B’s in the Trap

My favorite Vitamin related misconception is that by taking a B-Complex vitamin, or other B-vitamins you will get a magical boost in energy.  False. 

This energy piece comes in because all B-vitamins are involved in metabolic processes in our body that involve energy.  These babies give us energy at cellular/metabolic levels.  You don’t pop a B supplement and feel so energized you could go run a marathon. … if you do then you’re a rare breed….or it’s all in your head. 

So all B vitamins are water soluble.  The ones I’ll cover in this blog will be B1, B2, and B3, and save B6, B9 (Folate), and B12 for later blogs. 

B1 aka Thiamin; B2 aka Riboflavin, and B3 aka Niacin.  Deficiencies of any of these is very unlikely as requirements for these are measured in micrograms (even smaller than a milligram)…. however deficiency with some of these is possible especially with certain lifestyle choices and existing disease states. 

Thiamin’s main function is by acting as a coenzyme (a helper) during carbohydrate metabolism, as well as branched chain amino acid metabolism.  Thiamin works closely with Niacin, and a few other guys to help the body with overall energy production (some processes in the body such as metabolism can be energy requiring…. this energy production is for that). 

Adult women require 1.1 mg per day, and men require 1.2 mg per day.  Because B1 is water soluble it is not stored in any large amount in your body so consistency dietary supply with important, and deficiency can and will occur.  Toxicity may also occur, in mice and dogs at a dose of 125-350 mg/kg body weight. 

Sources of Thiamin include:               

-Pork loin (3.5 oz) = .92 mg

-Green peas 1/2 cup = .23 mg

– Brown rice 1 cup = .19 mg

Other sources include are whole grains, dairy products, fortified cereals and breads, and nuts. 

Deficiency may occur, the name of the deficiency associated with Thiamin is called Beriberi.  It sounds cuter than it is.  Deficiency is unlikely but as I said it can happen.  If beriberi develops it can cause very serious complications involving the nervous system, heart, muscles, and GI system. 

Deficiency may also occur for those who: abuse alcohol/eating disorders/chronic vomiting/chemotherapy treatments and Beriberi can turn into a much larger issue when CNS involvement occurs this is called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, this is severe memory and nervous system disorder. 

Those who work in the clinical setting if someone comes in through the ER who is coming off a booze bender they will likely be put on a B1 drip/supplement.

Typically those who are on peritoneal dialysis, are elderly and diagnosed with dementia/alzheimers, may benefit from a supplement 

B2-Riboflavin is similar to thiamin in the sense that it is broken down to a coenzyme form, and aids in oxidation/reduction reactions that are essential for certain metabolic processes such as oxidizing glucose and fatty acids to make ATP (our body’s premium energy source). 

Deficiency is again unlikely, as is toxicity, the recommended amount per day for men is 1.3 mg/day, and 1.1 mg/day for women.

Deficiency is unlikely because Riboflavin is found in a lot of common foods, and the amount we need is pretty low, therefore easy to get.  Good sources of B2 are: dairy products, meats, eggs, green leafy vegetables, nuts/beans, and foods that are fortifed with B2. 

It is thought that some oral contraceptives interfere with the conversion of Riboflavin to its active form. 

Last but certain not least is Niacin (B3) aka Nicotinic Acid.  After niacin is consumed (like B1 and B2) it is converted into its metabolically active form (coenzymes).  Hundreds of enzymes that our body needs for function require the presence of metabolically active niacin- such as the building and/or breakdown of carbs, amino acids (protein), and fats. 

Again these three vitamins are essentially in providing our bodies energy however it just doesn’t give us energy in the way many people think it does…like that of caffeine. 

Deficiency and toxicity can occur.  The tolerable upper limit is 35 mg, if this is exceeded people usually experience flushing, and GI discomfort, as well as abnormal liver function tests

Deficiency can occur, and if it is allowed to continue it will turn into Pellegra, and is characterized by the “4-D’s) Dermatitis, Diarrhea, Dementia, and Death.  This is more likely to occur in under-developed countries, and in the U.S. seen in alcoholics.  Deficiency can be successfully treated with Nicotinic Acid. 

The recommended daily intake for adult men is 16 mg and 14 mg for women of “Niacin Equivalents” (NE).  Niacin gets this special designation because of its close friendship with the amino acid Tryptophan.  Tryptophan- when consumed can contribute toward Niacin intake. 

Food sources of B3 include: meat, fish, beans/nuts/seeds, some cereals, and products that contain Niacin enriched flours.  Coffee beans also have a high niacin content. 

Some important interactions to note

-Niacin in supplement form may contribute to elevated blood sugars

-Niacin may increase risk of myopathy if combined with lovastatin (Mevacor)

However Nicotinic Acid (prescription form) has been shown in humans, in randomized double blind studies to be beneficial in lowering cholesterol levels…

In closing none of these vitamins are really necessary to supplement provided you are not an alcoholic or told by a physician you are not absorbing them one way or another.  Many times by ensuring you are getting adequate lean protein, consuming dairy, beans/nuts, and green leafy veggies you will meet if not exceed what is needed for these three vitamins. 


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