B vitamins can be classified as water-soluble vitamins that play crucial roles in cell metabolism. Even though these vitamins share similar names, they are all chemically distinct compounds.
They often coexist in the same foods, such as fruits, dairy, etc. Most often, B vitamins can be found in meats – thereby making them less available to vegetarians and vegans.
Despite being present in dairy products, vegetarians are often deficient in these vitamins as they are not present in sufficient amounts. Vegan diets are plant-based, and avoid dairy products, therefore, they are mostly lacking in B-vitamins. That’s the reason Vegans cannot even obtain enough B vitamins from natural food sources and are often advised supplements to fulfill the required amount in their daily diet.
Discovery of B Vitamins
Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamine was initially discovered in the year 1910. It failed to gain recognition until Casimir Funk discovered it in 1912.
Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin was Discovered by D.T. Smith and E.G Hendrick in 1926, later artificially synthesized by Max Tishler.
C. Elvehjem discovered B3 (Niacin) in the year 1937.
In 1933, Pantothenic acid – Vitamin B5 – was discovered by R.J. Williams
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine was discovered in 1934 by P. Gyorgy.
Researched by multiple people around the beginning of 1900 – finally, the credit for discovering Biotin, or vitamin B7 was awarded to M.A. Boas, P. Gyorgy, & D. Burk.
L. Wilks discovered Vitamin B9 – Folic acid – in 1933
G.Whipple, G. Minot, W. Murphy, A.R. Todd & D. Hodgkin were awarded Nobel prizes for the direct and indirect studies on Cyanocobalamin or Vitamin B12.
Molecular Function, Sources, and Potential Deficiency Diseases
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) is known to play an important role in the release of energy from carbohydrates. It is present in Salmon, Liver (and other organ meats), Beef, Pork, Nutritional Yeast.
Deficiency can cause Beri Beri – symptoms include weight loss, nausea, mood swings. In advanced cases, heart failure and death can occur.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) is involved in the release of energy in the Electron Transport Chain and the catabolism of fatty acids. It is present in Eggs, Milk, Yogurt, Trout, Dark Green Leafy Vegetables.
Deficiency can cause Ariboflavinosis – causes high-sensitivity to light, glossitis, pseudo-syphilis, pharyngitis, etc.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) is responsible for the energy transfer reactions in the metabolism of glucose, fat, and alcohol. It is present in Mushrooms, Brown Rice, Peanuts, Avocado.
The deficiency of Niacin combined with the deficiency of tryptophan causes pellagra.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) is used in the oxidation of fatty acids and carbohydrates. It is present in Lentils, Beans, Dairy Products, Poultry.
Deficiency causes acne and sometimes (uncommon) paraesthesia.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) serves as a cofactor in many enzyme reactions mainly in amino acid metabolism. It is present in Pork, Poultry, Fish, Wholegrain Cereals, Bread.
Deficiency causes pink-eye, dermatitis-like eruptions, neurological symptoms.
Vitamin B7 (Biotin) plays a key role in the metabolism of lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates. It is present in Sweet Potatoes, Nuts, Seeds, Walnuts, Raspberries.
Deficiency causes cosmetic issues in adults, such as decreased hair & nail growth.
Vitamin B9 (Folic acid) is needed for normal cell division, especially during pregnancy and infancy, which are times of rapid growth. Folate also aids in erythropoiesis, which is the term used for the process of the production of red blood cells. It is present in Dark Green Leafy Vegetables, Sunflower Seeds, Fresh Fruit, Seafood.
Deficiency causes macrocytic anaemia. Deficiency in pregnant women may lead to birth defects in the baby.
Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin) is involved in the cellular metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids. It is essential in the production of blood cells in bone marrow, and for nerve sheaths. It is present more in Animal Products (eggs, milk, meat) than plant-based foods.
Deficiency can cause memory loss and other cognitive defects.
Additionally, B12 deficiency can cause almost any psychiatric symptom. Anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and hallucinations can be caused.
This is because B12 deficiencies trigger symptoms in the nervous system and red blood cells.
Recommended Daily Allowances & Potential Side Effects
|POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS (if taken in excess)
|Some reports suggest anaphylaxis that may be caused due to a high dosage injection of Thiamine into the nerve or the muscle
|May produce certain unwanted free radicals of oxygen (in in-vitro experiments, upon being exposed to UV radiation)
|Excessive intake is associated with nausea, vomiting, and signs and symptoms of liver toxicity
|No known toxicity
|Doses of pyridoxine above the dietary upper limit (UL) over long periods can cause painful and ultimately irreversible neurological problems
|No known toxicity
|Masks B12 deficiency – can potentially lead to neurological damage
|Can cause lesions on the spine and the skin
* – Recommended Daily Allowance not scientifically established
If your healthcare professional suspects that you might be deficient in Vitamin B, you would be advised to go for a blood test to confirm the levels of Vitamin B in your body so that proper supplementation or nutritional plan can be advised accordingly. Bhookha Haathi has collaborated with Thyrocare and offers you all such tests and more for the best prices in the market. Moreover, Bhookha Haathi provides customized subscription plans to suit your nutritional requirements that your daily diet might be lacking in to help you lead a healthier life. Find out more on our website!
Written by: Jahnabee Adhikari
Jahnabee is a part-time blogger, full-time dog lover. She believes that writing actually possesses the potential to change the world. She can be often found fantasizing about poetry or buried nose-deep in a Sudha Murthy novel.