The vitamin B family includes eight distinct compounds: thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyroxidine (B6), biotin (B7), folic acid (B9) and cobalamin (B12). As a group, these vitamins help the body’s basic digestion and metabolism and have several other beneficial effects.
5 Brain Function
A recent study cited by AARP found that the B6, B9 and B12 combination also improves memory and concentration and may help to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly. The study also linked this benefit to reduced homocysteine levels in the bloodstream.
4 Growth and Metabolism
The B family is essential for good functioning of the digestive system, helping the body to convert food into essential components such as amino acids and red blood cells. Pantothenic acid or B5 supports growth and the body’s production of hormones; niacin also aids digestion and contributes to healthy skin. Riboflavin and B12 help the body produce red blood cells; B12 contributes to the synthesis of DNA.
3 Stroke Risk
Folate, as well as B6 and B12, can assist the body in converting the amino acid homocysteine into methionine, a building block of new protein. A well-known Harvard study found that without enough of these B vitamins, the increase in homocysteine levels creates added risk of stroke. A good dose of B6 comes from beans, fish, leafy greens, oranges, cantaloupe, poultry and oranges.
2 Cancer Fighting
Several members of the B complex are also known cancer fighters. Folic acid (folate), according to WebMD, helps to prevent colon, breast and cervical cancer (pregnant women take this vitamin to prevent birth defects and miscarriages). The American Cancer Society also mentions that diets low in folate may increase cancer risk, and that doctors recommended regular intake of leafy vegetables and enriched grains to ensure you’re getting enough B9.
1 Mood and Energy
The vitamin B complex helps to regulate the central nervous system. A lack of B vitamins in the diet can lead to depression and anxiety; B12 in particular is important for converting carbohydrates into glucose, which lends energy. B vitamins also assist in the production of serotonin, a mood-elevating hormone that contributes to healthy appetite and sleep patterns.