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Vitamin B | What It Does & The Best Sources

B Vitamins are a collection of eight different types of Vitamins namely B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 & B12. In medical terms, Vitamin B refers to all existing individual vitamins collectively. If a food or supplement contain all the B vitamins, it is referred as Vitamin B complex. Vitamin B is water soluble and each type has great health benefits.

The majority of B vitamins do exist in the diet, with a major source of B vitamins being meat and poultry as well as dairy. Supplementation becomes necessary for people who are mostly vegetarians and for athletes which may require higher levels of B Vitamins. It has to be noted that some of the B Vitamins can’t withstand high temperatures.

Let’s discuss in detail about the various B Vitamins as well as their benefits and dosage.

sources of vitamin b

Vitamin B1

Vitamin B1 is also known as Thiamine or Thiamin, and is present in very small quantities in food. Thiamine is colorless and is synthesized mostly by plants and bacteria as well as fungus. Humans as well as animals can’t synthesize it therefore it must be consumed via diet.

Thiamine Diphosphate supports metabolic activities like the breakdown of carbohydrates, sugars as well as aminos. According to University Of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), Vitamin B1 acts as an anti-stress vitamin and it improves body immune system to fight against stressful conditions.

Health Benefits of Vitamin B1


  • Cure of beriberi: The deficiency of Thiamine leads to beriberi. Beriberi used to be a fatal neuro and cardio disorder which leads to paralysis and ultimately death if not cured. Luckily, researchers found the cure in the form of Vitamin B1.
  • Energy Production: As shown in the reaction above, Thiamine in association with ATP produces thiamine diphosphate. Thiamine diphosphate breaks down carbohydrates to produce energy. Same implies for sugars and amino.
  • Nervous system support: Studies have shown that subjects who don’t consume Vitamin B1 have more chances to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Vitamin B1 is mostly related to diseases that affect the central nervous system.
  • Better Vision: Studies have shown that lower or no consumption of Vitamin B1 reduces the vision. The reduced vision might be the early stage for associated diseases like Cataract.



Vitamin B1 is a water soluble vitamin and over consumption, though not recommended, would be excreted with urine. According to the RDA, the daily consumption is stated in the table below for different age groups.


New born 0.2 mg
7 months to 1 year 0.3 mg
1 to 3 years 0.5 mg
4-8 years 0.6 mg
9 to 13 years 0.9 mg
14 to 18 year (Men) 1.2 mg
14-18 year(Women) 1 mg
19+ Men 1.2 mg
19+ Women 1.1 mg
Lactating Mothers 1.4 mg


The major sources are green leafy vegetables, meat, poultry, whole grain cereals, wheat bran, nuts, legumes and vitamin B complex supplements.

Vitamin B2

Vitamin B2 is also known as Riboflavin. Riboflavin is soluble in water and imparts yellow orange color to the substances in which it is added. So the multivitamins you are consuming look yellow due to the presence of Riboflavin.

Riboflavin is an integral cofactor of metabolism activities like Flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) and Flavin mononucleotide (FMN). Riboflavin is also required to activate other vitamins.

The body uses Riboflavin to change Vitamin B6 and folic acid into usable forms. According to NYU Langone Medical Center, Riboflavin converts carbs to ATP and ATP is used to fuel the body.

Health Benefit of Vitamin B2


  • Cataract Prevention: Riboflavin is supposed to prevent cataract and the clouding effect in the eye lens. Riboflavin along with other vitamins improves eyesight. A placebo controlled study demonstrates that subjects who consumed Riboflavin with niacin has less chances of getting cataracts as compared to the group which didn’t consume riboflavin. The study didn’t make it clear that it was due to niacin or riboflavin or both.
  • Mitigates Migraine Pain: A placebo controlled study demonstrated that consumption of 400 mg of Riboflavin reduced the migraine attacks to half. More research is underway to prove this point.
  • Hormone Production: Vitamin B2 is required by the adrenal gland to produce hormones.


The other health benefits include conversion of tryptophan into niacin, better embryo development and aids in absorption of iron by the body.


Vitamin B2 is a water soluble vitamin and over consumption, though not recommended, would be excreted with urine. According to the RDA, the daily consumption is stated in the table below for different age groups.


