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NEWSLETTER 19 : The Vitamins of the B Group                         (Edited: 5/29/02. Updated: December 2010)

Questions
Importance
The Group
Vit B1 (Thiamine)
Vit B2 (Riboflavin)
Vit B3 (Niacin)
Vit B5 (Pantothenic acid)
Vit B6 (Pyridoxine)
Folic Acid (Folates)
Vit B12 (Cyanocobalamin)
Biotin

Questions

Why are the vitamins of the B group essential?
What are the vitamins of the B group?
Why do they come in a "group"?
Where do we get them?
Do we store them?
Is it dangerous, to take more than the RDA?

And many more questions that are answered in this newsletter.

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Importance

The vitamins of the B group are essential for :

The extraction of energy from food
Maintenance of mineral balance
Transport of oxygen
Protection against excess oxygen
Brain and nerve function
Muscle health
Immunity (inclusive cancer protection)

and most importantly the vitamins of the B group are essential for:

The protection against corrosion of the arteries resulting in arteriosclerosis

Arteriosclerosis and diet excesses and deficiencies

is the topic of newsletter14.

 
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The B Group

The vitamins of the B group work as a team. As in a team, they depend upon each other.

The deficiency of one results in the impairment of the others. That impairment may be at the absorption level. The one less absorbed may be essential for a third one to perform.

The B group contains : Vitamin B1 or Thiamin, Vit B2 or Riboflavin Vit B3 or Niacin (also: Niacinamide, or Nicotinic Acid), Vit B5 or Pantothenic Acid, Vit B6 or Pyridoxine, Folic Acid or Folate (sometimes termed: vit B9), Vit B12 or Cyanocobalamine, and Biotin.

The Vitamins of the B group are water soluble (They do not occur in fat and oils), and are poorly stored in the body.

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Vit B1 or Thiamin

Content in Food : Vitamin B1 occurs in animal and in vegetal products. The highest concentration is found in brewers yeast, followed by baker's yeast, pork (particularly the liver), cereal germs, whole grain and derivatives, nuts, and dried legumes.

In grain vitamin B1 is unevenly distributed, low in the starch of the grain, it is higher in the germ, and most of it occurs in the thin layer around the starch. This is why polished rice is almost completely deprived of vitamin B1.

Absorption : The absorption of vit B1 occurs in the intestine by diffusion and with a specialized carrier only if the concentration of vit B1 is very low in the intestine.

Alcohol considerably inhibits the intestinal absorption of vit B1.

Natural substances like the enzymes thiaminasesv and other antithiamines destroy vit B1. They are found in coffee, tea, in some other plants, and in raw fish.

Vit B1 from animal sources is better absorbed than vit B1 from vegetal source. Vit B1 from animal sources is also ready for use, while vit B1 from vegetal source has to be processed by our metabolism before use.

See the effect of feeding raw herring to animals They need vitamin B supplementation (attention: Sushi lovers!)

Storage : Vit B1 is not stored in the body in large amounts or for any period of time in any tissue. A continuous supply of vit B1 is highly recommended.

Excretion : Vit B1 is rapidly excreted in the urine.

Essential for : Oxygen consumption, energy production, growth, brain and nerve function.

Good for : Quality of hair, and skin. (in pets: flea repellent!)

Signs of vit B1 Deficiency : The initial signs of a vitamin B1 deficiency are fatigue, sleep disturbances, irritability, and poor appetite.

Table 1 : The signs of a vitamin B1 (Thiamin) deficiency
  General Fatigue, sleep disturbance
  Brain and Nerve Irritability, Incoordination
  Digestive System Loss of appetite, mucosa inflammation, hemorrhages
  Circulation Slow heart rate, heart enlargement, heart failure
  Skinn Swelling (back of hands and feet), pale bluish skin
  Muscles Weakness, fiber swelling and degeneration
  Liver Food intolerance, fatty degeneration of the liver

The degree and the manifestation of the various symptoms may vary from individual to individual.

More : See the animated 3D structure of vit B1 published by Dr. Karl N. Harrison in the web site of the Chemistry group of the University of Oxford.

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Vit B2 or Riboflavin

Contents in Food : Milk, milk products, meat and eggs are the best contributors to dietary riboflavin in the United States. Vitamin B2 also occurs in fruit and in rapidly growing green vegetables. Only one has to consume large quantities to reach adequate levels of vit B2. The highest concentration is found in liver, and in cheese.

