B good to yourself!


“B” Healthy, happy, smart and full of energy!

There are eight B vitamins.  The first to be discovered was Thiamine, B1.  B1 was found to be deficient in Japanese prisoners in the late 19th century.  The deficiency, termed ‘beriberi’ was due to the change in Japanese diet from brown rice to ‘polished’ rice, which removed nutrients required for brain function.  The discovery earned Eijkman and Hopkins a Nobel Prize in 1929 and set the path for investigation into all vitamins and their effects on health.

All the Bs influence brain function by contributing to energy function, carried out by mitochondria.  Thiamine, B1, enables the synthesis of ATP, which is our fuel for energy.  The brain uses more energy than any other organ, accounting for up to 20% of  the total haul. It is therefore very thiamine thirsty.

“B” energetic

Thiamine, together with the other Bs, helps convert carbohydrates and fats to fuel. It also has a unique role in regulating flow of electrolytes through nerve and muscle cells.

If you’ve ever wondered why your urine turns bright yellow when you are taking Bs, Riboflavin is the culprit.  It is also important for energy production, but probably Riboflavin’s prime role is the recycling of glutathione – the mother of antioxidants. It also promotes iron metabolism.

Niacin helps store food and convert it to energy.  It is also the precursor to enzymes NAD and NADP, needed in many metabolic reactions and for the fighting of free radical oxygen species (ROS).

Pantothenic Acid, B5, is needed for synthesis of Coenzyme A, which is required for metabolism of fatty acids.

Pyridoxine, B6, is also important for energy conversion, but  one of its main roles is as the ‘mood guy’. It regulates mood, is needed for production of red blood cells and neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA. Depression, inflammatory diseases and ADHD have been linked to B6 deficiency.

Biotin, B7, the ‘new kid on the block’ is needed for fat and glucose metabolism, fat and insulin synthesis. Insulin is required for transport of glucose into cells for energy.

Folic Acid, B9, is probably one of the best known B.  It is vital for DNA, RNA and new cell formation, especially during gestation and infancy.  It has a major role in brain and spinal cord development.  Its job is to produce messaging molecules, notably serotonin and dopamine, that allow nerves to communicate throughout the body. Low levels of B9 have been associated with depression, autism and schizophrenia.  B9 also helps to regulate homocysteine, which is implicated in plaque formation in the cardiovascular system.

Cobalamin, B12, is another energy mobiliser.  It produces red blood cells and keeps a check on homocysteine, thereby aiding the cardiovascular system.  Because red blood cells are crucial for transporting oxygen and B12 maintains haemoglobin, it has a major role in keeping the brain healthy.  It works with B9 as key factors in DNA synthesis.

The amino acid, Choline, is a half sister of the Bs.  It is integral to cell membranes and is a key component of  the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which plays a role in memory.


As a summary:

Vitamin Name Why you need it
B1 Thiamine Production of ATP, the energy unit in mitochondria.
B2 Riboflavin Glutathione production
B3 Niacin Energy metabolism, antioxidant generation
B5 Pantothenic Acid Coenzyme A (CoA) production, fat metabolism
B6 Pyridoxine Serotonin, dopamine, GABA synthesis, production of haemoglobin, the oxygen transporter
B7 Biotin Insulin production, glucose and fat metabolism
B9 Folate Serotonin and dopamine production, cardiovascular health, red blood cell production, possibly stem cell production
B12 Cobalamin DNA production, cardiovascular health, protection of myelin sheath

There are a number of tests that can identify if you are low in any of the Bs.  Book an appointment and let us help you decide if you need supplementation – we can save you money in the long round!

About the Author

Louella Wood

Registered Naturopath DipNat, member NZSN, AIMA. BA (Hons)Env. Std., Dip.Tch. Working at Whangarei Natural Health, Whangarei.