The Unique & Comprehensive Health Benefits Of B-Complex Vitamins
B vitamins are maybe the most misunderstood in the lineup of essential vitamins. For starters, they're water-soluble, which means we get all of the B we need from what we consume (foods, beverages, supplements), and our bodies excrete what's left over. This sometimes gives the impression that they aren't as important to the body, which is simply not true.
It's not every day you find all eight B vitamins in a comprehensive, high-potency multi, but when we began to develop mindbodygreen ultimate multivitamin+, we knew the research touting B vitamins and their incredibly supportive role in the body is overwhelming. So, it was a no-brainer that a complete B complex with those B's in their bioactive forms deserved a spot in our dynamic lineup of vitamins and minerals.*
Health benefits of B-group vitamins.
The eight B vitamins (collectively called the B complex) support everything from brain health1 and mood2 to energy levels3, cell metabolism4, DNA synthesis5, methylation pathways6, immune function7, cardiovascular health, and even healthy aging and longevity8.* No wonder we have daily requirements for these multitasking B vitamins.
On a cellular level, one of B vitamins' major roles is acting as essential coenzymes that process lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates. (In other words, B vitamins are vital because they help convert food into energy, for the countless reactions and complex activities in our body.)*
Thiamin was the first of the B vitamins to be discovered in the early 1900s (hence its nomenclature: B1).
Thiamin plays a very important role in glucose metabolism9 and is required for the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and ATP (the body's primary energy currency).*
On a larger scale, its most important function is providing energy to nerve cells (and for the production of neurotransmitters and myelin, the insulation around nerves) so that the brain and widespread central nervous system are able to function efficiently.*
Riboflavin is also critically involved in ATP production from the metabolism of protein, lipids, and carbohydrates; plus, it's a great asset to the vitamin B complex, as it reduces the metabolism of vitamin B6 and folate10, making them more available to the body.*
A lesser-known fact, vitamin B2 also operates as an antioxidant and supports red blood cell production10 and, subsequently, the transportation of oxygen to cells.* If you're looking to improve your hair and skin health11, consider checking your B2 levels—riboflavin is also needed for adequate collagen production.* (You'll want to consume the bioactive form of B2, which is called riboflavin-5-phosphate.)
When incorporated into essential coenzymes nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP), niacin plays an important role in all cells.* In fact, NAD is needed by 400 enzymes12 to catalyze reactions in the body!*
In addition to the all-important cellular energy metabolism, these niacin-dependent reactions1 also involve DNA metabolism and repair. Niacin also acts as an antioxidant13 and supports the heart14 by maintaining healthy LDL and HDL cholesterol levels.*
Pantothenic Acid (B5)
Pantothenic acid (along with niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin) plays a crucial role in the Krebs cycle, aka the citric acid cycle1. The process involves a series of chemical reactions that generate energy for storage (ATP) through the oxidation of acetate (aka acetyl-CoA), which is derived from food.*
Pantothenic acid is also involved in the structure and function of brain cells1 and cardiovascular health15.*
Vitamin B6 (i.e., pyridoxal 5-phosphate in its active form) is essential for the production of neurotransmitters that signal a variety of pathways in the central nervous system, like helping to regulate emotions—these neurotransmitters include things like serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Translation? B6 is a team player when it comes to a balanced mood16.*
And speaking of working together, vitamin B6 is one of three B vitamins (hello, folate and B12!) that plays a big part in supporting a healthy immune system7 by mediating the migration of lymphocytes into the intestine.* This vitamin B6 + B9 + B12 trio is also critical for a normal methionine cycle17, healthy homocysteine levels, and daily methylation support too.*
Biotin is most famous for its beauty benefits—primarily, its supporting role in hair and nail growth18 (it does this by aiding the production of keratin, the protein that makes up your hair, skin, and nails).*
Helping to make your nails strong and hair glossy isn't biotin's only skill, however. Biotin is also pivotal for metabolic homeostasis19: As a required cofactor in several carboxylase enzymes, it's required for the synthesis of fats, metabolism of amino acids, and a fancy thing called gluconeogenesis (i.e., making glucose from non-carb starter compounds, like fat and protein).*
Folate is responsible for a number of functions in the body, but it's especially important during times of rapid growth (such as pregnancy) due to its crucial part in the proper growth and development of cells20 in the central nervous system.*
It's not just expectant mothers who require adequate folate levels, however.
Folate is involved in everything from the production of DNA and RNA1 to methylation and healthy homocysteine levels21, which has major implications for heart and brain health.* Speaking of methylation, the bioactive and most premium form of folic acid in supplemental form is 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), so be on the lookout for it in high-caliber B complex formulations.*
This B vitamin is also required for normal red blood cell synthesis22, which affects the delivery of oxygen and nutrients all around the body (and thus, energy levels).* And as mentioned earlier, folate (along with vitamins B6 and B12) also supports the immune system7 by helping regulatory T-cells survive in the small intestine.*
Last but not least, we have vitamin B12. The highest concentrations of B12 are found in animal products, making getting enough of the essential vitamin a popular topic of discussion among plant-based communities. (Spoiler alert: It's entirely possible to avoid animal products and get enough B12 from foods and/or a quality supplement.)
Vitamin B12 supports protein synthesis as well as fat and carbohydrate metabolism3 (i.e., for energy). This micronutrient also works closely with folate to carry out DNA synthesis23 and red blood cell synthesis22.* In regard to immune health7, vitamin B12 is used as a cofactor for metabolic pathways in the gut microbiome.*
And also like folate, adequate vitamin B12 (in its bioactive methylcobalamin form) is a nonnegotiable for normal methylation pathways24 and homocysteine levels, a biomarker with massive implications24 for whole-body health.*
As you can see, B vitamins are essential for overall health and well-being through a number of critical daily functions throughout the body.* mbg ultimate multivitamin+ is a high-potency, comprehensive multi that includes the full lineup of eight B vitamins that make up the B complex (all in their most bioactive forms discussed above), 19 other vitamins and minerals, and six unique botanicals for a grand total of 33 dynamic ingredients!
If you're looking for energy, immune, metabolic, heart, brain, methylation, mood support, and more—all in the simple form of two daily capsules—you've found the right supplement.*
Morgan Chamberlain is a supplement editor at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in magazine journalism and a minor in nutrition. Chamberlain believes in taking small steps to improve your well-being—whether that means eating more plant-based foods, checking in with a therapist weekly, or spending quality time with your closest friends. When she isn’t typing away furiously at her keyboard, you can find her cooking in the kitchen, hanging outside, or doing a vinyasa flow.