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B Vitamins

July 1, 2020

B Vitamins

We’re moving on to our second to last micronutrient for Nutrition Tip Tuesday today – water soluble vitamins! Vitamins are often categorised based on whether they dissolve in water or if they dissolve in fat, with most vitamins being water soluble and only four vitamins being fat soluble.

We’re going to look specifically at B vitamins today and then take a look at another water soluble vitamin, vitamin C in our next Nutrition Tip Tuesday. The water-soluble vitamins include the B vitamins – B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, pyridoxal, and pyridoxamine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folacin) and vitamin B12 (cobalamin).

Unlike the fat-soluble vitamins, water-soluble vitamins are generally not stored in the body so it’s important to get them regularly from the diet.

The role of most B vitamins is to serve as a coenzyme in the body. Coenzymes help enzymes trigger chemical reactions that otherwise wouldn’t occur on their own, such as converting nutrients to energy. B vitamins have an important role in cellular function, driving glycolysis (when energy is extracted from glucose), the conversion of protein and fat into energy, cell growth, DNA formation, amino acid metabolism, brain function and development, the production of red blood cells, is essential for cell division and DNA synthesis and is also an antioxidant. 

Food Sources of B Vitamins

Foods high in vitamin B include:

  • Liver/organ meats
  • Meat
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Eggs
  • Whole-grains
  • Dairy
  • Leafy vegetables
  • Mushrooms
  • Legumes
  • Fish
Vitamin B Deficiency

Vitamin B deficiency as a whole is relatively uncommon for those living in developed countries who eat a balanced diet. However, B12 deficiency specifically is reasonably common. Some people don’t consume enough vitamin B12 to meet their needs, while others can’t absorb enough, no matter how much they take in.

You are most likely to be at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency if you are elderly, rarely eat or don’t eat animal products, have diabetes, have had weight loss surgery, have excessive alcohol consumption or suffer from Crohn’s or celiac disease. The US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimated that 3.2% of adults over age 50 have a seriously low B12 level, and up to 20% may have a borderline vitamin B12 deficiency. 

Vitamin B12 is made by micro-organisms, and isn't produced by plants which is why those who eat a plant based diet are more at risk of B12 deficiency. If you do eat a plant based diet, you can get B12 from fortified foods such as nutritional yeast and grains, supplements or B12 injections. Vitamin B12 is stored in the liver, so even if you aren’t getting enough of it, it may take a long time for deficiency symptoms to develop. B12 deficiency may cause various health problems, such as anemia, appetite loss, sore tongue, neurological problems and dementia.

Stay tuned for our next NTT on vitamin C!