What is vitamin B complex and what are the benefits?
There are eight B vitamins essential to human nutrition, each of which has different health benefits. Sometimes, B vitamins are sold separately or in combination with other types of vitamin. Sometimes, they are combined and sold as one supplement referred to as “vitamin B complex”.
The NHS advises that a healthy and balanced diet contains all the B vitamins you will need. However, if you don’t think you’re getting enough this way, you may want to start taking vitamin B complex supplements.
What is vitamin B complex?
As explained above, “vitamin B complex” is simply a term used to describe supplements that contain all the essential B vitamins. These eight vitamins are:
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin)
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (niacin)
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
- Vitamin B7 (biotin)
- Vitamin B9 (folate and folic acid)
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
You might notice that the numbering of the vitamins does not correspond to how many there are. This is because other vitamins that were once considered B vitamins have since been removed from the list.
When you see a product labelled as vitamin B complex, it should contain all of the vitamins listed above in specific doses.
What are the benefits of vitamin B complex?
The B vitamins listed above are essential to maintaining good health. Some key areas of the body benefitted by B vitamins include:
- The nervous system
- The skin and eyes
- The blood
Additionally, B vitamins play an important role in releasing energy from the foods we eat.
Vitamin B complex benefits for women
For women, B vitamins have some specific benefits. Vitamin B9 (folate and folic acid) is recommended for women who are pregnant, or who are trying to get pregnant because folic acid helps to prevent birth defects.
Vitamin B complex benefits for men
B vitamins offer no benefits that are specific to men, other than that they contribute to general good health. As a note, men generally need to consume slightly higher doses of B vitamins than women.
What is the recommended intake of vitamin B complex?
According to the NHS, each individual B vitamin has a different recommended dosage per day, which is different for men and women. When you buy vitamin B complex supplements, it’s worth reading the ingredients list to make sure the dosages are close to the RDAs outlined below.
There is no specific guidance about daily dosages for B5 (pantothenic acid) or B7 (biotin). Instead, the NHS recommends that a daily dosage of B5 should not exceed 200mg, and that a daily dosage of B7 should not exceed 0.9mg.
How much vitamin B complex do women need?
Each day, women should aim to consume:
- 8mg or 800mcg B1 (thiamin)
- 1mg B2 (riboflavin)
- 2mg B3 (niacin)
- 2mg B6 (pyridoxine)
- 2mg of 200mcg B9 (folate and folic acid)
- 0015mg or 1.5mcg B12 (cobalamin)
If you are pregnant it’s usually advised that you take a higher dose of vitamin B9: 0.4mg or 400mcg. Some women with increased risks of birth defects will need an even higher daily dose. Your GP will be able to advise you on how much vitamin B you need to take when pregnant.
How much vitamin B complex do men need?
- 1mg B1 (thiamin)
- 3mg B2 (riboflavin)
- 5mg B3 (niacin)
- 4mg B6 (pyridoxine)
- 2mg or 200mcg B9 (folate and folic acid)
- 0015mg or 1.5mcg B12 (cobalamin)
Vitamin B complex deficiency
A deficiency may be caused by a limited diet or another health condition that prevents the body from properly absorbing all the essential B vitamins. You are more at risk of low vitamin B if you have a condition such as coeliac disease, HIV, Crohn’s disease, or inflammatory bowel disease.
Symptoms of a general vitamin B deficiency include:
- Skin rashes
- Cracking and scaly skin round the mouth and lips
- Swelling of the tongue
- Low mood
- Numbness in the feet and hands
These kinds of symptoms can point to lots of different conditions, not just a vitamin B deficiency, so if you’re experiencing them you shouldn’t self-diagnose. Instead, make an appointment to speak to your doctor.
What foods can you find vitamin B in?
Many different foods contain B vitamins, which is why most people should be able to get enough through their daily diet alone.
Key foods that contain B vitamins include:
- Wholegrain bread
- Leafy green vegetables
Why you might need a vitamin B complex supplement
If you follow a restricted diet – for example, you don’t eat any animal products – you may find it difficult to consume all the B vitamins you need.
Taking supplements such as Nu U Vitamin B Complex or Pink get up & go tablets can help to round out your diet, ensuring that you get all the nutrients you need to stay fit and healthy. Just remember: these supplements shouldn’t be taken as a substitute for a balanced diet.
For people with a severe deficiency caused by another condition, it’s best to get medical advice before taking vitamin B complex supplements as your doctor may have an alternative treatment. In the case of a specific B12 deficiency, for instance, B12 injections may be prescribed.
Vitamin B complex side effects
Provided you take your supplements in the recommended dosages, you shouldn’t experience any side effects.