top of page

What do the B vitamins do?

Apart from them being a class of water soluble nutrients, their main functions typically involve helping the body derive energy from food, as well as aiding in adrenal function and supporting the nervous system. They play important roles in cell metabolism and the synthesis of red blood cells. Though these vitamins share similar names, they are chemically distant compounds that often coexist in the same foods.

Many of us are familiar with the importance of the famous B12 or biotin when it comes to hair and nails or folate when you are pregnant. However, all the B vitamins play very important roles in the body and although we a familiar with some more than others, we need all of them in sufficient amounts to function optimally.

Each B vitamin is either a cofactor (generally coenzyme) for key metabolic processes or is a precursor needed to make one and is thus an essential nutrient. They are important for making sure the body’s cells are functioning properly. They help the body convert food into energy (metabolism), create new blood cells, and maintain healthy skin cells, brain cells and other body tissues.

So here is a quick breakdown of the B vitamins and their key functions. It becomes clear as you go down the list that if you are running low in any of these how many bodily functions can start to breakdown:

B1 (Thiamine):

  • Breaking down sugar (carbohydrate) molecules from food

  • Creating certain neurotransmitters (brain chemicals)

  • Producing fatty acids

  • Synthesising certain hormones

B2 (Riboflavin):

  • Energy production

  • Important for maintaining skin and eyes

  • Helping the body break down fats, drugs, and steroid hormones

  • Converting tryptophan into niacin (vitamin B-3)

  • Converting vitamin B-6 into a coenzyme that the body needs

B3 (Niacin):

  • Changing the energy in carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into a form the body can use

  • Metabolic processes in the body’s cells

  • Communication among cells

  • Expression of DNA in cells

  • Supporting the mucous membrane 

B4 (Choline):

  • •Cell maintenance: The body uses choline to produce fats that make up cellular membranes.

  • DNA synthesis: Choline, along with other nutrients such as folate and vitamin B-12, can affect gene expression.

  • Metabolism: Choline helps metabolise fats

  • Nervous system functioning: The body converts choline into a neurotransmitter that affects the nerves and plays a role in regulating automatic bodily functions, such as breathing and heart rate.

B5 (Pantothenic acid):

  • Create new coenzymes, proteins, and fats.

  • Red blood cells carry pantothenic acid throughout the body so it can use the nutrient in a variety of processes for energy and metabolism

B6 (Pyridoxine):

  • Amino acid metabolism

  • Breaking down carbohydrates and fats

  • Brain development

  • Immune function

B7 (Biotin):

  • Metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and amino acids, the building blocks of protein

  • Cell production

  • Gene expression

  • Regulation of immunological and inflammatory functions

B9 (Folate/folic acid):

  • Helps to form DNA and RNA

  • Protein metabolism

  • Breakdown of homocysteine

  • Red blood cell production

  • Critical during periods of rapid growth

B12 (Cobalamin):

  • Red blood cell formation

  • DNA formation

  • Key player in the function and development of brain and nerve cells

  • Breakdown of homocysteine

In order to ensure that we are getting sufficient B vitamins-our diet obviously plays a major role however our body's ability to absorb the different B vitamins is another key factor that is often forgotten. Our gut health also has a huge impact on our ability to synthesise some of the B vitamins. In the case of taking B vitamins in supplement form it is important to take into consideration the quality of the supplement and the quantities of the different B vitamins. Like with any supplement I don't suggest you take them unless under the guidance of a professional. Nutrients don't work in isolation and we need to understand and use them wisely in the context of the individual.

I am a registered Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist and specialist in Clinical Paediatric Nutrition. If you are interested in starting Nutritional Therapy for yourself, your family or your child then please contact me for more information/FREE discovery call or you can check out my services on my website.

bottom of page