There are eight B-vitamins in vitamin B-complex as well as several related substances. The eight vitamins are thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), cobalamin (B12), folic acid, pantothenic acid and biotin. The other related substances include choline, inositol and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA).
Historically the B-vitamins were discovered from what was know originally as vitamin B, and hence they were grouped together as B-complex. Although each individual vitamin or related substance performs a different function in the body, they all work together to maintain good health and vitality.
The B-vitamins help to maintain the health of the nerves, skin, eyes, hair, liver, and mouth, as well as healthy muscle tone in the gastrointestinal tract and proper brain function. B-Complex vitamins are coenzymes involved in energy production, and may be useful in alleviating depression or anxiety. Adequate intake of the B-vitamins is very important for elderly people because these nutrients are not as well absorbed as we age.
The B-complex has a wide range of properties, including:-
A well-balanced diet should provide us with all the B-vitamins that we require, but because they are water-soluble and therefore not retained by the body, we need a daily dietary source.
Vitamin B-complex deficiency is known to cause feelings of internal coldness as your core body temperature dips.
Homocysteine imbalances could be an early sign of B-vitamin deficiency inside cells, one that occurs well before vitamin levels actually decline in serum. "Homocysteine may, in fact, be a more sensitive marker of vitamin B12, B6 or folate deficiency and... may precede deficiency of circulating vitamins." [Am J Gastroenterol. 2001 96(7): pp.2143-9]
If you have very low levels of any of the B-vitamins, one of the first symptoms is depression. Studies show that one out of four people hospitalized for depression is deficient in pyridoxine and cobalamin.
The B-vitamins are crucial in the direct synthesis of the brain neurotransmitters. [J Affect Disord. 1986;10: pp.9-13; Psychosomatics. 1980;21: pp.926-9] Low levels of thiamin (B1) [Psychopharmacology (Berlin) 1997;129: pp.66-71], riboflavin (B2) and pyridoxine (B6) are often found in clinically depressed individuals. [British Journal of Psychiatry 1982;141: pp.271-2]
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