New born 0.3 mg/day
7 months to 1 year 0.4 mg/day
1 to 3 years 0.5 mg/day
4-8 years 0.6 mg/day
9 to 13 years 0.9 mg/day
14 to 18 year (Men) 1.3 mg/day
14-18 year(Women) 1.0 mg/day
19+ Men 1.3 mg/day
19+ Women 1.1 mg/day
Lactating Mothers 1.4 -1.6 mg/day


Vitamin B2 is found mostly in poultry and red meat as well as green fruits and vegetables like asparagus, avocados, Broccoli, pumpkins, dairy products and many more.

Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3 is also known as Niacin or Nicotinic acid. Niacin is water soluble and exists in two more forms namely niacinamide (nicotinamide) and inositol hexanicotinate. The form nicotinamide is used as the standard measurement of the Vitamin B3 activity associated with each form of Niacin. Sometimes, a label on a product might read “mg of NE per day” – this simply represents all forms of B3 existing in the food where NE stands for Niacin Equivalent.

It has to be noted that Niacin, when consumed in surplus, gets converted into Niacinamide. At higher dosages, Niacin and Niacinamide are beneficial and have great health benefits as described below.

Deficiency of Vitamin B3 can cause a condition known as pellagra. The symptoms of Pellagra include cracked and scaly skin as well as Diarrhea.

Health Benefits of Vitamin B3


  • Cholesterol Regulation: Research has shown that Niacin helps in cholesterol regulation – it has to be noted that dosages higher than 500 mg of Niacin has shown improvements in Cholesterol levels. Most of the prescribed drugs don’t have more than 250 mg of Niacin. Proper supplementation is required to get reduction in cholesterol levels.
  • Energy Production: Just like other B Vitamins, Vitamin B3 is required to breakdown carbohydrates and fats to produce energy.
  • Production Of Anti-Oxidants: NAD and NADP are two enzymes that contain Niacin. NAD & NADP mop up free radicals in the body thereby protecting the body against tissue damage.
  • Reduced Chances of Heart Attacks: A study was conducted on some heart patients who were given Niacin. It was observed that there was less atherosclerosis issue and fewer heart attacks.



According to the RDA, the daily consumption is stated in the table below for different age groups.

Age Dosage
New born 2 mg
7 months to 1 year 4 mg
1 to 3 years 6 mg
4-8 years 8 mg
9 to 13 years 12 mg
14 to 18 year (Men) 16 mg
14-18 year(Women) 14 mg
19+ Men 16 mg
19+ Women 14 mg
Lactating Mothers 17 mg


Niacin is found in very high quantities in white food including bran, meat products, liver of poultry, peanuts, mushrooms, beans, and avocado.

sources of vitamin b

Vitamin B5

Vitamin B5 is commonly known as Pantothenic acid or panthothenate and is water soluble. Pantothenic acid is a vital nutrient for many species and it is present in most types of food but in limited quantities only.

Vitamin B5 is needed for growth and like other vitamins it helps in the breakdown of fats and carbs. Animals and humans require B5 for the synthesis of co-enzyme A (CoA). CoA is very beneficial in the oxidation of Fatty acids. CoA is also required in the formation of ACP. ACP works in association with CoA in the synthesis of fatty acids.

Vitamin B5 in the form of CoA is required by the body to carry out enzyme activation and deactivation process.

Health Benefit of Vitamin B5


  • Wound Healing: Studies prove that Vitamin B5 if combined with Vitamin C speeds up the wound healing process, especially post-surgery.
  • Hair Care: Hair color loss and irritation has been deeply studied and it was found that the deficiency of Vitamin B5 leads to such problems. Nowadays, hair care products have added Vitamin B5 for that reason.

Other benefits of Vitamin B5 include but are not limited to the treatment of arthritis, skin irritation, allergies, autism, yeast infections, insomnia and much more.


According to the RDA, the daily consumption is stated in the table below for different age groups.

