The B vitamins are many and each provides a powerful health benefit. They provide much needed support for heart health as well as for many major system functions. As antioxidants they protect and strengthen the body in the fight against free radicals. The following paragraphs describe some of the functions of B vitamins in relation to our general health.
B1 (or Thiamin) assists in the metabolism of carbohydrates and supports nerve function. Deficiencies of B1 are related to nerve dysfunction and poor metabolizing of carbohydrates. These are both symptoms of Beriberi disease.
Because milling and cooking foods destroy B1 it has long been added to processed food during the 'enrichment' process. B1 is an essential vitamin and is not adequately ingested through processed or cooked foods.
B2 (or Riboflavin) assists in the release of energy from our food. It also supports good vision and healthy skin. Deficiencies of B2 can cause dry skin especially around the face. Like B1 it is destroyed in the milling of the grains where it is found. Also like B1 it is added back to foods by 'enrichment'.
B3 (or Niacin) like B1 and B2 assists in carbohydrate metabolism and the releasing of energy in the body. It also is useful in the promotion of healthy skin, nerves and digestion. It has been shown to be helpful in the lowering of cholesterol. Deficiencies of B3 can cause diarrhea, dementia, dermatitis and problems with the mucous membranes.
B5 (or Pantothenic Acid) is necessary for the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. It promotes the health of body tissues. It is sensitive to heat and is easily destroyed by both acids and alkalis.
B6 (or Pyridoxine) is helpful in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. It is easily destroyed by heat, light and food refining. Though essential to good health it can be toxic in large dosages. The levels contained in a good B-complex supplement are safe.
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B12 (or Cobalamin) is a very important B vitamin that promotes the development of healthy red blood cells and helps in maintaining nerve tissue. Because it is primarily found in meat products including fish, poultry, eggs and milk it is necessary for vegetarians to supplement it in a good B-complex.
Biotin deficiencies can be seen in hair loss, impaired fat metabolism, dry skin, inflamed eyes and muscle weakness. Several enzymes require biotin to function properly. It participates in fat metabolism, fat production and the synthesis of fatty acids. Even more foundational, Biotin aids in the synthesis of amino acids into proteins and helps form DNA and RNA.
Folic Acid is necessary for the prevention of coronary heart disease in older people and the prevention of neural tube defects in the unborn. It also promotes the formation of healthy red blood cells. Many health care specialists believe that folate deficiency will become the most recognized vitamin deficiency. It is easily destroyed by cooking and food processing.
Folate is essential to the development of the central nervous system during the first 30 days of gestation. Few women know they are pregnant when the developing child needs this nutrient the most. Deficiencies are linked to defects in the brain and spinal cord in infants.
Folate, perhaps more so than any other B vitamin, is an absolute must for dietary supplementation. However, a good B-complex vitamin supplement will supply sufficient amounts of all the B vitamins including folic acid.
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