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January 4, 2015 www.guardian.co .tt Sunday Guardian
WOW MAGAZINE | 9
8 | WOW MAGAZINE
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt January 4, 2015
By Cara Harbstreet, RD, Courtesy Chris Freytag
IF THERE’S ONE THING we could all use a little more of, it’s some extra
energy throughout the day. You’ve probably heard of increasing your B-Vi-
tamin intake to increase your energy level, but digging a little deeper, you
find B1, B6, B12, etc. how many of these B’s are there, how are they differ-
ent and how do you get more of them for increased energy? Let’s break
down what they are, why they’re important, and how to harness the en-
ergy of these nutrients by whole foods and supplements.
The B-complex vitamins — essential for so many important functions in
the body, yet poorly understood by many outside (and even inside) the
food and health industry. Unlike other vitamins, there is no singular nutri-
ent that represents Vitamin B as there is with other alphabetical vitamins
(think Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and so on). The B-complex vitamins are nu-
merous, and to make it more confusing, some are more commonly re-
ferred to by their scientific name instead of the numerical one. Let’s take a
look at each one:
Vitamin B1 = Thiamine
What it does: Thiamine is essential to produce ATP (adenosine triphos-
phate), which is the major energy currency of the human body. It’s used
for things like carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism, as well as play-
ing an important role in brain function, because it is used to make neuro-
transmitters. Deficiency is rare in the U.S., but can affect the nervous
system and cardiovascular system.
Food sources: Yeast or yeast extract, pork, eggs, oatmeal, flax, brown rice,
and vegetables like asparagus, kale, and cauliflower.
Vitamin B2 = Riboflavin
What it does: Riboflavin plays a variety of roles in normal metabolism —
many chemical reactions rely on enzymes to work, and riboflavin helps
out with that by serving as an important cofactor. Think of it as a VIP
pass: the enzyme standing in line to get in might get there eventually, but
the cofactor makes sure it happens, and happens quickly. Deficiency can
lead to symptoms of the mouth, eyes, and skin, and may stunt growth in
Food sources: Milk is a big one, along with cheese, legumes, leafy vegeta-
bles, mushrooms, and almonds.
When looking at this list, it’s
apparent how important
these nutrients are for normal
energy and metabolism! After
all, B-complex vitamins are
used by nearly every cell in
our bodies in some way,
shape, or form.
Vitamin B3 = Niacin (or niacinamide)
What it does: Like Vitamins B1 and B2, or B3, niacin is important for sup-
porting normal metabolism and producing energy the body can use. It par-
ticipates in many of the same types of chemical reactions, as well as
processes where DNA is involved. Lack of this nutrient can lead to
headaches, tiredness, anemia, and lesions of the skin or mouth.
Food sources: Whole grains are a great source. It’s also found in meat, fish,
and eggs, plus a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin B5 = Pantothenic acid
What it does: As carbon-based lifeforms, moving carbon atoms around
the body is necessary, and that’s where Vitamin B5 comes into play. It’s
also involved with enzymes and the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats,
and proteins. Deficiency can result in a variety of symptoms, but could in-
clude fatigue, irritability, or sleep disturbances or restlessness.
Food sources: Only small amounts are found in most foods, but some
higher sources include whole grains, avocados, and broccoli.
Vitamin B6 = Pyridoxine, pyridoxal, or pyridoxamine
What it does: “Vitamin B6” actually refers to a group of nutrients, but they
all work similarly to each other in that they are used in carbohydrate, fat,
and protein metabolism. They also help our red blood cells transport oxy-
gen around the body. Deficiency results in anemia because of this, but
could also show up as sores on the mouth or tongue, conjunctivitis (af-
fecting the eyes), or confusion.
Food sources: Milk, eggs, beef, and many types of fruits and vegetables
like bananas and avocados.
Vitamin B7 = Biotin
What it does: Biotin supports cell growth and helps with metabolism of
fats and protein. It’s also an important cofactor for moving carbon dioxide
(CO2) around the body. Deficiencies are rare because the body actually
produces biotin in the large intestine!
Food sources: There aren’t many good food sources, but you can find it in
egg yolks, leafy greens (especially Swiss chard), and peanuts.
Vitamin B9 = Folic acid or folate
What it does: This one goes by many names, but folic acid and folate are
the two most common and can be used interchangeably. It’s important
for processes for DNA and acts as a cofactor in many reactions in the
body. Women, especially those of childbearing age, need this nutrient to
prevent birth defects in the brain and spinal cord during pregnancy and
avoid anemia. Other signs of deficiency include headaches, irritability, and
forgetfulness or confusion.
Food sources: Most often, folic acid or folate is found in fortified grain
products and supplements. Natural food sources include beef (especially
the liver), legumes, eggs, and nuts and seeds.
Vitamin B12 = Various cobalamins (usually methylcobalamin or
What it does: Last, but certainly not least, the B12 vitamins are important
for...you guessed it, carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism and DNA
function. It also plays a role in producing neurotransmitters in the brain. A
lack of this nutrient can lead to anemia, degeneration of the spinal cord, or
depression in some people. Try finding an energy supplement containing
Methylcobalamin, aka Active B12, which is the most natural form of B12,
and is already in its “ready to use” form, and needs NO converting by your
Food sources: Meat, seafood, milk, and other animal products are the best
sources. Some fermented foods and fortified products also contain it.
When looking at this list, it’s apparent how important these nutrients are
for normal energy and metabolism! After all, B-complex vitamins are used
by nearly every cell in our bodies in some way, shape, or form. When it
comes to symptoms like fatigue, irritability, restlessness, or just an overall
sluggish feeling, it could be related to low levels of some of these B-com-
plex vitamins. Incorporating more foods with these nutrients into your
diet or supplementing with a high-quality multivitamin or an energy sup-
plement (specifically one designed to provide mental focus and support
physical energy), could help you get back on the road to feeling reener-
Cara Harbstreet is a Registered Dietitian currently completing a Mas-
ter’s degree at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Chris Freytag
is a top US fitness expert, public speaker, contributing editor to Pre-
vention magazine and an author of several books, including Move to
Lose: Look And Feel Better In Just 10 Minutes A Day. chrisfreytag.com
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