The supplement industry is a multi-billion dollar one, with over half of the adult population (or around 114 million Americans) regularly taking at least one supplement, according to Harvard Health. There's a vast array of supplements available, and among them is vitamin B complex.
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Vitamin B complex capsules typically contain all eight of the B vitamins, which work together to carry out essential functions in your body. If you're not getting enough of the B vitamins from your diet, taking a vitamin B complex tablet or capsule can help you meet your daily needs and keep you healthy.
Of course, it's always a good idea to discuss any new supplements with your doctor or a qualified nutritionist before adding them to your regimen.
One of the benefits of taking vitamin B complex capsules is that they provide adequate amounts of all of the B vitamins you need to meet your daily needs. This makes it easier to get what you need and helps prevent nutrient deficiencies.
What Is Vitamin B Complex?
When first discovered, vitamin B was thought to be a single vitamin that performed many different functions; but as researchers dug a little deeper, they realized that what they once classified as vitamin B was actually a group of eight different vitamins that were closely connected and performed interrelated roles in the body, according to a February 2016 report in Nutrients. But, while all of these vitamins work together to some degree, each also has its own specific role and provides its own benefits.
The eight B vitamins include:
- Thiamin (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pantothenic acid (B5)
- Pyridoxine (B6)
- Biotin (B7)
- Folate — or folic acid when included in supplements (B9)
- Cobalamin (B12)
All eight of these vitamins are classified as water-soluble, because they dissolve in water and aren't stored in the body. In other words, your body uses what it needs for that day and then excretes in your urine anything that's left over. Because no excess is stored, you need to get enough of each B vitamin every day to meet your needs. If your diet falls short, you put yourself at risk of developing a nutrient deficiency, in one or all of the vitamins. This is where B complex capsules come in.
Read more: What Foods Are High in B Vitamins?
Vitamin B Complex Capsules
Vitamin B complex capsules typically contain all eight of the B vitamins in sufficient amounts to meet your daily needs. All supplements are different, but in many cases, you need only a capsule or two for the whole day.
Although each B vitamin has individual functions, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health notes that all of the vitamins work together as coenzymes, which play a role in every single cellular process in your body. This means that everything from digestion to breathing to walking requires B vitamins.
One of the major functions of all of the B vitamins is to help you convert the food (or the protein, carbohydrates and fat) you eat into energy that your body can use. The vitamins also have their own separate functions:
- Thiamin — regulates appetite and keeps the nervous system healthy.
- Riboflavin — keeps your eyes and skin healthy.
- Niacin — promotes a healthy appetite and protects your vision.
- Pantothenic acid — helps produce new hormones.
- Pyridoxine — helps create red blood cells and the hormone insulin.
- Biotin — helps metabolize carbohydrates.
- Folate — or folic acid when included in supplements — reduces the risk of birth defects, protects against heart disease and helps metabolize protein.
- Cobalamin (B12) — helps make healthy red blood cells and keeps your nervous system healthy.
Read more: How Much Is Too Much Vitamin B Complex?
A Word of Caution
If you're deficient in one or more of the B vitamins because of dietary restrictions like veganism or an allergy that prevents you from eating a wide variety of foods, you may be able to use oral supplements like vitamin B capsules or tablets to give your body what it needs.
However, in some cases, you can develop deficiencies in specific B vitamins, like vitamin B12, due to a lack of a substance called "intrinsic factor," which is absolutely essential for the proper absorption of vitamin B12 in the stomach.
If your body doesn't make enough intrinsic factor, you can't absorb adequate amounts of oral vitamin B12 — no matter how much you take. In cases like this, the only way to get what you need is through injections, which bypass the stomach and go right into your bloodstream. That's why it's important to work with a health care provider to figure out not only which vitamins you may be deficient in, but also why you're deficient.
The Better Health Channel also notes that taking all of the B vitamins together as a vitamin B complex supplement can sometimes cover up deficiencies in other vitamins. Because of this, it's important not to self-diagnose a vitamin deficiency or take B complex with a "more is better" mentality. If you suspect that you have a vitamin deficiency, it's best to get checked out by your doctor.
Choosing a Quality Supplement
Another thing to consider is supplement quality. According to Harvard Health, supplements like B complex capsules aren't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so manufacturers of these supplements can sell them to you without submitting any evidence that proves their purity, potency, safety or efficacy. In other words, supplement manufacturers can make claims without backing them up with proof and, because of this, it's difficult to know what you're really getting.
In some cases, supplement manufacturers submit their products to private organizations for testing to prove to the consumer that the claims are accurate. To find these supplements, you want to look for labels that say United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or NSF International.
But keep in mind that supplements aren't meant to take the place of a healthy diet. If you think that your diet might be low in B vitamins, the best thing to do is include more foods that contain the vitamins, instead of relying solely on a supplement to meet your needs.
- International Food Information Council Foundation: "The Vitamin B Complex: It’s Actually Not That Complex"
- Nutrients: "B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy—A Review"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "B Vitamins"
- Kaiser Permanente: "Vitamin B-Complex"
- Colorado State University Extension: "Water-Soluble Vitamins: B-Complex and Vitamin C"
- Better Health Channel: "Vitamin B"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Supplements: A Scorecard"
- StatPearls: "Vitamin B12 Deficiency (Cobalamin)"