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These vitamins help the process your body uses to get or make energy from the food you eat. They also help form red blood cells. You can get B vitamins from proteins such as fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and dairy products. Leafy green vegetables, beans, and peas also have B vitamins. Many cereals and some breads have added B vitamins.


The B vitamins are

  • B1 (Thiamine)

Also known as: Vitamin F, Aneurin, Thiamine diphosphate (TDP) – physiologically active form*

Role: B1 is a coenzyme that helps the body produce energy, is involved in glucose, amino acid, and alcohol metabolism, and is required for the proper functioning of the nervous system, heart, and muscles. *

Sources: Cereals and whole grains, potatoes, pork, seafood, nuts, legumes

Deficiency: In U.S., found primarily with chronic alcoholism. Can cause:
Wet beriberi – severe deficiency associated with cardiovascular failure
Dry beriberi – associated with nervous system, peripheral neuropathy
Wernicke’s encephalopathy, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome – mental changes*

  • B2, (Riboflavin)

Also known as: Vitamin G*

Role: B2 is a coenzyme involved in energy production and is required for the metabolism of other B vitamins*

Sources: Cereals and whole grains, green leafy vegetables, lean meats, dairy products, eggs, enriched breads. *

Deficiency: Called ariboflavinosis, usually seen along with other vitamin

deficiencies in those with alcoholism, malabsorption, liver disease, and in the elderly. *

  • B3, (Niacin)

Also known as: Nicotinic acid, Nicotinamide, Vitamin P, Vitamin PP*

Role: B3 is involved in enzyme reactions, metabolism, and energy production. It is given in pharmacologic doses to lower LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides and raise HDL-cholesterol*

Sources: B3 is found in lean meats, eggs, fish, whole grain cereals and legumes. *

Deficiency: Severe deficiency in conjunction with a low-protein diet causes: Pellagra – classic symptoms are dermatitis, diarrhea, and dementia; may also cause a rash in areas exposed to the sun. *

Deficiencies also seen with alcoholism, cirrhosis, Hartnup disease, Crohn disease, and carcinoid syndrome. Niacin synthesis requires adequate B6, B2, iron, and copper. Up to 60% of niacin is synthesized from tryptophan.

  • B5, Pantothenic acid*

Role: B5 helps break down and use fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. *

Sources: Most foods*

Deficiency: B5 deficiency is rare as it is widely distributed in foods. Associated with “burning feet” and impaired wound healing. *

  • B6, Pyridoxal Phosphate (PLP) *

Three main forms: Pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, and pyridoxal*

Role: B6 is a coenzyme involved in amino acid metabolism and hemoglobin synthesis. It is also necessary for the nervous system and immune system. *

Sources: Pork, fish, chicken, bananas, wheat germ, legumes. *

Deficiency: B6 deficiency is rare by itself; adequate B2 is required for the formation of active PLP; may be seen with chronic alcoholism, malabsorption, smoking, and in asthmatics who take theophylline; can cause convulsions and decreased immunity. Both deficiency and toxicity can cause peripheral neuropathy. *

          Also known as: Vitamin H, Vitamin B-w*

          Role: B7 is a coenzyme that is necessary for fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism and plays a role in hormone production. *

          Sources: Soy, egg yolks, peanuts, legumes, bananas, and grapefruit. B7 is also made by intestinal bacteria. *

Deficiency: Very rare; may occur in those receiving total parenteral nutrition and with some inborn errors of metabolism; can cause weakness, delayed development, rash, hair loss, weakness.