Age Dosage
New born 1.7 mg
7 months to 1 year 1.8 mg
1 to 3 years 2 mg
4-8 years 3 mg
9 to 13 years 4 mg
14 to 18 year (Men) 5 mg
14-18 year(Women) 5 mg
19+ Men 5 mg
19+ Women 14 mg
Lactating Mothers 7 mg


Pantothenic Acid is present in almost everything we eat. Supplementation is needed when someone is starving or has specific goals. The major sources of Vitamin B5 are fresh meats, vegetables, whole unprocessed grains, lentils, and Brewer’s yeast.

sources of vitamin b

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is a collection of chemically interchangeable compounds. Vitamin B6 is also known as pyridoxine and is water soluble vitamin. Vitamin B6 exists in more than one form (Vitamers) and they are

  1. Pyridoxine
  2. Pyridoxine 5′-phosphate (PNP)
  3. Pyridoxal(PL)
  4. Pyridoxal 5′-phosphate(PLP)
  5. Pyridoxamine(PM)
  6. Pyridoxamine 5′-phosphate (PMP)
  7. 4-Pyridoxic acid (PA)
  8. Pyritinol

All Vitamers are interchangeable into one another except pyridoxic acid and pyritinol.

PLP is the most active form of Vitamin B6 and is used by the body in various metabolic processes like hemoglobin synthesis, generation of neurotransmitters and so on. PLP also serves as a cofactor for much enzyme synthesis. It is worth noting that Vitamin B6 works in conjunction with Vitamin B2 where the liver being the site for metabolism activities.

Health Benefits of Vitamin B6


  • Red Blood Cells production – PLP acts as a cofactor in for the enzyme ALA synthase. ALA is known for its properties to synthesize hemoglobin.
  • Liver Detoxification –Liver detoxification is a 2 way process. The first step is to make chemicals more water soluble followed by binding them for removal. There are a number of nutrients required and Vitamin B6 is one of the major ones. Researchers have found out that if a diet does not contain Pyridoxine, liver problems can be induced easily.
  • Glucose Metabolism –PLP is a necessary coenzyme required for the enzyme glycogen phosphorylate to perform for glycogenolysis. PLP acts as a catalyst here.



According to the RDA, the daily consumption is stated in the table below for different age groups.

Age Dosage
New born 0.1 mg
7 months to 1 year 0.3 mg
1 to 3 years 0.5 mg
4-8 years 0.6 mg
9 to 13 years 1 mg
14 to 18 year (Men) 1.3 mg
14-18 year(Women) 1.2 mg
19+ Men 1.3 mg
19+ Women 1.3 mg
Lactating Mothers 2 mg


The best sources of Vitamin B6 are poultry, fish, meat, nuts, and fresh vegetables and so on.

Vitamin B7

Vitamin B7 is also known as Biotin, Vitamin H or co-enzyme R and is a water soluble vitamin. Biotin has 8 different forms but only D-biotin is an active form and occurs naturally. Biotin can only be synthesized by bacteria, yeasts, molds and some specific plants. In the human body, bacteria in the intestine can synthesize biotin. Biotin is available in smaller quantities in various foods.

Biotin is an essential vitamin required during pregnancy for fetal development else there are very rare chances of being Biotin deficit.

Like other B vitamins, Biotin helps in the breakdown of glucose and fats for energy.

Health Benefit of Vitamin B7


  • Diabetes Regulation: Very few studies have shown that supplementation with Biotin improves the blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Reduction in hair and nail problems: Very few studies support this claim and more research needs to be carried out to prove the validity. Preliminary reports suggest that biotin supplements may improve thinning, splitting of nails and hair.



According to RDA, the daily consumption is stated in the table below for different age groups.

Age Dosage
New born 7 mcg
7 months to 1 year 8 mcg
1 to 3 years 12 mcg
4-8 years 20 mcg
9 to 13 years 25 mcg
14 to 18 year (Men) 30 mcg
14-18 year(Women) 30 mcg
19+ Men 35 mcg
19+ Women 35 mcg
Lactating Mothers 35 mcg


The best sources of Biotin are yeast, liver and kidney as well as egg yolk, legumes, nuts and cereals.

Vitamin B9

Vitamin B9 is also known as folic acid or folate. It might be also referred as Vitamin M, vitamin Bc, pteroyl-L-glutamic acid, and pteroyl-L-glutamate.

Folic acid is a synthetic product and is used in supplements on the basis that it gets converted into folate later. Folic acid, when consumed, should be converted to tetrahydrofolate by dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR), though the process is very slow in humans.

It is also certain that the human body can’t synthesize folate that’s why it needs to be supplemented with the diet. Folate plays a greater role in the synthesis of RNA and DNA and is critical for the proper functioning of the human body. Just like other B vitamins, Folic acid is water soluble.

