B12 vs B Complex
The B complex is a suite of 8 water-soluble vitamins that are critical for cell metabolism and red blood cell synthesis.
Each B vitamin has its own health benefits, and they work synergistically and are closely related. You can read about all the benefits of each B vitamin here.
You can find B vitamins in a variety of foods including green vegetables, animal products, and grains.
B12 is the most well-known of the B vitamins.
The Difference Between B12 and B Complex
B12 is one of the 8 B vitamins in the B complex. Deficiencies are common and many people like to take a B12 supplement on its own (like the Why Not Natural liquid B12) but it's important to consume all of the other B vitamins, as well.
B vitamins must be consumed every day as they are water-soluble, and taking an excess of one B vitamin over a long period of time can deplete the other B vitamins. If you supplement with B12, it can be a good idea to alternate with a B complex (like this one).
Signs of Low B12
If you feel lethargic, have changes to your mood, are unable to concentrate, or have pins and needles, these can be signs of low B12.
Many people take a B complex supplement for an improvement to their anxiety, mood, and energy. While there are several B vitamins that are connected to these symptoms, it's often an improvement to the B12 level that makes the biggest impact.
You can read more about signs of low B12 here.
Deficiency in B12 is the most common B vitamin deficiency, because you can't get vitamin B12 from plant sources and there are many factors that can negatively impact its absorption.
What are the B complex vitamins?
The 8 B vitamins that make up the B complex and include B12 are:
- Thiamine (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pantothenic acid (B5)
- Pyridoxine (B6)
- Biotin (B7)
- Folic acid (B9)
- Cobalamin (B12)
Each of these 8 vitamins come in various forms, each with varying bioavailability. For example, B12 won't usually be listed on a label as "cobalamin"; you'll usually see it listed B12 "as" either cyanocobalamin, methylcobalamin, adenosylcobalamin, or hydroxocobalamin.
How Can I Get More B Vitamins
There are various conditions that can contribute to a low B vitamin level. These include but are not limited to pernicious anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, digestive diseases like Crohn's, or chronic inflammation.
Certain lifestyle factors can also lead to B vitamin under-consumption or reduce absorption: a plant-based diet, consumption of alcohol, use of antibiotics and certain diabetes medications for example can deplete B vitamins or inhibit absorption.
A healthy, well-balanced diet can improve the amount of B vitamins in your diet. Unprocessed whole grains, root vegetables and leafy green vegetables, nuts, fruits, and peppers will give you all the B vitamins besides B12. You can also find them in animal products like eggs, organ meats, and yogurt.
To get enough B12, you should eat animal products like eggs, poultry, fish, and organ meats.
If you are experiencing signs of deficiency or worry you're not absorbing B vitamins efficiently, a B complex supplement is a good idea.
Can you take too much B complex?
The great thing about B vitamins is that they're water soluble and for B12 in particular, you can't take too much.
Any excess B12 will simply be flushed from your body.
However, not everyone needs to take a B12 and B complex together. A good B complex will contain B12, so in most cases it's unnecessary. If you want to know whether you need both B12 and a B complex, read this article.