1. What Do B Vitamins Do And Where Do They Come From?
A Quick Rundown Of The B-Complex Vitamins And Some Of Their Possible Applications Is In Order:
B-1 (Also Known As Thiamine): Long touted by hard-partying medical students as the so-called “hangover vitamin,” this nutrient can be depleted by chronic alcohol abuse. Intriguing research suggests the likelihood that a B-1 supplement increases urinary excretion of lead, meaning that this nutrient may be a useful countermeasure for at least one kind of heavy metal poisoning. Anecdotal reports also suggest that B-1 may help to repel mosquitoes, although this contention is unproven.
B-2 (Also Known As Riboflavin): This B vitamin can cause the urine to turn an extremely bright yellow, a harmless and temporary side effect of high doses. Recent neurological research suggests that 400 mg per day of riboflavin, an inexpensive and non-toxic substance, can greatly reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches. In addition, B-2 plays an important role in the body’s utilization of the crucial trace mineral selenium and in the production of glutathione peroxidase, a powerful antioxidant enzyme linked with longevity.
B-3 (Also Known As Niacin Or Niacinamide): For many people the so-called “niacin flush,” usually lasting about half an hour, is this vitamin’s chief claim to fame, but doctors have become increasingly aware of niacin’s ability not only to lower cholesterol but also to improve the ratio of HDL (“good”) cholesterol to LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Canadian psychiatrist Abram Hoffer, Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling, and other advocates of orthomolecular nutrition have long contended that high-dose vitamin B-3 may help diminish the symptoms of schizophrenia in a natural and non-toxic way. Diabetics appear to have an increased need for this nutrient. A few doctors and long-term users of the niacinamide form of this vitamin contend that it may also reduce the pain and swelling of arthritis, a claim that remains controversial.
Pantothenic Acid (Less Commonly Known As B-5): It is essential for biological reactions involving acetylation and energy production. Pantothenic acid helps in the formation of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter crucial for memory, as well as the metabolism of fatty acids, and the incorporation of fatty acids into the cell membrane. This nutrient is also involved in making steroid hormones, vitamin A, vitamin D, and cholesterol. Nutritionally oriented doctors such as Jacob Teitelbaum and Ray Sahelian contend that anyone suffering from exhaustion should consider taking pantothenic acid, since the adrenal glands require large amounts of this substance to function properly. (A derivative of pantothenic acid known as pantethiene has aroused considerable interest because of its anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties.)
B-6 (Also Known As Pyridoxine): The public knows this vitamin best for its seeming ability to reduce the pain and discomfort of carpal tunnel syndrome, but for several decades it has been used in high doses by some pregnant women to aid against the nausea of morning sickness. The metabolism of all amino acids requires vitamin B-6. Among other things this means that those who take L-phenylalanine and L-tryptophan to boost neurotransmitter levels and improve mood would be well advised to include B-6 as part of their brain nutrition program. Also, scientists and cardiologists increasingly realize the importance of maintaining low homocysteine levels to protect heart health, and B-6, along with several other nutrients, is a key player in homocysteine reduction.
B-12 (Also Known As Cyanocobalamin): A lack of this nutrient can cause anemia, since the body requires B-12 along with iron to produce red blood cells, but its role goes far beyond that. Not only is Vitamin B-12 another homocysteine-lowering nutrient, the lack of it has been implicated as a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Some experts claim that multiple sclerosis patients need larger than average amounts of B-12. Also, in England massive injections of B-12 are sometimes used as an antidote to cyanide poising. Those following vegetarian and especially vegan diets are urged to take a B-12 supplement, since plant-based foods contain essentially no B-12.
Folic Acid (Also Known As Folate): Doctors universally agree that women of child-bearing age should take this vitamin, if no other, since studies conclusively show that it greatly decreases the risk of neural tube defects in infants. Folic acid may also lessen the risk of Down’s Syndrome as well, although this has yet to be proven. Autopsies of deceased Alzheimer’s Patients reveal that more often than not they had lower than normal levels of this nutrient. Interestingly, studies suggest that sufferers of depression sometimes do better when they supplement with folic acid, although in and of itself it seldom eliminates the problem. It is possible that taking extra folic acid may reduce the risk of colon cancer by as much as 75%, although more studies are needed to prove this. And folic acid, along with B-6 and B-12, is one of the “Big Three” when it comes to lowering homocysteine. Do not supplement with this vitamin unless you also take B-12.
Choline: This compound is a precursor of phosphatidylcholine, the dominant phospholipid in cell membranes, and of acetylcholine, the dominant neurotransmitter involved in cognitive functions, such as learning and memory. Research at MIT and elsewhere hints at the possibility of memory improvement by choline supplentation. Other studies indicate that choline may improve endurance in athletes. Some nutritionally oriented doctors advise that pregnant women take extra choline to support the unborn child’s brain development.
Inositol (Also Known As Myo-Inositol): Diabetic neuropathy may be prevented or alleviated with this nutrient. Some doctors have successfully used inositol in their patients to control anxienty and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Biotin (Occasionally Referred To As Vitamin H): Control of blood sugar in diabetics may be improved with biotin supplements, according to some studies. Reports also abound that biotin may help promote healthier skin and faster hair growth, although it is not, alas, a cure for baldness. Those who take large amounts of alpha lipoic acid should consider adding biotin to their regimen, since the two nutrients work synergistically.
2. Who Needs B Vitamins And How Much Should Be Taken? Are There Any Side Effects Or Symptoms Of Deficiency?
Most consumers who are serious about their supplementation can usually meet their B-vitamin needs by taking a high-potency multivitamin or B-complex pill, but it is quite often the case that larger amounts of a given nutrient—niacin for high cholesterol, for instance, or B-6 for carpal tunnel—may be called for. Each person will have his or her unique nutritional needs.
Remember that the B-vitamins work best as a team, and should be taken at least twice a day for optimal results, since they are water soluble.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.