymes in our body). Playing an antioxidant role in the liver, it induces detoxification. Niacin has an indirect effect on serotonin levels (because niacin is part of the metabolising process of forming serotonin from tryptophan, niacin deficiency can affect your production of serotonin and, hence, impact your mood). That is why it can have prominent anti-depressant effects. Niacin also promotes the release of growth hormones. Furthermore, it helps boost levels of good HDL cholesterol and lower bad LDL cholesterol and it boosts brain function.
Pantothenic acid / vitamin B5
Like most other B vitamins, pantothenic acid is involved in energy production, aiding in the metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates from food and the protein and lipid synthesis. It is also needed for the formation of hormones (e.g. adrenal hormones as well as steroid hormones like oestrogen and progesterone) and Vitamin D. Through its involvement in making cholesterol, amino acids, phospholipids, and fatty acids, pantothenic acid also contributes to the structure and function of brain cells. Furthermore, vitamin B5 provides support for detoxification, specifically the elimination of inflammatory substances, thereby strengthening our immune system. Studies suggest that pantothenic acid may also speed wound healing.
Vitamin B6 / pyridoxine (also referred to as pyridoxal or pyridoxamine)
Vitamin B6 aids in the fat metabolism, protein synthesis (collagen synthesis), red blood cell (haemoglobin) formation, and the balancing of blood sugar levels. It also behaves as an antioxidant molecule and is involved in the body’s production of neurotransmitters such as norephinephrine, part of your body’s acute stress response. It helps to convert the amino acid tryptophan into niacin (vitamin B3), which is part of the metabolising process of forming serotonin, known as the feel-good hormone. B6 has the most dramatic mood-elevating effect of all the B vitamins. B6 also binds to oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, helping to detoxify excess amounts of these steroid hormones, thereby helping to reduce the risk of hormone-related cancers.
Biotin / vitamin B7 (also referred to as vitamin B8 or vitamin H)
Biotin helps release energy from carbohydrates and it aids the synthesis of glucose, keeping blood sugar levels balanced. It is also needed in the metabolism of fats. Biotin is for instance necessary to convert alpha linolenic acid to omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fats are an integral part of cell membranes throughout the body. They are also particularly important for our nervous system, fostering the development of brain circuitry and the speedy processing of information. In addition, biotin is known to create important enzymes that strengthen hair, skin, and nails.
Folic acid / vitamin B9 (also referred to as folate or folacin)
Involved in growth processes with cell division, folic acid lowers the risk for neural tube defects during pregnancy and their resulting brain and nervous system damage in the baby. Folic acid also aids in the protein metabolism and promotes red blood cell formation. It may also play a role in controlling homocysteine levels, thus reducing the risk for coronary heart disease (homocysteine is a toxic and inflammatory agent produced by the liver). Furthermore, folic acid is essential for methylation, an important biochemical process that helps every cell to detoxify and work efficiently. Folic acid has direct mood elevating properties and is synergistic with serotonin production.
Vitamin B12 / cobalamin
Vitamin B12 aids in the building of genetic material (DNA), cell renewal, the formation of normal red blood cells (preventing anaemia), and the growth, protection, and regeneration of the nervous system (thereby having an important effect on mood and allowing a free flow of neurotransmitters). It is an important factor for the activation of the liver detox pathway that detoxes heavy metals and histamines. B12 also lowers the level of homocysteine which is a key cause of cardiovascular conditions. It also helps the body to secrete melatonin which we need for healthy sleep. Furthermore, B12 is a crucial cofactor in the mitochondrial metabolism, where energy production inside our cells takes place.
For recommended intake levels of all B vitamins to avoid deficiency as well as upper intake levels thought to be safe refer to the bottom of this article1.
Vitamin B complex benefits
Evidently, each of the B vitamins plays its own distinct role in our body’s metabolic activities, but their complementary actions have led to their reference as the B complex. Together they work synergistically to promote good health and well-being:
Boosting energy levels
One of the most well-known benefits of B vitamins in general is their ability to boost energy levels. Most of the B vitamins are involved in breaking down and releasing energy from food, and therefore, a deficiency in these vitamins can lead to fatigue and weakness. Vitamin B6, Folic acid (B9) and vitamin B12 are essential to produce red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the body’s cells. A lack of these B vitamins can lead to anaemia, which causes fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath.
Promoting neurological and mental health
B vitamins also play important roles in maintaining a healthy nervous system. Vitamin B6 and niacin, for example, are involved in the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which regulate mood and behaviour. B vitamins are also important for maintaining healthy brain function and memory. B vitamin deficiency has been linked to several neurological disorders including depression, anxiety, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Strengthening resilience and stress response
In prolonged stressful situations, our body releases more of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and cortisol. In order to form these, the body needs B vitamins. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled clinical trials determined that vitamin B supplements may support the stress response of healthy populations and those with suboptimal nutritional status alike. After 4 weeks of supplementation, all the studies found increased serum vitamin B levels and reduced homocysteine levels compared to a placebo (the amino acid homocysteine is increased during periods of stress, an elevated level of homocysteine is a risk factor for heart disease). This suggest that an adequate intake of all eight water-soluble B vitamins may be essential for optimal physiological and neurological function in the presence of stress.