In grain vitamin B2--like vit B1--is unevenly distributed, low in the starch of the grain, it is higher in the germ, and most of it occurs in the thin layer around the starch. This is why white flower -- if not enriched with it -- is deprived of vitamin B2.

Like for vit B1, vit B2 from animal sources is better absorbed than vit B2 from vegetal sources.

Absorption : In the intestine the absorption of vit B2 occurs through an active process.

The absorbed vit B2 is processed in the intestinal mucosa cells before entering the blood circulation.

Storage : Vit B2 is stored in the liver. The liver contains up to one third of the vit B2 stored in the body. Liver, heart, kidney and the eyes have the largest concentration of this vitamin.

A continuous supply of vit B2 is highly recommended

Excretion : Vit B2 is rapidly excreted by the kidneys in quantity up to 200 micrograms per 24 hours. The urine may turn strong yellow.

Pale urine indicates a possible vit B2 deficiency. (The limit is set at 25 micrograms of vitB2 per gram of creatinine excreted in the urine).

Essential for : Oxygen consumption, energy production from sugars, growth, brain and nerve function.

Good for : Quality of hair, and skin.

Signs of vit B2 Deficiency : The first signs of a vitamin B2 deficiency appear at the mouth angles as a discoloration of the mucosa (angular stomatitis)

Possible Candida Albicans overgrowth gives it a red and swollen outlook.

Table 2 : The signs of a vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) deficiency
  Mouth Angular stomatitis, Tongue inflammation (glossitis), Loss of taste
  Nerve Peripheral neuropathy
  Skin Seborrheic dermatitis
  General Retarded growth

More : See the animated 3D structure of vit B2 published by Dr. Karl N. Harrison in the web site of the Chemistry group of the University of Oxford.

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Vit B3 or Niacin-Niacinamide

Contents in Food : Fish, nuts, seeds, and meat are the best contributors to dietary niacin. Vitamin B3 also occurs in wheat and in brown rice. The highest concentration is found in pumpkin seeds and in Parmesan.

In food vitamin B3 is quite stable when exposed to most heat, storage, and irradiation procedures.

Vitamin B3 shares with vitamin D the property that the body can synthesize it.

We synthesize niacin from tryptophan, an essential fatty acid

Table 3 : Tryptophan content of food, in milligrams per 100 grams edible portion
  Seeds, pumpkin and squash seed kernels, roasted 580
  Cheese, parmesan 560
  Chicken, broilers or fryers, meat only, cooked, fried 360
  halibut, Atlantic and Pacific, cooked 300
  tuna, light, canned in water, drained solids 290
  shrimp, mixed species, raw 280
  Beans, white, mature seeds, raw 280
  brazil nuts 260
  Peanuts, all types, raw 250
  Beef, top sirloin, separable lean and fat, trimmed to 1/4" fat 220
  Egg, whole, raw, fresh 150
  Bread, whole-wheat, commercially prepared 140
  Beans, kidney, california red, mature seeds, cooked 110

Absorption : The gastrointestinal absorption of vit B3 occurs fast. Large intakes (up to 3 grams) are followed by a 85% excretion through the urine.

Storage : Vit B3 is poorly stored in the body.

A continuous supply of vit B3 is highly recommended

Excretion : Vit B3 is rapidly excreted by the kidneys.

Essential for : Brain function (memory) and quality of skin.

Signs of vit B3 Deficiency : The first signs of a vitamin B3 deficiency are red patches on skin exposed to sunlight, a burning in the mouth, and behavioral changes.

Severe vitamin B3 deficiency occurs only with a simultaneous deficiency of niacin and of its precursor tryptophan and usually occurs in areas where maize (Indian corn) forms a major part of the diet.

However, vitamin b3 deficiency may occur after episodes of diarrhea, in liver conditions like cirrhosis, and in alcoholics, It is not exceptional to find signs of vitamin B3 deficiency in patients after a long hospital stay (Vitamin supplementation is not the rule in hospitals!)

Table 4 : The signs of a vitamin B3 (Niacin-Niaciamide) deficiency
  Skin Redness
  Mouth Redness, burning
  Digestive System Abdominal discomfort, nausea, diarrhea
  Behavior Very variable
memory, confusion, depression, excitement

More : See the animated 3D structure of vit B3 published by Dr. Karl N. Harrison in the web site of the Chemistry group of the University of Oxford.

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Vit B5 or Pantothenic Acid

Content in Food Vitamin B5 also named Pantothenic acid is widely distributed in foodstuffs. The name says it all: "Pantos" is Greek for "Everywhere" .

