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Vitamin B complex

B Vitamins - the group of water soluble vitamins essential for the normal functioning are not usually produced by our bodies and require to be replenished regularly.

Vitamin B1 - Thiamine
Vitamin B2 - Riboflavin
Vitamin B3 - Niacin, Niacinamide
Vitamin B5 - Pantothenic acid
Vitamin B6 - Pyridoxine
Vitamin B7 - Biotin
Vitamin B9 - Folic Acid
Vitamin B12 - Cyanocobalamin


Some Vitamin B Complex formulations, in addition to the above major B Vitamins, may contain Inositol, choline bitartrate and Para Amino Benzoic Acid - PABA.


Vitamin B1

Vitamin B1 or thiamine helps the body convert carbohydrates into energy and it is necessary for the heart muscles, nervous system and brain to function properly. Very low levels of Vitamin B1 can lead to Beriberi - a cardiovascular and neurological disease. Deficiency of Vitamin B1 can cause weight loss and weakness. Fortified breads, cereals, pasta, meat, fish, dried beans, leafy vegetables, whole grains, egg yolk, soy foods and peas contain Vitamin B1. Brewer's yeast is a natural source high in thiamine.

RDA - Recommended Daily Allowance:

Adults - Men: 1.2 mg
Adults - Women: 1.1 mg
Pregnant Women: 1.4 mg
Breastfeeding Women: 1.5 mg

Vitamin B1 is generally well tolerated and rarely produces adverse side effects with high doses. Deficiency of Vitamin B1 can result in Beriberi ( literally 'I can't' in Sinhalese language) - a disease with the symptoms of loss of appetite, weakness, irritability, tingling of nerves, poor muscles coordination and muscular pain in the calves. This disease is due to poor metabolization of glucose.


Vitamin B2

This is essential for converting carbohydrates into energy and produce red blood cells. Significantly, this vitamin is important for vision. Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin is essential for fat and protein metabolization. Vitamin B2 boosts the immune system, maintains healthy hair and helps functioning of the nervous system. Deficiency of Vitamin B2 can lead to acne, muscle cramps, carpal tunnel syndrome and migraine headache. Best natural sources of Riboflavin are meat, eggs, legumes, nuts, dairy products, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, asparagus, and fortified cereals.

RDA - Recommended Daily Allowance:

Adults - Men: 1.3 mg
Adults - Women: 1.1 mg
Pregnant Women: 1.4 mg
Breastfeeding Women: 1.6 mg

Vitamin B2 is generally well tolerated and rarely produces adverse side effects like sensitivity to light with high doses. Supplements of Riboflavin can result in bright yellow urine.


Vitamin B3

Food is turned into energy in the body by Niacin. Niacin or Vitamin B3 also helps maintain healthy skin and important nerve functions. The benefits of Vitamin B3 include good blood circulation and brain functioning. Vitamin B3 is also required in order to produce various hormones including progesterone and testosterone. Vitamin B3 - Niacin and its related compounds Nicotinic Acid and Nicotinamide plays an important role in lowering cholesterol levels and aiding widening of arteries. It plays a role in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolization. Severe deficiency of Vitamin B3 can lead to Pellagra - diarrhea, scaly skin and dementia. This vitamin is naturally found in red meat, poultry, fish, fortified cereals and peanuts.

RDA - Recommended Daily Allowance:

Adults - Men: 16 mg
Adults - Women: 14 mg
Pregnant Women: 18 mg
Breast feeding Women: 17 mg

Vitamin B3 in high doses can result in burning, tingling sensation with/without red flushed skin. Niacin can also trigger hyperglycemia in the case of type 2 diabetes. Humans can synthesize Niacin from the amino acid Tryptophan in the presence of Vitamin B2 and Vitamin B6.


Vitamin B5

Vitamin B5 also known as Pantothenic acid is often used in combination with other B Vitamins in Vitamin B formulations. Vitamin B5 is primarily used for treating dietary deficiencies, acne, alcoholism, allergies, baldness, asthma, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, burning feet syndrome, yeast infections, heart failure, carpal tunnel syndrome, respiratory disorders, celiac disease, colitis, conjunctivitis, convulsions and cystitis. Some times Vitamin B5 is also used for controlling dandruff, depression,tongue infections, gray hair, headache, hyperactivity, low blood sugar, insomnia, irritability, muscular dystrophy, muscular cramps in the legs associated with pregnancy or alcoholism and improving athletic performance.

