When you think B vitamins, think brain health. The B vitamins especially B6, B12, and folate are essential for brain health.
Dr. Mark Hyman says …
“Your brain runs on nutrients … and if you don’t have adequate levels of nutrients, you can’t actually regulate your brain function properly. So, having adequate levels of nutrients, particularly the methylating nutrients, B6, folate, B12, vitamin D, omega-3 fats, these are critical for brain function.”
[46 minutes into video of his talk at Google about health]
Folate is the natural form that is found in foods. Folic acid is synthetic form of folate that is found in supplements. Folate is actually a B vitamin; it is B9. But most people just call it folate.
Similarly, niacin is B3. Riboflavin is B2, Thiamine is B1. Biotin is B7. And pantothenic acid is B5. In vitamin bottles, you will see them labeled as folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, botin, and pantothenic acid (which are what they are usually referred to as).
But for B6 and B12 they just call it B6 and B12. Why? B6 in vitamin pills can be pyridoxine, pyridoxal, or pyridoxamine, or pyridoxine hydrochloride. B12 is various cobalamins or more commonly cyanocobalamin in vitamins supplements. These are too complicated of a name; so it’s easier to just say B6 and B12. There are no such things as B4, B8, B10, nor B11.
Steven Wm. Fowkes gave a presentation “Nutrients for Better Mental Performance” at GoogleTechTalks. He says that vitamin B is critical for better mental performance. Cellular energy is key to brain function. Because the brain uses 20% of the body’s energy even though it is 3% of the body by mass.
The Mood Cure writes …
“All of the basic B vitamins have been shown to help eliminate every kind of emotional discomfort and significantly relieve physical discomfort as well.” [page 110]
Following on that, the book The Happiness Diet has section titled “Essential Element of Happiness #1: Vitamin B12”
It says that …
“You can’t make brain cells without this vitamin. Low B12 causes irritability, depression, and cognitive decline”. [page 59]
Good sources of B12 are found in shellfish, fish, liver, beef, and eggs.
Vitamin B Helps Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s
According to the book Ultraprevention, elevated homocyteine levels can be reduced by proper dosage of B12, B6, and folic acid (B9). [page 17] Furthermore, it writes …
“Folic acid … controls levels of homocyteine which is closely linked to Alzheimer’s disease.” [page 23]
CNN reports that vitamin B12 may stave off Alzheimer’s. This is because vitamin B12 lowers homocysteine (an amino acid) levels. And high homocysteine levels is associated with increased Alzheimer’s risk. B vitamins help converts homocysteine into beneficial glutathione and SAMe. [reference]
Dr. Emily Deans explains on PsychologyToday on how homocysteine may cause brain shrinkage and how B vitamins reduces homocysteine and hence possibly reduce shrinkage.
In another post, she explains how the body converts folic acid to methylfolate, which is essential for making neurotransmitters and DNA. And that there is a correlation between low folate and high homocysteine and greater depression.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine says …
“… that the elevation in the homocysteine level preceded the onset of dementia.”
Because vitamin B is a water-soluable vitamin, it is not likely that one would overdose on it. Excess that the body does not need can be easily eliminated in the urine.
However, on page 236 of Natural Health, Natural Medicine, Dr. Weil warns …
“Do not take high doses of niacin if you are pregnant or if you have ulcers, gout, diabetes, gallbladder disease, liver disease, or have had a recent heart attack.”
Niacin is B3.
B vitamins for making myelin
The myelin sheaths are the insulating material around the axon of neurons.
In order to make myelin, the body requires B1, B9, and B12 along with omega-3 and iodine. And in order to make neurotransmitters, it needs B6 and sulfur.
This was mentioned in the video on the right by Dr. Terry Wahls who had cured herself of multiple sclerosis through diet.
The diet that she adopted was high in vegetables for the B vitamins and in omega-3.
Vitamin B for Energy
The B vitamins are essential for energy production and critical for neurological functions. Your body needs vitamin B6, B12, and folate among other things in order to make coenzyme-Q10 which supports the cell’s energy power-plants mitochondria.
