Vitamins are essential to ensure that the body functions as
it should. We all need to consume food containing B vitamins as part of a
healthy diet, as they have a specific impact on your body, from cell and
cardiovascular health to brain and nerve function to energy levels, muscle tone
and good eyesight.
If you’re interested in personal training or another fitness
profession, or simply want to ensure that you are following a healthy
lifestyle, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the different
properties and benefits of the various B vitamins. They are also of particular
importance to anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding, the older generation,
and those following a restricted diet or with underlying health conditions.
What are the different kinds of vitamin B
There are eight kinds of vitamin B, as follows:
Vitamin B1 – thiamine
Vitamin B2 – riboflavin
Vitamin B3 – niacin
Vitamin B5 – pantothenic acid
Vitamin B6 – pyridoxine
Vitamin B7 – biotin
Vitamin B9 – folic acid
Vitamin B12 – cobalamin
Public Health England has produced Government Dietary
Recommendations for energy and nutrients for males and females aged 1-18 years
and 19+ years, which can be accessed here.
This includes recommendations for the daily intake of vitamin B complex.
How much vitamin B do you need and where can you get it?
Taking each B vitamin in turn:
B1 – thiamine
Daily guidance: 1mg (milligram) for men and 0.8mg for women.
This vitamin allows the body to break down food and release
its energy, as well as supporting the nervous system. It can be found in a
range of foods from fruit and peas to eggs, liver, wholegrain and fortified
B2 – riboflavin
Daily guidance: 1.3mg for men and 1.1mg for women.
Good for a healthy nervous system, skin and eyes and aids
the release of energy from food.
Found in milk, eggs, rice and fortified breakfast cereals.
The riboflavin in food can be destroyed by the UV light in sunlight.
B3 – niacin
Daily guidance: 16.5mg for men and 13.2mg for women.
Helps to release energy from food and keep the nervous
system and the skin healthy. Both forms of niacin (nicotinic acid and
nicotinamide) can be found in fish and meat, as well as eggs, milk and wheat
B5 – pantothenic acid
Daily guidance: not established
Releases energy from food. Found in most meat and
vegetables, plus wholegrain rice and bread, and some fortified cereal.
B6 – pyridoxine
Daily guidance: 1.4mg for men and 1.2mg for women.
Forms haemoglobin to carry oxygen; helps the body to store
and use energy. Found in fish, poultry and pork, as well as wholegrain bread,
rice and cereals, vegetables and potatoes, soya beans, eggs, peanuts and milk.
B7 – biotin
Daily guidance: not established
Made by gut bacteria, it aids the breaking down of fat in
the body. Only found in low levels in food and may not be required in the diet.
B9 – folic acid
Daily guidance: 200 micrograms for men and women; 400
micrograms for women trying to get pregnant and in the first 12 weeks of
pregnancy. (Note: micrograms are smaller than milligrams).
Helps with the formation of red blood cells and healthy
growth of a foetus, avoiding folate deficiency anaemia. It’s found in leafy
green vegetables, broccoli, peas, sprouts, chickpeas and some fortified
B12 – cobalamin
Daily guidance: 1.5 micrograms for men and women.
Releases energy from food, makes red blood cells, promotes
nervous system health and works with folic acid. Sources include meat, some
fish, dairy and fortified breakfast cereals. Vegans may need a B12 supplement.
What else do I need to know?
Many of the B vitamins cannot be stored in the body so
should be consumed daily. Some people may need to take additional doses of
particular B vitamins, for example: pregnant women, older people, those
following a restricted diet and those with a specific health condition, such as
celiac disease, HIV or rheumatoid arthritis.
Signs of deficiency are varied, and can include fatigue,
anaemia, nausea, skin rashes, diarrhoea or constipation. Sometimes it may be
necessary to take supplements, however, you should investigate the best way to
take them (eg with or without food or drink). Also be aware that there can be
serious risks of taking supplements that provide too high a dosage of a
To find out more, visit the NHS
page on B Complex vitamins. If you have any specific health concerns, book an
appointment with your GP.