B Vitamins & the Liver

B vitamins are water-soluble vitamins that dissolve in water and play many vital roles in metabolism. Your body cannot store them; as such, your system excretes excess B vitamins in urine. Your liver is a multifunctional organ that you need for virtually every metabolic function as well as some hormonal functions. It is located in the upper-right quadrant of your abdominal cavity.

A man drops a water soluble vitamin B tablet into a glass of water. (Image: RightOne/iStock/Getty Images)

Vitamin Functions

There are eight types of B vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, biotin, pantothenic acid, folate, B6 and B12. Most of them assist enzymes in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism, support your immune system, promote healthy cell growth and differentiation, and prevent diseases. Because they are not stored in your body--except B12--you must obtain them regularly from eating a wide variety of food.

Liver Functions

Your liver synthesizes cholesterol, different types of proteins, and glucose from proteins, glycerol and lactate. It also produces a yellowish liquid called bile that emulsifies fats and transports them to different parts of your body via the bloodstream. Your liver detoxifies and breaks down drugs, which are processed by your kidneys and become urine. According to former nutrition professor Gordon Wardlaw of Ohio State University, your liver stores vitamins A, D, and B12, iron, copper and glucose, and releases any of these nutrients if your body runs low.

Vitamin B Interactions with Liver

Your liver stores enough vitamin B12 to last one or two years, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Therefore, a vitamin B12 deficiency is uncommon among healthy individuals.

In a recent study published in the "Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention," low folate levels may cause liver damage and liver cancer, as well as increasing your risk of colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease. In the research, patients who have a high average amount of folate in their blood have a 14 percent reduction of alanine aminotransferase (ALT), which is an enzyme that is released into your bloodstream when hepatitis B is present.

Toxicity and Deficiencies

Many energy drinks, multivitamin supplements and fortified foods contain more than 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of B vitamins. Long-term high dosage of any B vitamin can cause skin flushes, nausea, and headaches from too much niacin.

B-vitamin deficiency is much more common and better documented than toxicity. Common symptoms including nausea, headaches, vomiting, skin rashes, fatigue and muscle weakness. In extreme cases, such as folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies, risks include liver disease, cardiovascular disease, psychosis, anemia and birth defects in pregnant women. According to Wardlaw, if you are lack any one of these vitamins in your diet, your metabolism can slow down and cause many disorders and diseases, such as berberi from lack of thiamine and pellagra from a lack of niacin.


The best way to maintain your liver health is to get enough nutrients daily, including fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), carbohydrates, healthy fats, and proteins. The Mayo Clinic recommends that you eat a wide range of plant-based foods, which contains a rich source of B vitamins except vitamin B12, and avoid high-fat foods. Avoid excessive alcohol intake and exposure to harmful chemicals or drugs.

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