What Do You Know About the B Vitamins?
Introduction Despite supplement advertisements that claim otherwise, vitamins do not provide the body with fuel for energy. Only carbohydrate, fat and protein are used for fuel. But because B vitamin...
Despite supplement advertisements that claim otherwise, vitamins do not provide the body with fuel for energy. Only carbohydrate, fat and protein are used for fuel. But because B vitamins help the body use that fuel, it is true that without B vitamins the body would lack energy.
The B vitamins have common dietetic sources such as whole grains, legumes, eggs, dairy products, meat, meat organs, fish and yeast. They are soluble in water and are quickly assimilated by our body. Since they are also eliminated through the urine, we have to ingest them in a daily basis through our diet.
These vitamins perform many functions in our body; they are in charge of carrying out physical and chemical processes that keep us alive and healthy. Within this group we find:
B1 – Thiamin
Its function is fundamental for proper digestion of food, and to process carbohydrate. We find it in meat, egg yolk, yeast, legumes (dry beans, lentils and garbanzos) and whole grains.
Lack of this vitamin produces lesions in the nervous system which depends in part on the absorption of carbohydrate; it can contribute to cardiovascular disease and may cause gastrointestinal lesions.
Alcohol impairs thiamin absorption and enhances thiamin excretion in the urine. An estimated four out of five alcoholics are thiamin deficient. Prolonged thiamin deficiency can result in the disease beriberi, which was first observed in East Asia when the custom of polishing rice became widespread. Rice provided 80% of the energy intake for the people of that area and rice germ and bran were their principal source of thiamin.
B2 – Riboflavin
This vitamin is part of the energy metabolism as well as of the formation of certain enzymes that prevent inflammation in the mouth, tongue, skin, eyes and gastrointestinal tract. Thus, B2 is essential in the metabolism of cells and the maintenance of a healthy skin, mucous membranes and eyes. We can find it in meat, dairy products, whole grains and dark green vegetables.
B3 – Niacin
Known as been the vitamin administered in cases of intoxication such as the one produced by alcohol, this vitamin has also a very important role in the nervous system and digestive tract functions. It is also part of the production of sexual hormones and in maintaining a healthy skin.
B3 is found in meat, meat organs, poultry, fish, yeast, legumes, dairy products, eggs and whole grains. A serious lack of this vitamin causes significant damage in our tissues. Pellagra is the characteristic disease caused by a lack of B3.
B5 – Pantothenic Acid
This vitamin has a main role in the absorption of carbohydrate, protein, and lipids (fats). It participates in the synthesis of iron and in the formation of insulin. A deficiency of this vitamin causes headaches, vomiting, cramps and tingling in arms and legs. This circumstance however is unusual because this vitamin is found in all vegetable and animal tissues.
B6 – Pyridoxine
Vitamin B6 is part of the metabolism of protein and amino acids, the production of hemoglobin which is in charge of transporting oxygen to our cells as well as the equilibrium of sodium and potassium.
It is found in all foods already mentioned as a general source of the B vitamins. Lack of B6 can cause, among other things, dermatitis, slow growth in children, fatty liver, anemia, insomnia, fatigue, depression, irritability, apathy.
B9 – Folic Acid
Folic acid is of the utmost importance in cell division (growing) and the formation of red cells. Its role is extremely important because it participates in the synthesis of our DNA components which are fundamental for cells to form so as to enable our body to develop and live.
It is found mainly in dark green vegetables, liver, legumes, seeds, and whole grains. Lack of this vitamin can cause a kind of anemia that when it happens in children, it can lower their resistance to illnesses and cause difficulties in their growing.
Several research studies have confirmed the importance of folic acid in reducing the risks or neural tube defects. The brain and spinal cord develop from the neural tube, and defects in its orderly formation during the early weeks of pregnancy may result in various central nervous system disorders and death.
B12 – Cobalamin
As well as folic acid, B12 has as its main functions the formation and maturation or red blood cells. It also participates in the maintenance and proper functioning of the nervous system cells. This vitamin is necessary to maintain the energy reserve in our muscles.
B12 is only found in animal products – meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy products and fortified cereals. Lack of this vitamin causes pernicious anemia (problems with the formation of red blood cells) and the loss of myelin in the nervous cells. A deficiency of B12 can cause mental disorders.
For what we have seen here we may conclude that each of these vitamins performs different tasks and that their many actions can be considered individually. Not quite true. Many times it is difficult to tell which vitamin is performing which function because the presence or absence of one affects another’s absorption, metabolism and excretion. In fact, these vitamins depend on each other to function optimally; a deficiency of any of them creates multiple problems. Fortunately, a variety of foods from each of the food groups will provide an adequate supply of all the B vitamins.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emilia Klapp has a degree in Nutrition Science and is a Registered Dietitian. With her new book, “Your Heart Needs the Mediterranean Diet”, she has helped many people just like you reduce the risk of heart disease and lose weight at the same time. For more information on the book and to receive a free especial report on the “Top 10 Mediterranean Curative Ingredients” go to: http://www.mediterraneanheart.com/