B Complex Vitamins - What Are They?

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The B group of vitamins is probably the most commonly misunderstood of the vitamins, simply because the B vitamins are several distinct vitamins lumped together. Additionally, the fact that the vitamins in this group are known by both letter, number and name is confusing to many people. Here is a quick list of the B vitamins found in the Vitamin B complex group.

  • B1 is also thiamin
  • B2 is also riboflavin
  • B3 is also niacin
  • B5 is also pantothenic acid
  • B6 is also pyridoxine
  • B7 is also biotin
  • B9 is also folic acid
  • B12 is also cobalamin

You should note that there are four additional substances in the B complex group, though they are not known as vitamins. They are choline, lipoic acid, PABA and inositol. When you purchase B complex vitamins, these four will not be included. Furthermore, one or two of the recognized B vitamins may also be omitted. B5 and B7 are so widely available in food that most people get plenty of these vitamins even if they aren't eating a healthy diet.

There are gaps in the numbers of the B vitamins because our understanding of them has evolved over time. Initially there was only a single B vitamin. Later it was recognized that what had been referred to as a single vitamin, actually had many components. These component parts where numbered 1,2,3,4, etc... Even later it was determine that some of these components (such as B4) did not meet the criteria of being a vitamin and they were dropped. That's how we ended up with 8 B-vitamins with non-sequential numbers.

One thing that all the B vitamins share is that they are water soluble. Any excess vitamin B is not stored, but rather is excreted in the urine. That means that all the B vitamins need to be constantly replenished from our diets.

B vitamins are found in whole unprocessed foods including grains, meats and vegetables. In general, the more processed that food is, the lower the content of all the B vitamins. A daily multi-vitamin is a great way to ensure that you are getting all the B complex Vitamins your body needs on a daily basis.

One of the most commonly recognized uses of the B vitamins is an energy booster. Many popular energy drinks that claim a natural boost of energy without sugar or caffeine are high in B vitamin complex.

There are too many components in the Vitamin B complex to discuss the health benefits, deficiencies and Recommended Daily Allowance for the whole group in a single article.