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Vitamin B Group

The B group of vitamins is a collection of essential nutrients that have certain characteristics in common. They are water soluble and are usually found in similar food sources such as brewer's yeast, animal meats, cereals and vegetable proteins.

The vitamin B group contains many individual vitamins including the following:

For further details on each of the above follow the menu links to left.

The vitamin B complex is an extremely important group of vitamins that the body must have to enable it to:

  1. change food into energy,
  2. maintain a strong immune system,
  3. balance many of the body's hormones,

and perform a wide variety of other tasks.

The B vitamins work together as a complex and are dependent upon each other to perform their individual tasks in the body.

The insufficient intake of one B vitamin can create imbalances and deficiencies in others and impair the body's ability to assimilate and metabolize them. If a depletion or excess of one over the others occurs for a period of any duration, there will be a problem in the entire complex.

Because of this relationship between the B vitamins, an isolated deficiency of only one B vitamin is rarely seen, except for vitamin B12. For example someone with a vitamin B2 deficiency may have red, greasy facial skin which might also be caused by a coexistent vitamin B6 deficiency. It is usual therefore, that when a deficiency of one of the vitamins is suspected, a B complex is taken as a supplement.

However, while the B vitamins should be taken as a complex, in cases where there is a condition or problem caused by the deficiency of a particular B vitamin, the single B vitamin may be taken in a therapeutic dosage for a short time and the B complex taken as well.

Early warning signs of vitamin B deficiency

Dr Myron Brin has recently identified the sequence of events that occur when we undergo increasing deficiency of vitamin B complex.

1. At first the signs of a vitamin B deficiency are not recognizable and are to do with the running down of existing tissue stores.

2. If the low intake continues then we develop physical and psychological disturbances with symptoms such as:

3. If the vitamin B complex stores continue to be depleted then we develop more serious signs and symptoms of diseases such as beri-beri (vitamin B1 deficiency) and pellagra (vitamin B3 deficiency). Ill health will continue until death.

For most people in the western world our level of vitamin deficiency is not associated with severe symptoms like beri-beri. We are more likely to have the chronic psychological changes.

There are many symptoms and signs of a vitamin B complex deficiency including:

There are many lifestyle and physiological factors that can prevent us from having sufficient B complex vitamins. These factors include:

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Bland, J. 1996, Contemporary Nutrition. J & B Associates.

Davies, S. and A. Stewart., 1997, Nutritional Medicine. Pan.

Holden, S., Hudson, K., Tilman, J. & D. Wolf, 2003, The Ultimate Guide to Health from Nature. Asrolog Publication.

Pressman, A. and S. Buff, 2000, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. (2nd Ed.) Alpha Books.

Soothill, R. 1996, The Choice Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. A Choice Book Publication.

Sullivan, K. 2002, Vitamins and Minerals: A Practical Approach to a Health Diet and Safe Supplementation. Harper Collins.

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Whilst the B group vitamins are chemically distinct from one another, the ways they work in the body are closely interrelated. For example, Folic Acid and vitamin B12 metabolism are closely connected; vitamin B2 is required for the activation of vitamin B6, and vitamin B3 can be manufactured from other dietary agents, provided there is adequate vitamin B6.