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The Important Role of B Vitamins

There are a total of 8 vitamins thin the B-complex family include thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, biotin and pantothenic acid. Collectively, the B-complex vitamins are known as the "energy vitamins" because they help the body with energy metabolism, or the conversion of food into energy. The B-complex vitamins also play individual roles in maintaining good health.

Foods Rich in B Vitamins There is no one specific food that contains all of the 'B' vitamins. Well, maybe with the exception of brewer's yeast, but most food contain all but one or two, or sufficient levels of a few and none of the others. Eggs are one of the best foods rich in B vitamins, while alfalfa is the most well-rounded herb. Sources containing at least four different B vitamins include mushrooms, chicken, meat, fish, cheese, milk, yogurt, whole grains, wheat germ, legumes, soy, walnuts, green leafy vegetables, sea greens, kelp and broccoli.

Benefits of B Vitamins B-complex vitamins are important co-factors, or coenzymes, in many different body processes. Without the B vitamins, the body could not perform many of its day-to-day functions, such as digestion and production of healthy red blood cells. As coenzymes, B vitamins attach themselves to enzymes in the body, and this activates the enzymes. Once activated, enzymes go on to perform thousands of essential activities in every body cell. Each B vitamin also has individual functions in the body. The B complex vitamins are water-soluble. They are not stored in the body, and dosages cannot be of high amounts due to their potential toxicity to the liver and body. B vitamins also must be taken with food already in the stomach. If taken on an empty stomach, pain and nausea are usually a common side effect and soon subside once the individual eats something.

Health Risk Associated with B Vitamin Deficiencies Deficiency of certain B vitamins can cause anemia, tiredness, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, depression, numbness and tingling in the arms and legs, muscle cramps, respiratory infections, hair loss, eczema, poor growth in children, and birth defects. Some alternative medical practitioners claim that deficiencies in B vitamins weaken the immune system and make the body vulnerable to cancer.