Processed food contains only about 50% of its original vit B5 content. The higher the processing the lower the pantothenic acid content.

Table 5 : Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) content of food, in milligrams per 100 grams edible portion
  Bakers's Yeast 11
  Liver, raw 7.7
  Egg, yolk 4.4
  Milk, dry 3.6
  Bran 2.9
  Peanuts, raw 2.8
  Lentils 1.36

Absorption : Alcohol reduces the intestinal absorption of vit B5.

Excretion : Vit B5 is rapidly excreted in the urine.

Essentiality : An integral part of coenzyme A (CoA), pantothenic acid is essential for all its functions, in the first place for the synthesis and the utilization of fatty acids, and the synthesis of steroid hormones in the adrenals, the testis, and the ovaries.

Good for : Quality of hair (gray hair), hair growth, osteoarthritis, diabetic neuropathy, behavioral disorders, weight loss.
An intriguing beneficial effect of vit B5 is its protective role against radiation sickness (Egarova ND, 1979)

Signs of vit B5 Deficiency : The signs of a vitamin B5 deficiency have been observed only during human experiments.
However, a vitamin B5 deficiency is incriminated as the mean factor of acnea (Leung LH. 1995)

Table 6 : The signs of a vit B5 deficiency
  General Malaise, Fatigue
  Brain and Nerve burning and numbness of feet
  Skin Acnea (?)
  Digestive System Abdominal discomfort

More : See the animated 3D structure of vit B5 published by Dr. Karl N. Harrison in the web site of the Chemistry group of the University of Oxford.

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Vit B6 or Pyridoxine

Content in Food : Vitamin B6 occurs in animal and in vegetal products mainly bound to proteins.
The highest concentration is found in wheat bran, tuna, salmon,sesame seeds, bananas, nuts, rice and chicken.

Table 7 : Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) content of food, in milligrams per 100 grams edible portion
  Wheat bran 194
  Tuna, fresh, yellowfin, raw 90
  Salmon, Atlantic, wild, raw 82
  Seeds,sesame, whole, roasted 80
  Bananas, raw 58
  Nuts, walnuts 54
  Rice, brown, long-grain, raw 51
  Chicken, broilers or fryers, meat only, cooked, fried 48

Absorption : The absorption of vit B6 occurs by diffusion in the small intestin. Absorption in the colon is minimal. The pyridoxine produced by the colon flora is pourly absorbed.
Heat processing of food is responsible for vit B6 loss. Pyridoxine hydrochloride is a form of vit B6 beter resistant to heat.

Storage : Although Vit B6 is widely distributed in tissue and organs, it is stored only in small amounts. A continuous supply of vit B6 is highly recommended

Essential for : Vit B6 is essential for all protein metabolism.
Vit B6, with vit C, and vit B3 (niacin) is also essential for the production of the messenger molecules cell use to communicate with each other.
Vit B6 is involved in hormone production and in the saccharide metabolism.

Signs of vit B6 Deficiency : The initial signs of a vitamin B6 deficiency are fatigue, skin disturbances, irritability, muscle weakness, and depression.

Table 8 : The signs of a vit B6 deficiency
  General Fatigue, reduced immunity, tooth decay
  Brain and Nerve Irritability, depression, convulsion
  Digestive System Abdominal distress, nausea, vomiting
  Reproduction Spina bifida and other teratogenic effects
  Skin Scalling dermatitis, glossitis
  Muscles Weakness
  Kidney Oxalate calculi
  Blood Homocysteine buildup

The degree and the manifestation of the various symptoms may vary from individual to individual.

More : See the animated 3D structure of vit B6 published by Dr. Karl N. Harrison in the web site of the Chemistry group of the University of Oxford.

 

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Folic Acid (Folates)

Note
Folic acid does occur rarely in food. Folates are salts of folic acid that exist in many forms and occur in food and human body. Supplements contains folic acid. Folic acid is more stable than any folate.

Content in Food
Folates occur in vegetal products and in animal products. The highest concentration is found in beans and seeds, nuts, and eggs.