RDA - Recommended Daily Allowance:
Adults - Men: 5 mg
Adults - Women: 5 mg
Pregnant Women: 6 mg
Breastfeeding Women: 7 mg
Vitamin B5 is generally well tolerated in moderate doses but may produce adverse side effects like diarrhea with high doses.


Vitamin B6

Important for brain and nerve function, vitamin B6 - Pyridoxine helps the body break down the proteins and produce red blood cells. It is essential in making antibodies, maintaining nerve function and in the production of hemoglobin. Vitamin B6 also has a role in homocysteine metabolism. Vitamin B 6 deficiency leads to confusion, irritability and depression. Potatoes, bananas, beans, nuts, legumes, whole grains and poultry, fish, eggs, spinach and fortified cereals naturally contain Vitamin B6.

RDA - Recommended Daily Allowance:
Adults - Men below 50 years: 1.3 mg
Men - above 50 years: 1.7 mg
Adults - Women Below 50 years: 1.3 mg
Women Above 50 years: 1.5 mg
Pregnant Women: 1.9 mg
Breastfeeding Women: 2 mg

Vitamin B6 is generally well tolerated but may produce neurological disorders with high doses.


Biotin or Vitamin B7: RDA - Recommended Daily Allowance:
Adults: 30 microgram
Biotin deficiency manifests in the form of scaly inflammation of the skin, poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, anemia, depression and general weakness.


Vitamin B9

Folate or Vitamin B9 is folic acid or folacin, that helps to produce red blood cells and it essential for DNA creation. Dried beans, legumes, green leafy vegetables, orange juice, asparagus, fortified bread, rice, and cereals are all good natural sources of Vitamin B9.

RDA - Recommended Daily Allowance:
Adults - Men: 400 mcg
Adults - Women: 400 mcg
Pregnant Women: 600 mcg
Breast feeding Women: 500 mcg

Vitamin B9 is generally well tolerated but may mask a Vitamin B12 deficiency with high doses. Deficiency of Folate can result in Megaloblastic Anemia which is also known as large cell Anemia or Macrocytic Anemia. Deficiency during the time of pregnancy or the period preceding pregnancy may result in neural tube defects in the fetus.


Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 or cobalamin helps to make red blood cells and is important for brain and nerve cell functions. Vitamin B12 is effective in DNA synthesis, fatty acid synthesis and cell metabolism. Vitamin B 12 is found naturally in fish, red meat, poultry, milk, cheese, and eggs and also breakfast cereals. B12 deficiency leads to pernicious anemia - which manifests in the form of weakness, sore tongue, general apathy, back pain and tingling in the extremities. Vitamin B12 helps maintain a healthy digestive system, healthy skin and hair and protect against high blood pressure and heart disease. Vitamin B 12 helps protect against breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer.

RDA - Recommended Daily Allowance:
Adults - Men: 2.4 mcg
Adults - Women: 2.4 mcg
Pregnant Women: 2.6 mcg
Breast feeding Women: 2.8 mcg

Vitamin B12 is generally well tolerated.


Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals boost the immune system of the individual, and they support normal growth and development of the body. For instance, carrot contains beta carotene and other carotenoids, which are not only good for eyes but also are antioxidants. Beta carotene is a precursor of Vitamin A and is part of the Provitamin A Carotenoids. The body converts carotenoids into Vitamin A, which in turn prevents possible eye problems. Vitamins fall under two categories:


Fat soluble vitamins - which dissolve in fat and can be stored in the body. Fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K.

Water soluble vitamins - which need to dissolve in water before your body can absorb them. Water soluble vitamins are Vitamin C and the B complex vitamins such as Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, niacin, riboflavin and folate.

While vitamins are organic substances, minerals are inorganic and they come from the soil and water and are absorbed by plants or eaten by animals. The body needs largest amounts of some minerals such as calcium, to stay healthy. Other minerals such as chromium, copper, iodine, selenium and zinc are termed trace minerals as the body needs very small amounts of them each day.


Homocysteine Blood Test

Homocysteine blood test measures the amount of amino acid homocysteine in the blood. High level of homocysteine is associated with low level of vitamin B6/ B12, and folate. This blood test helps us to identify the deficiency and get treated accordingly. The results of the blood test are generally ready within 24 to 72 hours. Homocysteine is measured in micromoles per liter of blood.