Supporting heart health
In addition to these benefits, B vitamins have been shown to have a positive impact on cardiovascular health. For example, studies have found that taking folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 can help significantly lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. According to research, a reduction in homocysteine levels is also associated with a lower risk of stroke.
Essential for a strong immune system
As mentioned above, vitamins B2, B6, B12, and folic acid (B9) are all necessary to produce red blood cells. Red blood cells are important mediators of the innate immune system. Depending on the cellular environment, these cells either activate the immune system or maintain the system in a dormant state. If you have a folic acid deficiency, vitamin B6 deficiency, and/or vitamin B12 deficiency, your immune system may be out of whack or may start to falter, and your body will struggle to ward off pathogens.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that a higher intake of B vitamins, including folic acid, riboflavin, and Vitamin B6, was associated with a lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, a common eye disease.
Riboflavin, along with other nutrients, is also important for normal vision as it helps the retina receive light. And age-related cataract has proven to increase in those who are vitamin B2 deficient.
The B vitamins are critical for efficient liver detoxification of unwanted chemicals such as heavy metals, histamines, and bacterial toxins. Healthy detoxification relies on a little-known process called methylation which is dependent on B vitamins to work properly. Methylation helps your liver and other detox organs convert and excrete unwanted toxins from your body.
The B vitamins are also necessary to make and recycle glutathione, our body’s most powerful antioxidant. Scientists in Toronto found that four weeks of vitamin B supplementation reduced epigenetic damage caused by air pollution, this may be due to the increased glutathione production (more about this study).
Hormonal health in women
The B vitamins are super important for helping to maintain balanced hormones. For instance, vitamin B6 helps with the production of progesterone, a hormone many women are low in. Vitamin B12 and folic acid are essential to supporting the detoxification pathways for hormones in the liver, thereby boosting the breakdown of excess oestrogen in the body.
Supplementing with B vitamins
B vitamins are an important part of whole-body health as they play a role in almost every metabolic process, helping detoxify, repair DNA, boost immune function, energy, and more.
There are several reasons why someone may be at an increased risk for vitamin B deficiency. For example, certain medical conditions or medications can interfere with the absorption of these vitamins. Additionally, people in certain stages of life or people who follow restrictive diets or who have limited access to certain foods may not consume enough of these nutrients.
Especially the following groups of people may be at risk of vitamin B deficiency:
- pregnant and breastfeeding women
- older adults
- vegetarians and vegans
- individuals dealing with high levels of stress
- individuals with gastrointestinal disorders / malabsorption
- people with other health conditions such as autoimmune conditions, diabetes, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, depression, kidney disease, obesity, hypothyroidism, HIV, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, alcohol abuse disorder, AIDS, or cancer
- people who take certain medications, for instance proton pump inhibitors, certain diabetes medications, or contraceptives
Why supplementing with B vitamins can be beneficial for healthy individuals
While supplementing with vitamin B complex is necessary for some people under certain conditions, research has shown that taking a B complex supplement can also be helpful for people who do not have an increased need for these nutrients.
Some studies suggest that B complex vitamins can elevate your mood and improve your cognitive performance.
A 33-day study of 215 healthy men found that treatment with a high-dose B complex and mineral supplement improved overall mental health and stress, and increased performance on cognitive tests.
Another study in young adults showed that supplementation with a multivitamin high in B-complex vitamins (over 90 days) reduced workplace stress and mental fatigue.
Important to know when supplementing with B vitamins
B vitamins are water-soluble, which means that they cannot be stored by the body (with the exception of vitamin B12, which is mainly stored in the liver). Therefore, you need to make sure you get enough of all the B vitamins every day. Their water-solubility also means, that in the case of B vitamins, a little too much is much better than too little. Slight overconsumption2 above the recommended values1 of these water-soluble vitamins does generally not cause any harm as it is still far below the tolerable upper intake levels1. What is not absorbed is simply flushed out with your urine daily (this is true also for vitamin B12).
You are unlikely to get too much vitamin B complex from your diet or if you are taking any supplementation as directed. Deficiency, on the other hand, can have a severe impact on your health.
Of course, supplementing any nutrient can’t take the place of a healthy diet. Energy should ultimately come from the foods you eat, most notably carbohydrates and, to a lesser degree, proteins, and fats. B complex vitamins and other nutrients serve as a catalyst to convert these calories into energy, tissue, organs, and bodily functions as part of a healthy metabolism.
It is, however, also important to consider that B vitamins are sensitive to heat, so when cooked, their content in foods can decrease considerably. Also, long or improper storage of food can decrease its content in B vitamins and other micronutrients.
Vitamin B12 – best to take the active form when supplementing
Vitamin B12 is the most chemically complex of all the vitamins and it is a blanket name for a group of essential compounds called cobalamins. B12 comes in various forms and not all of them are effective. Methylcobalamin, the active form that occurs also in nature, is the most effective and easily absorbed but also the most expensive to produce. Its vegan form is made with the help of fermentation (microbial production). Cyanocobalamin, the synthetic and inactive form, is least effective, not well absorbed, and cheapest to produce (it is unfortunately found in many supplements). This is especially important to know as vitamin B12 deficiency is common, especially older adults and vegans are at risk (read more about important vitamins in a vegan diet here).
