Vitamin B isn’t like other vitamins because it’s not just one thing. There are eight different types, each with its own function, that make up what’s known as vitamin B complex. You need all the B vitamins to remain healthy, and that doesn’t just mean your physical fitness. B vitamins also have a profound impact on mental wellbeing (https://longevity.technology/lifestyle/5-reasons-why-vitamin-b-complex-is-essential-for-mental-health/).
B vitamins have numerical labels (slightly confusingly, 1-3, then 5-7, then 9, then 12), but they also have names: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, folate and cobalamin. All are involved in your body’s metabolism, which includes producing energy. This can be vital for mental health. Thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid contribute to the food we eat turning into the energy that powers our brain. Without energy, your brain doesn’t work properly.
Pyridoxine, folate and cobalamin are essential for synthesizing neurotransmitters. These are the signals in our brain that tell us how to think or feel. If they’re missing or not working properly, cognition and mood can decline. You may be aware that for the brain to develop properly, we need B vitamins even before we’re born. That’s why it’s recommended that you take folic acid supplements, a form of folate, during pregnancy. It reduces the risk of neural tube defects.
Another important part of keeping your brain working is preserving nerve cells. These can be protected by something called myelin, and myelin can’t be produced without biotin and cobalamin. Cobalamin also helps the development of healthy nerve cells in the first place. Another form of protection comes from the antioxidant B vitamins, riboflavin and niacin, which may reduce oxidative stress and block harm from free radicals.
It’s not only the brain that contributes to mental wellbeing. Hormone levels, particularly cortisol, which is produced in the adrenal glands, also play a role. Pantothenic acid is essential for maintaining adrenal gland health. Pyridoxine even helps us sleep by contributing to the production of melatonin, giving us a chance to recover from stress.
The primary source of B vitamins is diet, but sometimes supplements are needed to raise your levels. Talk to a healthcare professional about appropriate dosages and the most effective forms, especially if you have allergies, and only purchase vitamins from reputable suppliers. You need to ensure you have the best balance of all the B vitamins for your body.