How Many Types of B Vitamins Are There?
Unless you’re a nutritionist — or a nutritional expert — you may not realize there’s more than one type of Vitamin B. But how many types of B vitamins are there? There are several types of Vitamin B. There are eight, to be exact: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12.
We are taught that we can get all our vitamins and nutrients from a healthy diet. However, few people actually eat the right foods to ensure they’re getting a balanced diet. In addition, the way our food is processed these days makes it more difficult than ever to get proper nutrition.
Whether you are eating processed foods, skipping meals because of your schedule or eating produce that has been chemically treated, you’re likely missing one or many of the essential B vitamins. That’s why people turn to vitamin and mineral supplements to make up for what’s lost.
When choosing a high-quality B vitamin, you want to make sure it is made up of all eight, not just one. The B group vitamins work together — multivitamins exist for a reason. And when you are lacking even one, you could prevent your body from functioning at its best and even cause health problems. That’s why we’ve put together a list of all the B vitamins and the benefits each one offers.
What Do B Vitamins Do?
B vitamins promote overall general health. These essential vitamins are often considered the building blocks of a healthy body, as each directly impacts energy levels, cell metabolism and brain function.
Vitamin B complex may help promote:
- Energy levels
- Optimal cell health
- Better eyesight
- Growth of new red blood cells
- Healthy brain functions
- Healthy appetite
- Cholesterol production
- Hormone production
- Proper digestion
- Better muscle tone
- Cardiovascular health
- Nerve function
Furthermore, B vitamins are essential for expectant mothers. According to the American Pregnancy Association, these vitamins can aid fetal brain development and may reduce the chance of birth defects.
Men need all types of Vitamin B as well. Studies show B vitamins function as a way that boosts testosterone, a hormone that naturally decreases with age. However, the hormone is needed to increase strength, build muscle, improve mood and increase sex drive.
B-complex vitamins combine all the different B vitamins to ensure each person gets what’s needed. Whether you are hoping for a stronger immune system or better overall health, the primary role of B vitamins can be beneficial.
Let’s dive deeper by looking at a list of all types of Vitamin B and what they can do for your body.
Complete B Vitamins List
While we will look closely at all of the types of B vitamins and their benefits in a minute, it will be helpful for you to get a quick overview of each one:
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): This essential B vitamin converts food into energy, supports your nervous system and encourages healthy muscle contraction. It’s often labeled as an anti-stress vitamin because it protects the immune system.
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): This B vitamin breaks down carbohydrates, proteins and fat from your food. It’s needed for red blood cell production and body growth.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): This vitamin aids the digestive system, nervous system and skin. It’s also valuable to cellular energy production and boosting HDL cholesterol.
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid): This vitamin is required to break down carbohydrates and fats while converting them into energy. It is also essential for hormone production and growth.
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): Vitamin B6 is used in more than one hundred cellular reactions within the body. Not only does it metabolize amino acids and balance moods, but it also aids the production of new red blood cells.
- Vitamin B7 (Biotin): Vitamin B7 is known as a beauty vitamin because it supports healthy skin, hair and nails.
- Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid): Vitamin B9 plays a vital role in fetal health, especially involving babies’ nervous system development.
- Vitamin B12 (Methylcobalamin): This B vitamin helps produce red blood cells — similarly to iron. It also aids in regulating the nervous system.
Let’s look closer at the types of Vitamin B and their names and properties.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Thiamine is one of the water-soluble B vitamins. It is present in some foods, so most people don’t suffer from a Vitamin B1 deficiency. However, the early signs of a deficiency in Vitamin B1 are confusion, weight loss, short-term memory loss, cardiovascular symptoms and muscle weakness.
Vitamin B1 has been linked to the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, reducing the chance of developing cataracts and lowering the instance of kidney disease for diabetic patients. The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends that most adults consume between 1.1 and 1.4 mg of Vitamin B1 daily.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Riboflavin is another water-soluble B Vitamin. It is found in several foods and is a vital component of two major coenzymes: flavin mononucleotide and flavin adenine dinucleotide. These coenzymes are needed for energy production, cellular function and proper metabolism.
While riboflavin deficiency isn’t common in the United States, some people have a higher risk than others. Supplementation might be important if you have a thyroid hormone insufficiency or suffer from other endocrine abnormalities. Initial B2 deficiency symptoms produce throat or mouth edema, hair loss, cracked lips, reproductive problems, red eyes, sore throat and the degeneration of the liver.
The Office of Dietary Supplements suggests adults consume between 1.1 and 1.6 mg of riboflavin daily.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Niacin is another water-soluble B vitamin. This one is needed to create nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, which is required by more than four hundred enzymes.
While most people get enough niacin through their diet, some may require supplementation. A severe Vitamin B3 deficiency can lead to severe health problems, such as pellagra.
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends adults consume between 14 and 19 mg — or Niacin Equivalent (NE) — daily, which most people can achieve solely through proper dieting.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
This water-soluble B vitamin aids the synthesis of CoA and acyl carrier proteins. It’s needed for fatty acid synthesis. While the Mayo Clinic claims this supplement can help prevent breathing problems, skin ailments, arthritis and stave off gray hair, more research must be done to confirm these benefits.
