B Vitamin : Characteristics, Benefits & Functions

In the past, there was talk of a single vitamin, although today it is accepted that the B complex is made up of 8 different substances. They all work together to help the body perform multiple functions.

The B-complex vitamins are a wide group of substances and not just one. Specifically, it is about 8 different micronutrients that play a very important role in obtaining energy through food.

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Most healthy people meet their daily needs through food. However, in some situations, it may be necessary and beneficial to use a supplement that contains all of them. These are the main uses, recommendations, and dosage of group B vitamins.

What are the B complex vitamins?

Vitamins are substances that the body needs to grow and develop normally. Unlike macronutrients, they do not provide energy and are required in very small amounts. But a deficit can cause disorders and even lead to disease.

At the moment, a total of 8 components have been identified within this group of the B complex. There are a large number of substances that have also been called by the same name, but which today are not considered as vitamins. Some are inositol, carnitine, or amygdalin.

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The set of B vitamins performs important functions at the level of cellular metabolism. All of them are water-soluble, so the body eliminates their excesses through urine and there is no possibility of storage. Consequently, it is necessary to replenish adequate amounts on a daily basis. The B complex has various organic functions, from the blood to the nervous system.[1]

The B vitamins and their functions

At the moment, a total of 8 vitamins have been identified within this group. The foods in which they are abundant and the supplements that contain them provide specific amounts of all. In summary, these are its main functions:

  • B1 or thiamine: vital for growth and proper function of organs such as the brain or the heart.
  • B2 or riboflavin: stands out for its antioxidant capacity and its participation in the elimination of drugs and toxins from the body.
  • B3 or niacin collaborates in the proper functioning of enzymes. It helps the body repair DNA and has important functions in the digestive, nervous, and dermal systems. 
  • B5 or pantothenic acid: stands out for its role in the synthesis of hormones and cholesterol. It is essential for the health of the brain and nervous system.
  • B6 or pyridoxine: helps the body to create new red blood cells and maintain the immune system.
  • B7 or biotin promotes the growth of some tissues such as bones, hair, and nails.
  • B9 or folic acid: the body uses it to create genetic material, such as DNA. In pregnancy, it reduces the risk of birth defects in the brain and spine. 
  • B12 or cobalamin helps in the proper maintenance of the nervous system and is necessary for the creation of red blood cells.

Dosage and commercial presentation

In the supplements of complex B, the 8 substances that compose it are usually presented together. However, it is also possible to find those that contribute to each of them separately. The most common way to take them is in tablets.

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The vitamin and mineral requirements are established by specialized organizations and, on some occasions, may differ slightly according to the regions or countries consulted. The recommended daily intake (RDI) ensures the necessary amount thanks to which deficit diseases are avoided. The Office of Dietary Supplements states the following for B vitamins:


B11.2 mg1.1 mg1.4 mg1.4 mg
B21.3 mg1.1 mg1.4 mg1.6 mg
B316 mg14 mg18 mg17 mg
B55 mg5 mg6 mg7 mg
B61.3 mg1.5 mg1.9 mg2 mg
B730 mcg30 mcg30 mcg35 mcg
B9400 mcg400 mcg600 mcg500 mcg
B122.4 mcg2.4mcg2.6 mcg2.8 mcg

Some add-ons help meet these daily needs. On the other hand, there are others that provide much higher doses. Although they can be useful in some conditions, it is recommended to consult with the doctor before taking them.

Uses and benefits of B vitamins

This group of micronutrients performs a large number of essential functions in the body. But also, there are health benefits to taking vitamin B complex supplements. Let's see what these specific uses are that have the scientific endorsement.

1. Mood, anxiety, and stress

There is a growing consensus that a person's nutritional status is a factor that has an important effect on neurological and psychiatric disorders. And some nutrients are very positive in this regard. This is observed in a systematic review of the effect of supplementation of complex B on the mood.

Studies clarify that the aforementioned vitamins can benefit mood in both healthy and at-risk individuals. The effects are clearer in cases of stress and depression. In contrast, the relationship is not observed in anxiety.

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2. Topical application in case of wounds and injuries

Its effect has been investigated due to the role played by this group of vitamins in the development of epithelial cells. Certain combinations of B vitamins show a positive influence and their application locally can benefit the physiological process of wound healing.

Contraindications and side effects

Since the B vitamins are not stored in the body, it is difficult to take amounts that can be toxic through food. Supplements are also safe to take as long as instructions are followed and dosages are adhered to. Even so, before using any food supplement, it is advisable to consult a specialist.

And it is that on some occasions side effects may appear. According to data collected by the European Food Safety Agency, these are the possible harmful effects of some of the B vitamins:

  • Taking very high doses of B6 for a long time can cause neuronal damage.
  • Keep in mind that folate supplementation can mask the symptoms of B12 deficiency. As a result, it may be more difficult to make a good diagnosis.
  • Pantothenic acid in high doses can cause diarrhea.
  • Some forms of B3 (nicotinamide and nicotinic acid) increase blood sugar levels, cause hypotension, fatigue, and liver damage.
  • The B complex vitamins are water-soluble, so they are eliminated daily with the urine.

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B complex is sometimes useful in supplements

To maintain good health, the B-complex vitamins can be obtained from the intake of green leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes, lean meats, eggs, and mushrooms. If you suffer from any disease or absorption problems, as well as if you are going through periods of pregnancy, lactation, or the elderly, a supplement may be necessary.

In addition, they can be prescribed for specific health problems. However, it is necessary to consult a specialist before starting to take them to find the most appropriate in each case. Good use also requires never exceeding the specific doses and indications of each manufacturer.