B vitamins also helps the methylation cycle which produces glutathione, the body’s master anti-oxidant and detoxifier.
Dr. Khalsa writes …
“The complete family of B vitamins help your brain cells create energy. Additionally, the B vitamins, especially B12 and folate acid, work to lower and control levels of the heart-harmful amino acid homocysteine.”
in his book Brain Longevity. And on page 51 his recommendation is ..
“I recommend at least 50 mg daily of the entire B-complex series.”
Thiamine B1 and the Citric Acid Cycle
Thiamine is a cofactor for enzymes such as transketolase, pyruvate dehydrogenase, alpha-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase, and others. One of the things that thiamine gets turned into is thiamine diphosphate (also known as TPP) which is involved in running glucose metabolism and citric acid cycle.
The citric acid cycle increases the cell’s ability to produce ATP energy and provide it with precursors that the cell needs to build a variety of molecules. Watch the animation on the Citric Acid Cycle. That is why B vitamins would be a supplement to help with low energy.
Article on PsychologyToday talks about the horrible symptoms of Thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency and its effect on the brain. Symptoms are disorientation, inattention, and agitatation. In extreme deficiencies, it leads to ophthalmoplegia, ataxia, confusion, and Wernike’s encephalopathy, or even Korsakoff’s Psychosis.
That is because thiamine deficiency decreases cerebral glucose utilization and results in damages to the mitochondria. Note that excessive alcohol reduces the intestinal absorption of thiamine.
Vitamin B Uses
Beside for producing energy and neurological health, B vitamins are used by many different cycles in the body (especially the methylation cycle). Karen Lyke MS, CCN presented a webinar …
explaining the many roles that B vitamin plays in the body. She also talks about B vitamins in foods.
Folic acid is sometimes used in for memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, age-related hearing loss, preventing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), osteoporosis, restless leg syndrome, and more.
B6 is involved in protein metabolism and read blood cell metabolism. Your nervous and immune system also needs B6.
Niacin helps keep your hair, skin, and eyes healthy. Niacin is involved in controlling your cholesterol and may help boost your good HDL cholesterol.
Riboflavin is usually used in conjunction with other B vitamins to maintain healthy hair and skin and to boost the immune system.
Vitamin B in Foods
Folate acid is found in green leafy vegetable (such as broccoli and spinach), in mushrooms, bananas, asparagus, beans, and others.
B12 is found in beef, shellfish, and eggs. Organ meats like liver and heart are very metabolically active and contains lots of B vitamins, especially B12 and folate.
The leaves of dark leafy green vegetables is designed to take energy from the sun and supply the plant with its needs. So that too is very metabolically active. Dark meat from chicken has more B vitamins than white meat because the muscle contain more mitochondria and is more metabolically active.
The yolk of an egg from free-range chickens supply life and has a lot of good B vitamins, especially B12. The chicken from mass produced egg farms are stressed and uses up a lot of the B vitamins so there would be less in their eggs.
Mushroom are good source of Thiamine B1, Riboflavin B2, and Niacinamide B3 as well as possibly other B vitamins.
B vitamins deficiencies
B vitamins are water soluble, as opposed to fat-soluble vitamins. B12 can be stored in the liver and the human body can store several years worth of it. But when it runs out, one may start to experience B12 deficiency conditions.
B12 deficiency symptoms may include anemia, panic attacks, nervous disorders, weakness, loss of balance, and numbness in extremities.
Since B12 are found in animal products, vegan who do not eat animal products may have a greater risk of B12 deficiency. In fact, the book Nourishing Traditions says that …
“Usable vitamin B12 occurs only in animal products.” [page 28]
The Homocysteine Revolution writes …
“Vegans who consume no animal products of any kind need to supplement their diets with 0.1 mg vitamin B12 per day (or 1 mg intramuscular injection per month) to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency.” [page 161]
Certain drugs can deplete the body of B vitamins, these includes anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin and ibuprofen), birth control pills, water pills, anticonvulsant drugs, and others. [reference: The UltraMind Solution page 63]
Vitamin B and Homocysteine
Vitamin B deficiencies can lead to unhealthy high homocysteine levels which is associated with cardiovasular disease, dementia, and cancer.
