Vitamin B-complex consists of eight different nutrients, each with essential functions to the body: thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folic acid (B9), and cobalamin (B12). These vitamins are found in a wide variety of foods, so people can get the recommended amounts through diet alone. However, there are factors that may increase the body's need for B vitamins, including age, pregnancy, dietary choices, medical conditions, genetics, medication, and alcohol use.
Homocysteine is an amino acid that is associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease. Homocysteine is metabolized by vitamins B6, B9, and B12. When there are insufficient levels of these B vitamins in the body, the metabolic breakdown of homocysteine is affected, leading to its increased levels in the blood. High levels of homocysteine in the blood results to a condition called hyperhomocysteinemia. This may lead to arteriosclerosis, a condition characterized by the narrowing of arteries due to plaque buildup on the artery walls. When plaque clogs up an artery, it disrupts the flow of blood, forming blood clots could form and block the artery, resulting in life-threatening conditions like stroke and heart attack.
B vitamins are essential for every aspect of brain function. Despite this, in a 2016 study conducted by David O. Kennedy of Northumbria University, evidence indicated that large sub-sections of populations in developed countries are deficient in one or more B vitamins. This is a worrying trend because a deficiency in B vitamins could affect memory function, cognitive impairment, and dementia. (Related: Vitamin B-12 and folic acid prevent memory loss and improve cognition as we age.)
Additionally, symptoms of depression have been linked to a deficiency in B6. This is because pyridoxine is necessary for the creation of neurotransmitters that regulate emotion, including serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid.
B vitamins also help those who are not yet born. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend folic acid to pregnant women to prevent birth defects in the baby's brain (anencephaly) and spine (spina bifida).
Age-related macular degeneration is a disease that blurs central vision, which is necessary for activities such as reading, sewing, and driving. It is the leading cause of severe irreversible vision loss among older Americans.
A study conducted by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that taking a combination of B6, B12, and folic acid decreased the risk of age-related macular degeneration in women. The study included 5,205 women who did not have age-related macular degeneration at the start of the study but who had three or more cardiovascular risk factors. The participants of the study were divided into two groups: One group was given a combination of B vitamins while the other group was given a placebo. After an average of 7.3 years, there were 55 cases of age-related macular degeneration among the women taking B vitamins and 82 cases among those taking placebos – a difference of 34 percent. The researchers theorized that B vitamins helped by lowering homocysteine levels, leading to improved function of blood vessels in the eyes.
The importance of B vitamins to a person's health cannot be overstated. Visit Health.news for more information on natural sources of vitamins.