A lot of people think of B vitamins also known as the energy vitamins are
more like keys that unlock the energy we all long for.
Fatigue, irritability, poor concentration anxiety and depression—all can be
signs of a B vitamin deficiency. That’s because compounds in the B complex are
needed for everything from the healthy maintenance of brain cells to the
metabolism of carbohydrates, which is the brain’s source of fuel. B’s are also
necessary for production of neurotransmitters, which regulate mood and conduct
messages through the brain.
The B complex includes B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6,
pantothenic acid, biotin, B12 and folate, also known as folic acid on vitamin
bottles. It also includes choline, a nutrient found in eggs that is needed to
produce cell membranes and may slow age-related memory loss.
It is impossible to say what B vitamin is the most important.They all have important roles,” says Roxanne Moore, a registered dietitian at the Maryland Department of Education and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. A varied, healthy diet of lean meats, colorful vegetables and whole grains will usually cover the bases.”
The subgroup of B6, B12 and folate is the subject of much research. Sufficient intake lowers rates of birth defects, cardiovascular disease, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The three work together and even marginal deficiencies have large effects.B6 and B12 contribute to the myelin sheath around nerve cells, which speeds signals through the brain. B12 and folic acid together are needed for making normal cells, including blood cells. Inadequate B12 or folic acid can yield blood cells unable to carry vital oxygen to the brain.
Only rarely are the effects of a B vitamin deficiency clear-cut. The Centers for Disease Control reported that two children had severe motor and language skill delays because of a deficiency in vitamin B12. They had both been breastfed by vegan mothers who were also deficient in B12.
The vitamin occurs naturally only in animal products, although many cereal
and soy products are fortified with B12, among others. Both children quickly
improved after eating a new diet, but both also had lingering language and motor
problems a year after treatment.
"The problem doesn’t affect just vegetarians,” says Maria Elena Jefferds,
Ph.D., a CDC epidemiologist. “There are plenty of non-vegan Americans who don’t
pay enough attention to what they eat and lack basic nutrients.”
The key is a varied diet. The importance of some nutrients are only now