The reason is that the building blocks for good health come from a variety of foods, even if they are from the same family of nutrients. Such is the case with vitamin B, a key player in maintaining cell health and keeping you energized.
Not all types of vitamin B do the same thing. Additionally, the different types of vitamin B all come from different types of foods. Vitamin B12, for example, is found primarily in meat and dairy products. B7 and B9 (and, to some degree, B1 and B2) are found in fruits and vegetables.
Deficiencies of any of these can lead to health problems. Sometimes a doctor will prescribe a supplement when they think you’re not getting enough vitamin B.
Certain groups, such as older adults and pregnant women, need larger amounts of some types of vitamin B. Certain conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, HIV, and alcoholism can result in poor absorption of vitamin B.
Symptoms of a deficiency depends on what type of vitamin B you lack. They can range from fatigue and confusion, to anemia or a compromised immune system. Skin rashes also can occur.
Here’s a rundown of the most common types of vitamin B: what they do, which foods contain it, and why you need it.
What it does: Vitamin B12 helps regulate the nervous system. It also plays a role in growth and red blood cell formation.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests all doctors advise patients age 50 and older to take a B12 supplement.
Vitamin supplements should only be taken under advice of a doctor.
Which foods contain it: Vitamin B12 is found primarily in meat and dairy products, so strict vegetarians are at risk for a deficiency.
What happens if you don’t get enough: Vitamin B12 deficiencies can lead to anemia and confusion in elderly people.
The CDC reports that in studies of people with identifiable B12 deficiencies, 56 to 77 percent exhibited megaloblastic anemia.
Psychological problems such as dementia, paranoia, depression, and behavioral problems can result from a vitamin B12 deficiency. Neurological damage sometimes cannot be reversed.
People with B12 deficiencies often report tingling in their feet and hands.
What it does: Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) helps the body turn food into energy. It can also help the body fight infections. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need it to help their babies’ brains develop normally.
Where you get it: B6 can be found in fish, poultry, liver, potatoes, and non-citrus fruit.
Why you need it: Insufficient amounts of B6 can result in anemia as well as skin disorders, such as a rash or cracks around the mouth. A lack of B6 also can cause depression, confusion, or a susceptibility to infections.
What they do: Vitamin B1 is also called thiamin. Vitamin B2 is also called riboflavin. These vitamins also help convert food into energy. Vitamin B1 has neurological benefits, and vitamin B2 helps maintain proper eyesight.
Where you get it: Most people get B1 from breakfast cereals and whole grains. B2 also can be found in whole grains, as well as in milk, eggs, and dark green vegetables.
Why you need them: Deficiencies in vitamins B1 and B2 generally don’t pose a problem in the U.S. It can become an issue with alcoholics, however, presenting issues such as confusion and cracks along the sides of the mouth.
What it does: Vitamin B9 is also called folic acid. Like most B vitamins, it fosters the growth of red blood cells. But it also reduces the risk of birth defects.
Where you get it: Vitamin B9 can be found in many foods, from meats to grains to citrus fruits.
Why you need it: Without enough B9, a person can develop diarrhea or anemia. Pregnant women with a B9 deficiency could give birth to babies with defects.
To stay healthy, most people don’t need to take a supplement in order to get enough B vitamins. There are plenty of delicious foods available to get all the nutrients you need naturally, as long as you maintain a complete diet of meats, grains, fruits and vegetables.