Homocysteine (HCY) is considered as the main biochemical marker of several primary and secondary disorders of methionine metabolism. Methionine is one of the essential Amino acids and sweeps the blood stream of heavy metals. It plays a major role in protecting the liver. Poor Methionine Metabolism can result in Homocysteinemia, Cystathionine Synthase (CS) deficiency (Homocystinuria) and Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) deficiency.


Homocysteine is a non protein amino acid that is produced by the body and is present in small levels in the blood. Amino acids are the building blocks of all proteins in the body. In our body, vitamins B6, B12 and folate convert homocysteine into other usable substances. A deficiency in these vitamins may cause an elevated level of homocysteine. Elevated levels in infants can prove fatal as the infant may be highly prone to develop heart or blood vessel diseases at an early age.


Reference Level of Homocysteine : Less than or equivalent to : 13 µmol/L (micromoles per liter)


Elevated levels of homocysteine could be due to genetic causes (a rare disorder called Homocystinuria that is caused by a dysfunctional enzyme that is essential for metabolism in the body) or due to other causes like atherosclerosis.
In addition to be the important marker for inherited disorders of methionine metabolism, the total homocysteine (HCY) level can accurately predict conditions such as cardiovascular disease (atherosclerosis, thromboembolism). Besides it can also indicate acquired folate or cobalamin deficiency - a contributing factor in the pathogenesis of neural tube defects.


Homocysteine is measured using a simple blood test. This blood test is done to identify


  • B12 deficiency or folic acid deficiency
  • Cause for blood clots
  • Rare inherited disease that causes deficiency of enzymes needed to convert food to energy.

What causes high/low homocysteine value in blood ?

High values in blood may be caused by:


  • Vitamin B12, B6 or folic acid deficiency
  • Homocysteine value is usually high in men than in women. However post-menopause the levels tend to match. But during middle age women record low levels of homocysteine when compared to men.
  • Consuming too much alcohol, smoking
  • Other diseases like hypothyroidism, Alzheimer's disease, kidney disease, certain cancers can influence the homocysteine level.
  • Advancing age, reduced appetite leads to inadequate vitamin intake thus leading to the condition.
  • Lifestyle factors also contribute to the surge in homocysteine levels in the blood.

How is high level of homocysteine harmful ?

Higher levels of homocysteine can point to an underlying Cardiovascular disease or a Neuro vascular disease.
Elevated levels of homocysteine can:

Damage artery lining: Arteries tend to become damaged and begin to clog, thicken and become inflexible thus leading to atherosclerosis.

Create blood clots: Homocysteine can elevate the cholesterol levels thus clogging the arteries and thickening them thus leading to atherosclerosis. Blood clots form easily thus leading to heart attack.

Strokes: Elevated level of homocysteine can affect the arteries leading to and from the brain thereby causing a blood clot or a rupture in the blood vessel. This in turn can cut off/reduce the oxygen supply to the brain thereby starving the brain cells of nutrition and oxygen thus leading to a stroke.

Osteoporosis: Density of the bone mass reduces thus leading to fragile and weakened bones.

Cause infertility: Women with high level of homocysteine find it difficult to conceive and are at the risk of repeated miscarriages.

Cause dementia and Alzheimer's: Old age can contribute to high levels of homocysteine thus damaging the brain cells. Over time memory is lost thus killing more and more cells.


Homocysteine level in the blood can be lowered by:


1. Consuming more fruits and vegetables, as it can help increase the folate level in the blood. Green leafy vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, etc contribute largely in increasing the folate level.

2. Fortified grain products, lentils, spinach, asparagus, and breakfast cereals also are a good source of folate.

3. Consuming citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit can help.

4. Potatoes, breakfast cereals, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), bananas, and chicken are a good source of Vitamin B6 which help improve the homocysteine level in the blood.

5. Beef, organ meats, dairy products and fish are a great source of Vitamin B12 which in turn can increase the homocysteine.

6. Apart from folate in the diet, Vitamin B6 and B12 supplements help in raising the homocysteine level.

Who should get this test done?

People who have a history of heart diseases and are at a high risk for heart disease should get their homocysteine level checked. People who are at risk for stroke also need to get this check done.


Tags: #Vitamin B complex #Vitamins and Minerals #Homocysteine Blood Test
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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: September 25, 2020