Health Benefits of Vitamin B9


  • Cancer Prevention: It is believed that consuming required amounts of folate through the diet helps prevention and development of cancer (Colon, Breast, Cervical, Pancreas and Stomach). This theory originated from studies conducted on people who consumed food containing required amount of folate. Though it is still not clear that how the folate works against cancer, some researchers claim that its property of safeguarding the DNA and RNA doesn’t let cancer cells grow and multiply.
  • Pregnancy Care: Supplementation with folate during conception helps in the prevention of congenital diseases including neural tube. Women who are pregnant are advised to consume foods with folate and if required supplementation is suggested for decreasing the chances of better fetal development.
  • Cardiovascular disease prevention: High homocysteine levels in the blood increases chances of heart attack by 2.5 times. Researchers have found out that Consumption of B Vitamins (B12, B9, B6) in appropriate amounts help lower homocysteine levels.



According to the RDA, the daily consumption is stated in the table below for different age groups.

Age Dosage
New born 65 mcg
7 months to 1 year 80 mcg
1 to 3 years 150 mcg
4-8 years 200 mcg
9 to 13 years 300 mcg
14 to 18 year (Men) 400 mcg
14-18 year(Women) 400 mcg
19+ Men, Women 400 mcg
Pregnant Women 600 mcg
Lactating Mothers 500 mcg


Dietary sources like spinach, dark leafy vegetables, asparagus, beetroots, soybeans, milk, whole grains are rich in folate. Meat sources that are rich in Folate are beef, liver and salmon. Additional supplementation can be done via multi-vitamin capsules.

sources of vitamin b

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is also known as cobalamin and is a water soluble vitamin. Vitamin B12 plays a major role in the working of the nervous system. Broadly speaking, B12 is categorized into two categories:

  1. Cobalamin: When Vitamin B12 is referred as Cobalamin; the reference highlights the cobalt containing vitamers.
  2. B12: Cyanocobalamin is the main B12 form used for food and supplements.

It has to be noted that humans, animals, plants and fungi can’t produce Vitamin B12. Only bacteria and archaea have the production capability. Some of the food might have Vitamin B12 due to bacteria symbiosis.

For the very same reason, Industrial production of Vitamin B12 is done by fermenting bacteria.

Health Benefits of Vitamin B12


  • Treatment of pernicious Anemia: Pernicious Anemia occurs due to the deficiency of Vitamin B12. Very low levels of Vitamin B12 cause this serious issue. Supplementing with Vitamin B12 helps in treatment.
  • Boosts Energy Levels: Consuming Vitamin B12 with other B Vitamins has shown increased energy levels in individuals. For this sole purpose, some of the energy drinks in the market have B12 as an ingredient.
  • Protein Metabolism: B12 plays a crucial role in protein metabolism in the various areas of the body. The difference might get unnoticed if the Vitamin B12 levels are at par.
  • Prevention from cardio vascular diseases: Vitamin B12 is an essential constituent in blood pressure related drugs. Perfect levels of B12 in the body ensure lesser chances of cardiac arrests and other cardiovascular diseases.



According to the RDA, the daily consumption is stated in the table below for different age groups.

Age Dosage
New born 0.4 mcg
7 months to 1 year 0.5 mcg
1 to 3 years 0.9 mcg
4-8 years 1.2 mcg
9 to 13 years 1.8 mcg
14 to 18 year (Men) 2.4 mcg
14-18 year(Women) 2.4 mcg
19+ Men, Women 2.4 mcg
Pregnant Women 2.6 mcg
Lactating Mothers 2.8 mcg

It has to be noticed that some individuals over 50+ years in age might not be able to digest B12 – this may happen to 1 to 3 out of 10 individuals.


Animals feeding bacteria are a primary source for Vitamin B12. Fish, liver of animal, poultry, eggs (raw) are some of the dietary sources. Supplementation with Multi-Vitamin tablets is always an easy process.


To meet your daily requirements, supplementation is a cheap and trustworthy option. The majority of the multi-vitamins pack in the required dosage of these B vitamins. It also has to be noted that most of the B vitamins lose their effect on application of heat.

In addition to B vitamins, you can supplement many vitamins and minerals which are required for well-being which work well in association with one another.

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.



Writer and expert

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