The book The Homocysteine Revolution writes …
“Accordingly, an optimal diet for prevention of arteriosclerosis would emphasize an adequate dietary intake of vitamins B6 and folic acid … to prevent excessive conversion of the methionine of either animal or vegetable protein to homocysteine.” [page 148]
Homocysteine is an amino acid produced by the human body. Its level in the blood can be measured via a blood test. High homocysteine levels damages the linings of the arteries. So it increases the risk of coronary artery disease as well as Alzheimer’s disease.
Patrick Holford writes in a section titled “B Vitamins: Your Brain’s Best Friend” in his book Optimum Nutrition for the Mind …
“B vitamins do far more for the brain than reduce homocysteine levels. Oxygen, the most critical and dangerous nutrient of them all, depends on vitamin B12, folic acid niacin, and essential fats to be transported and used by the brain. Vitamin B1 deficiency has long been known to result in brain damage. … For these reasons, optimal intakes of all the B vitamins is an important part of an Alzheimer’s prevention plan.”
And also that …
“Working together with vitamin B12 and folic acid, niacin helps keep adrenaline and noradrenaline levels in balance, and prevents the abnormal production of adrenochrome in the brain. These nutrients are “methyl” donors and acceptors, and act intelligently in the brain to keep everything in check … Niacin, through its flushing action, also helps to detoxify copper and other toxic elements that are associated with mental illness, and improves oxygen supply to the brain. Niacin is also needed for the brain to make use of essential fats. The “happy” neurotransmitter serotonin also needs niacin.”
Best Form of Vitamin B12 in Supplements
Not all supplements are the same. You need to get the best form of the B vitamins. It is best to get a B-complex which is a mix of the various B vitamins (because they work synergistically together).
There are three forms of B12…
According to NaturalNews.com methylcobalamin is the best form. It is the form found in found and is the form that can donate the methy group in the important methylation process.
Dr. Mercola also says methylcobalamin is the best form. And he has a spray form of the product in his website.
It might be difficult to find methylcobalamin in your grocery store. But amazon has “Pure Encapsulations B complex” that has this form, as do Life Extension’s “BioActive Complete B-Complex”
When taking B-vitamin supplement, make sure not to take folate, but rather Methyl tetrahydrofolate instead.
Best form of B9 in Supplements
As for B-9, you want Folate, and not Folic Acid (which may actually be harmful). The active form of folate is 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) — some brand name of this form is Metafolin and Deplin. [reference]
So you want your supplement bottom to have the words “folate”, “5-MTHF”, “methyltetrahydrofolate”, or Metafolin, or Deplin in it. If it just says “folic acid”, skip it.
Best form of B6 in Supplments
According to westonaprice.org …
Pyridoxine hydrochloride (PNHCl) is the most common form of B6 available in supplements. When compared with pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P-5-P) supplements, PNHCl requires an additional enzymatic step in the liver to be converted to the form utilizable by the body. Many practitioners recommend P-5-P supplements over PNHCl supplements for this reason and because there have been more reports of adverse effects with use of high doses of pyridoxine. However, in healthy individuals, bypassing this step using large doses of P-5-P may not be wise, as the liver serves as an important control to prevent excessive production of P-5-P.
The article also writes that high B6 is not advised …
“Supplementation with doses above the upper tolerable intake level of 100 mg per day can lead to nerve damage in the arms and legs and possibly the spinal cord, usually reversible when supplementation is stopped.9 In addition, there is research suggesting that high doses of B6 can generate toxic photo-products as a result of UV irradiation.”
In general, even though B vitamins are water-soluable and comes out in your urine, do not take high doses of B vitamins for long periods without a doctor supervision. High dosage for long periods have been known to cause nerve pains and possible nerve damage.