The majority of adults get enough Vitamin B5 through their diet. The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends most adults consume between 5 and 7 mg of pantothenic acid daily.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
This water-soluble B vitamin is needed for more than one hundred enzyme reactions, mainly centered on protein metabolism. The body doesn’t produce Vitamin B6 on its own, however, which makes it extremely important to make sure you’re getting enough through diet and supplements.
Most people will not struggle with a Vitamin B6 deficiency. Those at greater risk include people who have impaired renal function, are dependent on alcohol or struggling with an autoimmune disorder. Initial symptoms include lip scaling, cracks in the corners of the mouth, confusion and depression.
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends most adults consume 1.3 to 2.0 mg of B6 each day.
Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
This water-soluble B vitamin is essential for histone modification, cell signaling and gene regulation.
Very few people are Vitamin B7 deficient. However, pregnant or nursing mothers may require supplementation, as well as people suffering from a biotinidase deficiency. Initial symptoms of deficiency include hair loss, skin rashes, brittle nails, depression and fatigue.
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends that most adults consume 30 to 35 mcg of biotin daily.
Vitamin B-9 (Folic Acid)
Folic Acid is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential in cellular division, production of red blood cells and protein synthesis.
Most cases of folic acid deficiency are linked to poor diet, malabsorptive disorders and alcoholism. It’s also vital pregnant women receive an adequate amount of Vitamin B9. Symptoms of folic acid deficiency include fatigue, weakness, irritability, heart palpitations, trouble concentrating and shortness of breath.
The Office of Dietary Supplements suggests adults consume 400 to 600 DFE of Vitamin B9 daily.
Vitamin B-12 (Methylcobalamin)
This essential vitamin is needed by the body, but cannot be produced on its own. Instead, you must eat B12-rich foods or take a supplement. This vitamin supports the normal function of nerve cells and is required for red blood cell formation, as well as DNA synthesis.
Those who are most at risk for a B12 deficiency include older adults, those with anemia, people with gastrointestinal ailments or people who recently had surgery. Additionally, vegetarians and pregnant women may benefit from supplementation. The Office of Dietary Supplements suggests that most adults should consume between 2.4 and 2.8 mcg of B12 a day.
What Are Some Good Sources of Vitamin B?
To ensure you’re getting enough of every type of Vitamin B, it’s best to eat a well-balanced diet. The following Vitamin B food sources are high in just about every B vitamin:
- Whole grains: Consider adding barley, millet and brown rice to your diet. Some breakfast foods are also fortified with B vitamins.
- Meat: Beef liver and organ meat have the highest Vitamin B content. However, not everyone is accustomed to the taste of these foods. But all beef is high in B vitamins, including niacin and pyridoxine. However, chicken and turkey shouldn’t be overlooked, especially the white meat. Pork, on the other hand, is high in thiamine, which isn’t as prominent in beef.
- Seafood/fish: Salmon is one of the most nutritious fishes, with lots of Vitamin B, but it also is low in mercury and high in omega-3 fats. Trout is similarly packed with nutrients. Plus, mussels, clams and oysters feature a lot of B12 and riboflavin.
- Eggs: One egg contains 33% of the biotin RDI and is also rich in other B vitamins.
- Dairy products: One cup of milk has 26% of your riboflavin RDI, plus other beneficial nutrients. Yogurt is also known for riboflavin and B12, but you want to avoid brands with a lot of sugar.
- Legumes: Not only are these high in folate; you will find other B vitamins as well. Choose nutrient-rich legumes, such as black beans, lentils, edamame, green peas and chickpeas.
- Sunflower seeds: One ounce of sunflower seeds has 20% of the recommended daily intake of pantothenic acid. These are also packed with folate, B6 and niacin. Sunflower seed butter is a popular option for people with nut allergies, as well.
- Dark, leafy vegetables: The best vegetables to enjoy include raw spinach, collard greens, romaine lettuce and turnip greens.
Benefits of Taking a Vitamin B Complex Supplement
While most people get enough B vitamins through their diet, there are times when supplementation is required to boost overall health or fight off a deficiency. Symptoms of a Vitamin B deficiency include:
- Cracks around the mouth
- Swollen tongue
- Skin rash
- Scaly skin on lips
- Abdominal cramps
- Tingling or numbness in extremities
Some people are at a higher risk of Vitamin B deficiency. You might benefit from supplementation if you:
- Are pregnant
- Eat a vegan or vegetarian diet
- Are 50 or older
- Suffer from a chronic health condition
B vitamins are water-soluble, so it’s difficult to consume too many. The biggest benefit of taking a multivitamin or B-complex vitamin is that you won’t have to figure out how much of each nutrient to consume. Just make sure you choose a high-quality B-complex multivitamin that includes the recommended value listed above for each specific B vitamin.
There are several benefits of taking B-complex supplements regularly. If you are unsure if taking a B-complex vitamin is right for you, it’s best to speak with your healthcare professional.