Here’s What You Need To Know About B-Complex Vitamins

IF YOU KNOW anyone who is deficient in B vitamins, you have probably seen them take a B complex vitamin supplement. They’ve been touted as the cure-all for your B vitamin-related needs—but do you really need them?

“B-complex vitamins are a group of essential micronutrients, consisting of water-soluble B vitamins. [They] requires regular replenishment to maintain overall body function,” said Amy ShapiroMS, RD “This micronutrient is essential for maintaining your energy levels because of its role in metabolic processes.”

B-complex vitamins also play a sizeable role in the health of your brain and nervous system. It consists of eight smaller vitamins: thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), biotin, folic acid, and cobalamin (vitamin B12). ).

“They are called ‘B complex’ because, although they are different vitamins, their functions in the body are so similar that they are grouped into one category,” says Moody’s fate, RD, sports performance dietitian. “Our metabolism doesn’t work optimally without enough vitamins from the B complex.”

Looking ahead, what should you know about this essential nutrient.

What are B-Complex Vitamins?

As we mentioned above, the B-complex vitamins are a group of B vitamins that help our body function. This vitamin is water soluble, “meaning it dissolves in water and is not stored in our bodies,” says Shapiro. Intake from our daily diet is necessary to maintain levels of this vitamin, and the B vitamins work best together.

What are the Benefits of B-Complex Vitamins?

They are responsible for anabolic (build) and catabolic (break down) processes in the body, including the release and breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and amino acids. They also transport energy-containing oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.

There’s more: B vitamins act as coenzymes that help speed up these processes, especially in the brain and nervous system, says Shapiro. They are even related to improvement of mental health and cognitive performance.

Separately, each specific vitamin has its own task. For example, Moody’s says that vitamin B12, in particular, helps maintain red blood cells and provides a coating on our nerves that helps conduct nerve impulses. Most of the other vitamins in the complex act as coenzymes to help the body produce sufficient energy—powering everything from waking up to crashing your basketball game. This is why you commonly find B vitamins in energy and sports drinks.

“Simply put, B vitamins are essential to our health because they act as a chaperone to all the other hormones and enzymes that control our metabolism and other bodily processes that we do not consciously control,” says Moody. They are “the main background performers of our body”.

What Are the Risks of Getting Too Many B-Complex Vitamins?

Yes, you need all the B vitamins. And yes, as with most things in life, there can be too many of the good things.

“Getting too many B vitamins from supplements is possible. The first thing you will notice after getting a very high dose of B vitamins is neon yellow urine, but this is not dangerous,” said Moody. B vitamins are water soluble, so the body usually excretes the excess if you consume too much.

Supplementing at very high doses can overwhelm your kidneys and liver to the point of being unable to safely clear the compound, so stick to the recommended dosage when supplementing. More serious implications of consuming too much are vomiting, diarrhea and liver damage.

“Only exist three B vitamins which has an upper limit for daily consumption. An upper limit for folic acid was established because increased intake of folic acid can mask a deficiency in vitamin B12. The upper limit of niacin is ascribed to the potential for causing temporary flushing of the skin with an intake of 100mg,” said Shapiro. “Lastly, excessive intake of vitamin B6 may be responsible for reversible sensory neuropathy, but more research is needed to understand the link.”

From What Foods Can You Get B Vitamins?

You may get enough B vitamins from what’s on your plate.

“In general, the majority of men get sufficient B vitamins in their diets, but it is possible for them to be deficient in some cases,” said Moody. Men following strict diets may not be getting enough vitamins, especially if they are vegan. B12 is found naturally only in animal foods, but some foods such as cereals, plant-based milk and nutritional yeast are fortified with it. Men who drink excessively, because alcohol depletes the body of B vitamins, may also be deficient.

Moody shares that B vitamins can be found naturally in a variety of foods, including milk, eggs, seafood, beef, chicken, turkey, fortified cereals and most vegetables.

How Many B-Complex Vitamins Do You Need?

This is a somewhat tricky question, as the amount you need depends on each of the eight vitamins individually. You don’t need to memorize number, but you may want to scan food and/or supplement labels to make sure you’re getting 100 percent of the daily value for this vitamin, especially if you’re vegan or vegetarian. The most common B-complex deficiency is B12which you can find in animal products and breakfast cereals or fortified milk.

How do you know if you are deficient in a B-complex vitamin?

Shapiro says deficiency symptoms include tiredness, weakness, and slow reflexes. More specific signs depend on which B vitamins are lacking in the diet or not absorbed. Since you depend on B vitamins for daily functioning, you will usually know if something is wrong with your intake.

“Because of the role of the B vitamins in producing energy, making red blood cells, and helping with the transmission of nerve impulses, you’ll see signs in these body systems when you’re not getting enough of these vitamins,” says Moody. “You may experience numbness or tingling in your extremities, muscle weakness, anemia, or an irregular heartbeat.”

A more serious deficiency has a wider effect on the body. Some can be permanent depending on how severe the deficiency is and how long you have had the deficiency. “These effects include depression, memory loss, confusion, decreased motor function, or paranoia,” says Moody.

What to Know About Choosing a B-Complex Vitamin Supplement:

As always, consult your primary care doctor or registered dietitian to see if a B complex vitamin supplement might be right for you. Blood tests will be able to tell you if you are getting enough B12 and other nutrients.

One general guideline to remember when shopping for any vitamin is to make sure it is third-party tested, says Shapiro. The FDA does not regulate supplements and therefore supplement companies are not required to tell you exactly what you are getting. Examples of these third-party lab companies include Consumer Labs, NSF, or Informed Choice.

“These labs test supplements for purity, safety, and potency, and dietitians always recommend consumers rely on products that have been through this process for optimal results,” said Moody’s. Especially for B-complex supplements, make sure all the B vitamins are included in the product and check the specific dosage depending on your body’s needs.

Watch for supplements with excessive amounts of vitamins, such as a DV of 500% or more. “You also have to be sure that there is enough Vitamin B12 above all. As well as being one of the most essential B vitamins in the complex, it’s also one of the most commonly deficient, making it the most in need of supplements,” he says.

Remember, though—unless you’ve been told by your doctor to supplement, you probably shouldn’t waste any money.

“As long as a person is following a healthy diet with a good balance of lean protein and vegetables, there is no need to take B-complex supplements,” says Moody. “Like vitamin C, the B complex vitamins are water soluble. Consequently, they cannot be stored for later use. The body will use what it needs, and the rest is excreted as waste in the urine.

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Headshot of Perri O. Blumberg

Perri is a writer born and living in New York City; she holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University and is also a graduate of the culinary school of the plant-based Natural Gourmet Institute, which is now the Natural Gourmet Center at the Institute of Culinary Education. Her work has appeared in the New York Post, Men’s Journal, Rolling Stone, Oprah Daily,, Architectural Digest, Southern Living and many others. He might see the Dave Matthews Band in your hometown, and he would never turn down a bloody mary. Learn more at

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