Table 9 : Folic acid content of food, in micrograms per 100 grams edible portion.
  Beans, white, mature seeds, raw
388
  Bran, wheat
353
  Seeds, flax seed
278
  Peanuts, all types, raw
240
  Spinach, raw
194
  Bran oat
182
  Kelp, raw
180
  Collards, raw
166
  Soybeans, green, raw
165
  Safflower seeds
160
  Parsley, raw
152
  Lettuce, cos or romaine, raw
136
  Seeds, sesame, whole, roasted
98
  Nuts, walnuts, english (1)
98
  Seeds, sesame, whole, dried
97
  Bread, white, commercially prepared
95
  Peanut butter, with salt
74
  Beans, kidney, california red
74
  Lettuce, butterhead, raw
73
  Broccoli, raw
71
  Egg, quail, whole, fresh, raw
66
  Avocados, raw, California
66
  Nuts, almond butter, plain
65
  Basil, fresh
64

 

Function
Folates are essential for the addition of methyl groups (CH3) to molecules. This function has important implications in gene transcription, and in the methionin metabolism.

Signs of a Folate Deficiency
The signs of a folate deficiency are fatigue, muscle weakness, and homocysteine buildup.

Table 10 : The signs of a folate deficiency
  General
Fatigue, shortness of breath
  Muscles
Weakness
  Blood
Homocysteine buildup

 

More : See the animated 3D structure of folic acid published by Dr. Karl N. Harrison in the web site of the Chemistry group of the University of Oxford.

 

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Vitamin B12 or Cyanocobalamin

Note
Vitamin B12 is the only vitamin to have a mineral atom in it. The mineral is cobalt. Hence, the name cyanocobalamin.

Content in Food
Vitamin B12 occurs in animal products exclusively. The highest natural concentration is found in fish and in meat, followed by cheese and eggs.

Table 11 : Vitamin B 12 content of food, in micrograms per 100 grams edible portion
  Herring, Atlantic, raw
13.67
  Beef, heart, raw
13.66
  Herring, Pacifiic, raw
10.00
  Bluefish, raw
5.39
  Bran, wheat
5.30
  Cereals type Kellogs
5.00
  Salmon, Atlantic, wild, raw
3.18
  Salmon, Chinook, raw
2.99
  Tuna, light, canned in water
2.99
  Beef, top sirloin, separable
2.90
  Salmon, Atlantic, farmed, raw
2.80
  Game meat, bison, ground, raw
1.79
  Barbecue loaf, pork, beef
1.68
  Cheese, gruyere
1.60
  Egg, quail, whole, fresh, raw
1.58
  Cheese, parmesan, grated
1.40
  Halibut, Atlantic and Pacific
1.37
  Finfish, halibut, raw
1.18
  Shrimp, mixed species, raw
1.16
  Egg, whole, cooked, hard-boiled
1.11
  Egg, whole, raw, fresh
1.00
  Crustaceans, lobster, raw
0.93
  Cod, Atlantic, raw
0.91
  Cheese, mozzarella, whole milk

 

Absorption
Because vitamin B12 is tightly bound to proteins, a high stomach acidity is required to cut it loose. As we age, the stomach makes less acid. Advice for the elderly: Beware of anti-acid drugs!
Another cause of vitamin B12 deficiency is pernicious anemia, an auto-immune condition. A vitamin B12 deficiency is also found in younger people, particularly in vegetarians, and the condition is prevalent in people with a Helicobacterium pylori infection.

Storage
Although vitamin B12 is widely distributed in tissue and organs, it is stored only in small amounts. A continuous supply of Vitamin B12 is highly recommended.

Function
Vitamin B12 is with folic acid and folates essential for the methionine metabolism. In this chain of events, vitamin B12 is the weak link.
Vitamin B12 is also essential for brain and nerve cells maintenance. We need vitamin B12 for the insulating layer around the nerves.

Signs of a Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The initial signs of a Vitamin B12 deficiency are memory loss, an inability to concentrate (More 5), walking and balance disturbance, followed by depression, sometimes agitation and hallucination.

Table 12 : The signs of a Vitamin B12 deficiency
  Brain
Femory loss, lack of concentration, depression, agitation
  Nerves
Walking and balance disturbance, loss of vibration sensation
  Blood
Megalocytosis (L), homocysteine buildup

 

More : See the animated 3D structure of vit B12 published by Dr. Karl N. Harrison in the web site of the Chemistry group of the University of Oxford.

 

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Biotin

Biotin is essential for cell and organ growth, for the metabolism of fatty acids and amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

Content in Food : Biotin is found in eggs, animal liver and in some vegetables.

Signs of a Biotin Deficiency

Table 13 : The signs of a Biotin deficiency
  General
Fatigue, muscle pain
  Brain and Nerve
Depression
  Skin
Hair loss, facial rash
  Muscles
Pain

 

See a static image of the molecule Biotin.

 

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