No matter how healthy your diet, stress, sleepless nights, sugary foods, and alcohol can deplete nutrients, especially B vitamins, which are crucial for energy, metabolism, and brain function. Here’s what you need to know about these crucial nutrients.
Navigating your way around the B vitamins can be confusing because Bs are both named and numbered, from 1 to 12—gaps in the sequence of numbering occurred because some vitamins, like B4, were later dropped when researchers discovered they didn’t meet the criteria of a “vitamin.”
Four other substances—choline, PABA, inositol, and lipoic acid—are also included in the B-complex group, since they have similar properties, though they’re not technically vitamins. And some, like folate and thiamine, are better known by their names, while others by their numbers, like B12. The “official” eight B vitamins are:
Why You Need Your Bs
As a group, the eight B vitamins are critical for a variety of physiological functions. B vitamins play a role in cell growth and division, metabolism, red blood cell formation, neurotransmitter production, immune function, and DNA repair. And some B vitamins are crucial for nervous system function, brain health, and mood.
Low levels or deficiencies of certain B vitamins have been linked with an increased risk of depression, irritability, and mood problems, and several studies suggest that optimum levels of B vitamins—especially folate, B12, and B6—enhance mood, lower stress, and improve quality of life.