How to Choose a B Complex
"B Complex" is the name given to a group of 8 essential water-soluble vitamins. The B Complex includes:
- Thiamine (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pantothenic Acid (B5)
- Pyridoxine (B6)
- Biotin (B7)
- Folic Acid (B9)
- Cobalamin (B12)
This suite of vitamins is found in a range of food sources, but some, like B12, are found almost exclusively in animal sources.
It can be difficult to find a the right B complex supplement with so many options available! We'll help you find the one that's right for you and tell you all the benefits.
Benefits of B Complex
Each B vitamin performs critical functions individually, which you'll see further down in this article. As a whole, they break down carbohydrates and transport nutrients to the body.
Stress and Mood
Taking a combination of B-vitamins has been shown to lift spirits and reduce stress. A study of healthy men treated with B complex supplements for 33 days had improved cognitive performance and mental health. Another 90 day study showed an improvement in stress levels. (1)
Anxiety and Depression
While B Complex supplements are not a substitute for proper psychiatric care, there is evidence to support them improving symptoms of anxiety and depression.
One 60-day study showed significant improvements in anxiety and depression symptoms. (2) Another study on older results showed an improved response to antidepressants when taking B vitamins. (3)
B vitamins work together to play an important role in neurological functioning. They have even been linked to a lower risk of Parkinson's Disease.(4)
B vitamins can reduce chronic fatigue symptoms. B12 supplementation in particular can be especially effective at combatting fatigue in those with a deficiency.
B vitamins have been shown to be especially effective at reducing the risk of melanoma skin cancer. (5)
B Vitamin Functions
To be considered a true B Complex, a supplement should contain all 8 vitamins below. Here are just a few of the many benefits of each B vitamin:
- Thiamine (B1): this helps convert nutrients into energy, and plays a critical role in a healthy metabolism. Known as the "morale vitamin" because it helps concentration and memory. It's found in pork and sunflower seeds.
- Riboflavin (B2): riboflavin also helps convert nutrients into energy. It's also an antioxidant, meaning it fights harmful free radicals. You can find riboflavin in beef, especially organ meats, as well as grains.
- Niacin (B3): helps improve good cholesterol (HDL) and blood pressure, boosts brain function and helps with metabolism and DNA production. Can be found in chicken and tuna as well as lentils.
- Pantothenic Acid (B5): also helps convert food to energy, especially making and breaking down fats. Helps produce red blood cells, hormones, and cholesterol. Great for hair, skin, and nails. Find it in organ meats, fish, and avocados.
- Pyridoxine (B6): improves mood and brain health; helps create red blood cells and neurotransmitters. Helps with amino acid metabolism and fighting anemia. Found in poultry, fish, and chickpeas.
- Biotin (B7): helps metabolize fats and carbohydrates and can help manage diabetes symptoms. Stimulates hair keratin production and also increases rate of follicle growth. Found in yeast, eggs, liver, and salmon.
- Folic Acid (B9): critical for red and white blood cell formation, cell growth and function, and especially important for pregnant women (for healthy embryo development). Found in dark leafy green vegetables, beans, peas, and nuts.
- Cobalamin (B12): the most famous B-vitamin, helps with DNA and red blood cell production, and neurological function (which is why it's known to give a boost of energy). Found in animal sources, like meat, eggs, and dairy.
When to Take a B Complex Supplement
Many people can benefit from supplementing with additional B vitamins. You should talk with your doctor about whether it's right for you.
Those who will benefit the most include older adults, those on a plant-based diet, pregnant women, people who drink alcohol, and those with certain medical conditions. Those who are under a lot of stress may also benefit.
What to Look for in a B Complex
When choosing a B Complex, choose one that has all 8 B vitamins. It can be especially helpful to take one that is sublingual, like the Why Not Natural Liquid B Complex.
Choose a B Complex that's free of unnecessary additives like synthetic preservatives or sugar. While it's tempting to take vitamins in gummy form, keep in mind that these are 90%+ filler in addition to extra sugars, and that may be less than ideal when it comes to something you take every day to improve your health.
(1) Effects of high-dose B vitamin complex with vitamin C and minerals on subjective mood and performance in healthy males