In Synergo products, we only use vegan methylcobalamin from fermentation.
Vitamin B complex and nutrient synergies
As important as it is that we are getting enough B vitamins, it is crucial that we are able to absorb them effectively. Other nutrients work in concert with B complex vitamins to enhance not only each other’s bioavailability but also working together to provide a range of health benefits. For instance, B vitamins serve as cofactors (coenzymes) used by hundreds of enzymes that carry out the key metabolic processes mentioned above through interrelated roles and cooperative functions.
So what is true for all nutrients is also true for B vitamins: They should not be taken isolated but together with synergistic nutrients, enzymes, and phytochemicals. Just like in nature where nutrients are always embedded in a nutrient matrix – leading to effects that are greater than the combined individual effects of each one. These effects are called synergies.
Below just a few of the important natural synergists that should ideally be present together in our body:
Thiamine + vitamin C:
Thiamine + magnesium:
Magnesium is required to convert thiamine to its biologically active form and is also required for certain thiamine-dependent enzymes.
Vitamin B6 + magnesium:
Magnesium enhances the absorption of vitamin B6 and vice versa. Co-supplementing with vitamin B6 and magnesium has been found to help PMS symptoms, ADHD, and possibly autism. Without Vitamin B6, magnesium cannot enter the cells.
A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that a combination of vitamin B6 and magnesium improved symptoms of depression and anxiety in women with premenstrual syndrome.
Niacin + vitamin B6 + magnesium:
With the help of vitamin B6, niacin, and magnesium, the amino acid tryptophan is converted to 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) and in a next step to the so-called happiness hormone serotonin.
B vitamins + choline:
Choline used to be called vitamin B4 until researchers found that humans can synthesize this compound themselves as long as their diet contains adequate amounts of the amino acid methionine and the B vitamin folic acid. But for sufficient levels, we are dependent on intake through the diet. Together with the B vitamins, choline is crucial for many metabolic functions in the body, contributing to a normal lipid metabolism, normal liver activity and a normal homocysteine metabolism.
Vitamin B6 + vitamin B12:
Vitamin B6 aids vitamin B12 absorption and activates many enzymes.
Riboflavin + iron + zinc:
Another study was able to show that riboflavin increases the absorption of both iron and zinc.
Vitamin B12 + folic acid:
Vitamin B12 is necessary to convert folic acid into its active form. If there is a vitamin B12 deficiency, folic acid in its inactive form is stored in the tissue, resulting in a lack of functional folic acid.
Vitamin B12 + folic acid + iron:
Vitamin B12 aids folic acid in the utilisation of iron. They work together to form healthy red blood cells.
Niacin + zinc:
Niacin enhances zinc absorption. Increased zinc levels are crucial in the maintenance of liver function and zinc is also very important in our body’s antioxidant defence system.
Niacin + chromium:
Together with chromium, niacin is responsible for the formation of glucose tolerance factor (GTF), a substance that works with insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.
B vitamins play countless important roles for the metabolic and regulatory processes in our body and are crucial for our health. Supplementing with B vitamins can provide a range of health benefits, from boosting energy levels to improving heart health, increasing resilience, and supporting detoxification.
Synergo basis is a nutrient synergies product especially composed for an active and healthy metabolism – the foundation of good health. Synergo basis provides the B vitamin complex together with important synergistic micronutrients and phytochemicals, embedded in a nutrient matrix from natural superfoods. Thanks to nutrient synergies, optimally composed nutrients and plant substances can provide an effect greater than the combined individual effects of each one.
1) Recommended daily intake amounts were issued by the EU as NRV (nutrient reference values) for vitamins and minerals to avoid deficiency, based on current scientific knowledge. UL stands for Tolerable Upper Intake Level and indicates how much at the most of each vitamin is considered safe without having side effects. For the B vitamins, the amounts to avoid deficiency (NRV) and upper intake levels (UL) are:
Thiamine: NRV ≥ 1,1 mg | UL non-existent
Riboflavin: NRV ≥ 1,4 mg | UL non-existent
Niacin: NRV ≥ 16 mg | UL = 35 mg as a dietary supplement
Pantothenic acid: NRV ≥ 6 mg | UL non-existent
Vitamin B6: NRV ≥ 1,4 mg | UL = 25 mg / day (EU); 100 mg / day (USA)
Biotin: NRV ≥ 50 µg | UL non-existent
Folic acid: NRV ≥ 200 µg | UL = 1 mg / day
Vitamin B12: NRV ≥ 2,5 µg | UL none established
2) With a “slight” overconsumption we refer to max 2 times the NRV (nutritional reference values). Of course, a vast overconsumption especially of niacin (B3) and folic acid (B9) should be avoided. Up to 35mg/day of niacin and up to 1000 µg/day of folic acid through supplements are thought to be safe.