Last week we touched on half of the B vitamins and what they do. To learn more about B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin) and B5 (pantothenic acid), click here. This week we will look at the remaining four: vitamins B6, B7, B9 and B12.
B vitamins as a whole are important for converting food into energy levels. In fact, a study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that physically active individuals with low levels of B vitamins perform worse during high-intensity exercise than those with adequate levels. The study also found that low levels of B vitamins contribute to a reduction in the body’s ability to repair muscles and build muscle mass.
B6 (pyridoxine): Vitamin B6 metabolizes carbohydrates and proteins and helps in the formation of red blood cells. B6 is also involved in brain processes and development, immune function and steroid hormone activity. Found in soybeans/soy products (tempeh, tofu), whole grains, beans and lentils, potatoes, bananas, avocados, beef, poultry, fish, nuts and seeds, deficiencies are unusual but can occur with heavy alcohol consumption, women on the contraceptive pill, the elderly, and people with autoimmune disorders and thyroid disease.
B7 (biotin): Most commonly known as biotin, it works with other B vitamins to break down protein, fat and carbohydrates from food. Many people use biotin to help promote hair, skin and nail health. To get enough biotin, eat eggs, fish (salmon, tuna), beef, pork, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, dairy, nuts, seeds and soy products. Symptoms of deficiencies include skin rashes, brittle nails, hair loss, depression and lethargy.
B9 (folate): Folate (folic acid in its supplement form) is essential in the body’s ability to make red blood cells and in the development of the fetal nervous system, DNA synthesis and cell growth. Folic acid as a supplement is recommended for women trying to conceive, as well as those who are pregnant. Deficiency in pregnant women has been associated with increased risk of low infant birth weight, neural tube defects (like spina bifida) and preterm delivery. Foods that are high in folate are soybeans/soy products, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, avocados, beans, lentils and sunflower seeds.
B12 (cobalamin): Vitamin B12 works with folate to help produce and maintain the myelin surrounding nerve cells, and helps with mental ability, red blood cell formation, and the breakdown of some fatty acids and amino acids to produce energy. Unlike other B vitamins, deficiencies are common, particularly in vegans and older adults, since B12 is most commonly found in animal products like dairy, eggs, meat, poultry and fish. It is also available in soy products, fortified foods and nutritional yeast. Deficiency symptoms include anemia, fatigue, weakness, depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, numbness and tingling in hands/feet, balance issues, and soreness of the mouth and tongue.
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