Why Do Vitamin B Supplements Turn Urine Yellow?

Have you noticed any changes in urine color recently? You might have what's known as "vitamin B yellow pee." Some B vitamins, such as riboflavin and folic acid, can turn your urine yellow when consumed in excess. Luckily, this condition does not pose any serious risks.

Vitamin B supplements can turn your urine yellow.
Credit: Piyapong Thongcharoen/iStock/GettyImages

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Riboflavin, vitamin B12, folic acid and other B-complex vitamins contain yellow-green or yellow-orange pigments that may change urine color. This side effect is harmless and usually goes away on its own.

In general, neon yellow pee results from excessive vitamin B intakes. These nutrients are water-soluble, so the excess leaves your body through urine. Except for niacin and vitamin B6, they are unlikely to cause side effects when consumed in large doses.

Urine Color and Your Health

Urine smell and color can tell you a lot about your health. Under normal conditions, your pee should be clear or pale yellow. If it changes its color, it might be a sign of dehydration or hypervitaminosis (high vitamin levels). Some foods and medications may affect urine color, too.

According to UC San Diego Health (UCSD), urine is at least 95 percent water. The rest of it contains urea, electrolytes, creatinine and other compounds. Urobilin, a byproduct of hemoglobin breakdown, gives urine its yellow color.

If your pee is colorless, you may be drinking too much water, which can lead to electrolyte imbalances. Dark yellow urine, on the other hand, is a sign of dehydration. Light orange or neon yellow urine is usually the result of dietary supplements or medications, such as multivitamins. However, it may also indicate liver or bile duct problems.

Certain foods, such as asparagus, may cause urine to turn green. If your pee is white or milky, you may be eating too much protein. High mineral intakes can have this effect, too.

Read more: Vitamin B Complex and Green Urine

Consult a doctor immediately if your urine is red, black or dark brown or has a foamy consistency. These changes in urine color and texture may indicate a more serious problem, such as liver disease or melanoma. Also, seek medical help if you see blood in your urine.

Warning

Sometimes, changes in urine color may indicate a more serious condition, such as liver disease or bile duct problems. Contact your doctor immediately if your urine turns red or dark brown.

What Causes Neon Pee?

Neon yellow pee is often the result of high vitamin B intakes. For example, riboflavin (vitamin B2) contains a yellow-green pigment with fluorescent hues. When consumed in large doses, it may cause your pee to turn bright yellow. The excess is eliminated in the urine, so it's unlikely to cause more serious side effects.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that riboflavin regulates energy production and helps you process lipids, steroids and some drugs. It occurs naturally in most foods, including milk and dairy, salmon, poultry, eggs, spinach and almonds. One cup of plain yogurt, for instance, boasts 35 percent of the daily recommended intake for riboflavin. A single serving of pan-fried beef liver provides 171 percent of the daily recommended allowance.

If you're a woman, aim for at least 1 milligram of riboflavin per day. Adult men need about 1.3 milligrams of this nutrient daily. There is no upper limit for vitamin B2 because high doses are considered safe.

Another possible cause of changes in urine color is excessive vitamin B12. Like all B-complex vitamins, this nutrient is soluble in water, so the excess is eliminated in the urine. Your body needs it to produce red blood cells and certain amino acids, maintain normal brain function and synthesize DNA.

Read more: Can Vitamins Change the Color of Your Urine?

As the National Institutes for Health points out, excessive vitamin B12 intakes don't pose any health risks. However, you may notice changes in urine color. For example, a June 2016 case report featured in the Journal of General Internal Medicine shows that hydroxocobalamin, or vitamin B12, may cause wine-colored urine.

Folic acid supplements can make your pee orange or bright yellow. These pills contain a water-soluble yellow or yellowish-orange powder, and the excess is eliminated unchanged in the urine.

Also known as vitamin B9, this nutrient is particularly important during pregnancy. According to a cohort study published in Diabetes Care in June 2019, folic acid supplementation can significantly lower the risk of gestational diabetes, a condition that affects 2 to 10 percent of expecting mothers.

Why Are B Vitamins Important?

Vitamin B yellow pee isn't a reason for concern. Most B vitamins are harmless when consumed in large doses. The only exceptions are vitamin B6 and niacin, which may cause severe toxicity.

High doses of niacin may affect the liver and cause abdominal pain, arrhythmia, dizziness, skin flushing and other side effects, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Excess vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, may lead to nerve damage, nausea and hypersensitivity to sunlight.

B-complex vitamins may also give the urine a green hue. However, this is a normal side effect and has no impact on your health. In fact, B vitamin deficiencies are a lot more harmful than overdosing.

Low levels of vitamin B12, for example, can affect your energy and stamina. You may also experience unintentional weight loss, poor appetite, constipation, depression and memory problems. In the long run, vitamin B12 deficiency may lead to anemia and nervous system damage, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Make sure your diet provides adequate doses of thiamin, or vitamin B1. This water-soluble nutrient helps your body convert food into energy. It's found in beans, fortified cereals, pork, tuna, shellfish, brown rice and other whole foods. Thiamin deficiency has been linked to cardiovascular problems, memory loss, anorexia and neurological disorders.

B-complex vitamins also keep your brain sharp and may protect against mental disorders, according to a November 2016 research paper featured in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.

For example, vitamin B12 and folic acid may help prevent depression in women. Furthermore, vitamin B12 deficiency may play a role in the onset of neurocognitive disorders. High folate intakes have been linked to lower rates of dementia in the elderly.

The potential health benefits of B-complex vitamins outweigh any potential risks, like neon pee. Additionally, most foods contain small to moderate doses of B vitamins, so they're unlikely to cause adverse reactions. If you're at risk for nutrient deficiencies, your doctor may recommend a daily multivitamin. However, if your diet is in check, you might not need B vitamin supplements at all.

Read more: 43 Supplements Exposed: Which Ones to Consider, Which Ones to Avoid

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