It’s often said that the medical world is full of alphabet soup with loads of acronyms, abbreviations, and other jargon. The same goes for the discussion of nutrients, particularly B vitamins. As a whole, B vitamins aid in cellular metabolism and also help with the creation and maintenance of red blood cells.
But there is often much confusion surrounding how many types of vitamin B there actually are and what specific purpose each of them serves. Here are the eight B vitamins and their common names:
- Vitamin B1 – Thiamine
- Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin
- Vitamin B3 – Niacin
- Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic acid
- Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine
- Vitamin B7 – Biotin
- Vitamin B9- Folic acid (folate)
- Vitamin B12 – Cobalamin
Even with information laid out like this, someone may still wonder: Which B vitamin should I be taking?
Each of these vitamin B subtypes has a distinct purpose. The interesting part about vitamins in this category is that they are often already found (in small amounts) in the food we eat. But many people should take supplemental B vitamins as a way to boost their intake and assist with managing certain health concerns.
Thiamine (B1) Indications
Since Thiamine helps the body process food and turn it into energy, someone with symptoms such as appetite loss, fatigue, and generalized weakness may need to take B1. This may also be indicated if a person experiences unexplained sensation changes, such as numbness and tingling (a feeling of pins and needles) in the hands and feet. In dietary supplements, Vitamin B1 can be found in two different forms: Thiamine Hydrochloride and Thiamine Mononitrate.
Riboflavin (B2) Indications
Riboflavin has also involved in indigestion, but it has such other responsibilities as helping the skin, blood cells, and brain properly develop. Even more importantly, riboflavin plays a part in the body’s ability to convert other B vitamins into forms the body can more readily utilize. Someone might be recommended to take riboflavin if they have muscle cramps, migraines, or acne.
Niacin (B3) Indications
Compared to the other B vitamins, Niacin has more uses across the entire body. Someone might be recommended to take Niacin if they are attempting to lower their cholesterol, manage diabetes symptoms, have arthritis pain, or would like a boost in cognitive function. There is some early evidence that indicates Niacin may also help in the prevention of high blood pressure and skin cancer (when applied topically). Be careful with dosage here, since high levels of niacin can cause an upset stomach.
Pantothenic acid (B5) Indications
This type of B vitamin also helps with digestion. But B5, in particular, assists with the regulation of stress and sex hormones (including cortisol, estrogen, testosterone, and adrenaline). Many of these hormones are produced in the adrenal glands, which govern many bodily functions and keep the body operating at a level pace while managing life’s challenges.
Pyridoxine (B6) Indications
B6 is perhaps one of the most common forms because it is often recommended for people with anemia. Doctors will typically write a prescription for B6 injections, depending on how severe someone’s condition is. A doctor may recommend that someone take B6 orally to assist with mood balancing, improve memory function, eye health, and decrease pain related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). There is also some early evidence that shows B6 can help prevent heart disease and skin cancer due to its inflammatory nature. The most common forms of Vitamin B6 in dietary supplements are Pyridoxine Hydrochloride and Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate.
Biotin (B7) Indications
Biotin is commonly known in the health and wellness industry for its ability to improve hair and nail growth. Biotin, also known as B7, can help with brittle nails and hair loss. Someone may also take B7 if they are looking to soothe the nervous system or boost liver metabolism, which is beneficial to people looking to better eliminate waste from the body.
Cobalamin (B12) Indications
B12 is another type of B vitamin that is often given to people at risk for developing a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia. Cobalamin is recommended to pregnant women as part of prenatal formulas since it can help prevent birth defects. When adults take B12, it is often to balance mood, improve energy levels, and enhance heart health. Some people may take B12 for the prevention of conditions such as osteoporosis and macular degeneration. In some cases, people with digestive concerns will take B12 to avoid the development of anemia. The four types of Vitamin B12 are Methylcobalamin, Cyanocobalamin, Adenosylcobalamin, and Hydroxocobalamin.
Folic acid (folate) Indications
If you’re noticing that anemia is a common theme among the vitamin B discussions, it definitely is. Someone may take folic acid to manage fatigue, mouth sores, and pale skin that are associated with folate deficiency (another type of anemia). Folate is crucial to the development of healthy red blood cells. Without folate, red blood cells do not function properly and can even grow too large.
Final Thoughts on B Vitamins
As you can see, the Vitamin B discussion can be a lot to take in. Each vitamin in this category plays a large part in the healthy development and maintenance of the body. While some people may take Vitamin B6 or B12 to generally improve their energy levels and mood, the other types can cater to a range of specific symptoms.
The good news is that most of these B vitamins are available as dietary supplements, do not require a prescription, and you can begin using them immediately. After taking a look at our list, decide which B vitamins are right for you and might benefit your lifestyle. Get started today!