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What is the difference between B vitamins and their importance?

Nov 08, 18
What is the difference between B vitamins and their importance?

Have you ever wondered why doctors always tell you to have a balanced diete? Let's say you like pineapple chicken, for example. Pineapple and chicken are good for you, right? So why can't you live on pineapple chicken?

Why is vitamin B important?

The reason is that the building blocks of good health come from a variety of foods, even if they belong to the same family of nutrients. This is the case with vitamin B, which plays a key role in maintaining cellular health and energy.

Not all types of vitamin B do the same thing. In addition, the different types of vitamin B all come from different types of food. Vitamin B-12, for example, is found mainly in meat and dairy products.  B-7 and B-9  (and, to some extent, B-1 and B-2) are found in fruits and vegetables.

Deficiencies in any of these can lead to health problems. Sometimes a doctor will prescribe a supplement if they think you are not taking enough vitamin B.

Certain groups, such as the elderly and pregnant women, require greater amounts of certain types of vitamin B. Certain diseases, such as Crohn's disease,  celiac disease, HIV and excessive alcohol consumption, can lead to poor absorption of vitamin B.

Symptoms of a deficiency depend on the type of vitamin B you are missing. They can range from fatigue and confusion to anemia or a weakened immune system. Skin rashes can also occur.

What is the difference between B vitamins?

Here's an overview of the most common types of Vitamin B: what they do, what foods contain them, and why you need them.

Vitamin B-12

What it does: Vitamin B-12 (cobalamin) helps regulate the nervous system. It also plays a role in the growth and formation of red blood cells.

What foods contain it: Vitamin B-12 sFound mainly in meat and dairy products, so anyone on a strict vegan diet is at risk for deficiency. The only other dietary sources of B-12 are fortified foods.

Some of the best sources of vitamin B-12 include:

  • cheese (one portion is the size of a domino)
  • a glass of milk (1 cup)
  • fish (a portion of any meat is the same size as a deck of cards)
  • seashells
  • liver
  • kidney
  • Red meat

Try this recipe for a brunch version of ratatouille. Eggs and cheese make it an excellent source of vitamin B-12.

What happens if you don't have enough? Vitamin B-12 deficiencies can lead to anemia and confusion in the elderly.

Psychological conditions such as dementia, paranoia, depression and behavioral changes can be the result of a vitamin B-12 deficiency. Neurological damage is sometimes irreversible.

Vitamin B-12 deficiency can cause the following symptoms: 

  • tingling in the feet and hands
  • extreme fatigue
  • fault
  • irritability or depression

Vitamin B-6

What it does: Vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) helps the body turn food into energy. He can also help the body fight infections.  Pregnant and breastfeeding women need it to help their baby's brain develop normally.

From where you get it: B-6 is in: 

  • Chickpeas
  • tuna
  • Salmon
  • whole grains and cereals (one serving is the size of your fist)
  • Liver of beef
  • ground beef
  • Chicken breast
  • watermelon (a serving of fruit is no bigger than a fist)
  • potatoes
  • spinach (one serving equals one rounded handful)

Whisk a bowl of Asian rice with salmon and spinach to get your daily serving of vitamin B-6.

Why you need it: Insufficient B-6 can cause anemia  as well as skin disorders, such as a rash or cracks around the mouth. A lack of B-6 can also cause:

  • economic crisis
  • disarray
  • nausea
  • anemia
  • susceptibility to infections
  • rashes (dermatitis)

Vitamins B-1 and B-2

What they do: Vitamin B-1 is also called thiamine, and Vitamin B-2 is also called riboflavin. These vitamins help turn food into energy. Vitamin B-1 has neurological benefits and vitamin B-2 helps maintain good eyesight.

Where you get it from: Most people get thiamine  from breakfast cereals and whole grains. Riboflavin is found in:

  • Whole grains
  • milk
  • ova
  • dark green vegetables
  • Get your daily servings of green vegetables with this green smoothie.

Why you need it: Thiamine and riboflavin deficiencies are generally not a problem in the United States. This is due to the fact that many foods, such as milk and whole grain cereals, are fortified with vitamins. However, it can become a problem in people who abuse alcohol and have symptoms such as confusion and cracks in the sides of the mouth.

Vitamin B-3

What it does: Vitamin B-3 (niacin) also helps convert food into energy. It helps with good digestion and a good appetite.

Where you get it: Niacin is found in: 

  • hen
  • fish
  • liver
  • Red meat
  • whole grains, such as wheat and barley
  • peanuts

Why you need it: A lack of niacin can cause digestive problems, like nausea and abdominal cramps. A severe deficiency can also cause mental confusion.

Vitamin B-9

What it does: Vitamin B-9 is also called folate or folic acid. Folic acid is found naturally in food. Folic acid is the synthetic form that is often found in fortified and processed foods. Like most B vitamins, vitamin B-9 promotesgrowth of red blood cells. It also reduces the risk of birth defects when consumed by pregnant women.

From where you get it: Vitamin B-9 can be found in: 

  • meats
  • Whole grains
  • beets
  • citrus
  • fish
  • fortified cereals
  • legumes
  • green leafy vegetables
  • liver and kidneys

Why you need it: Without enough folate, a person can develop diarrhea or anemia. Pregnant women with folate deficiency can give birth to babies with abnormalities.  However, an excessive supplement of folic acid during pregnancy can also lead to neurological problems in the baby.

Prevention of deficiencies

To stay healthy most people don't need to take a supplement to get enough B vitamins. There are lots of delicious foods available to get all the nutrients you need naturally, as long as you maintain a full diet of meats, grains, fruits and vegetables.

Sometimes over-the-counter supplements are used to prevent deficiencies. Vitamin supplements should only be taken on the advice of a doctor. If you are pregnant or elderly over 50it is more likely that you will need supplements.

Additionally, supplementation is only a last resort if you can't get B vitamins from food, or if you have certain health conditions that warrant their use. The risk of overdose is lower than for other nutrients because B vitamins are water-soluble. However, supplements can still cause side effects or long-term health effects or interact with the medications you take.

If you think you are vitamin B deficient, contact your doctor. They can order a physical exam as well as blood tests.

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