The Benefits of B Complex Vitamins

Health benefits, common uses, and more

Bowl of cereal with fruit and grains
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A vitamin B complex is a dietary supplement that delivers all eight of the B vitamins: B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), B12. Also found naturally in a number foods, B vitamins help the body to produce energy and form red blood cells.

Health Benefits of B Complex Supplements

Proponents suggest that taking a vitamin B complex may help treat or prevent certain health problems.

Often touted as natural immune boosters and mood-lifters, B complex supplements are also said to enhance heart health, alleviate anxiety, and soothe skin disorders.

Each B vitamin is essential to certain bodily functions:

  • B1 and B2 are important for healthy functioning of the muscles, nerves, and heart
  • B3 helps regulate the nervous and digestive systems
  • B5 and B12 are required for normal growth and development
  • B6 supports the immune system and aids the body in breaking down protein
  • B7 is involved in the production of hormones
  • B9 helps cells make and maintain DNA

Studies show that taking supplements containing certain B vitamins may benefit your health. For instance:

  • B1 may help prevent kidney disease in people with type 2 diabetes and reduce risk of cataracts
  • B2 may prevent migraines; B3 may lower cholesterol levels
  • B6 may protect against heart disease, relieve PMS symptoms, and alleviate pregnancy-related nausea
  • B9 may help prevent breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and pancreatic cancer, as well as decrease risk of birth defects> when taken by pregnant women
  • B12 may lower cervical cancer risk and reduce levels of homocysteine (an amino acid thought to contribute to heart disease when it occurs at elevated levels)

    Although few studies have tested the effects of taking a B complex supplement, in recent years, several studies have shown that B vitamins can help with a host of health conditions. For example, a 2010 report from PLoS ONE indicates that B vitamins may help protect against age-related memory problems. In a 2010 study from Stroke, scientists discovered that loading up on B vitamins may fight heart disease. What's more, an animal-based study published in 2011 in Gut suggests that women who increase their B vitamin intake while pregnant may reduce their children's risk of colon cancer.

    Preliminary research shows that B complex supplements may reduce inflammation in hemodialysis patients and promote periodontal wound healing. However, other research indicates that taking B complex supplements may not reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

    Why Do People Take B Complex Supplements?

    Proponents claim that vitamin B complex supplements can help with a variety of health conditions, including anxietydepression, fatigue, heart diseasepremenstrual syndrome, and skin problems.

    In addition, many people take a vitamin B complex to increase energy, enhance mood, improve memory, and stimulate the immune system.

    Food Sources of B Vitamins

    To boost your intake of B vitamins, look for the following foods:

    • cereals and whole grains (a source of B1, B2, and B3)
    • green leafy vegetables (a source of B2 and B9)
    • eggs (a source of B7 and B12)
    • chicken (a source of B3, B6, and B12)
    • citrus fruits (a source of B9)
    • nuts (a source of B3 and B9)
    • kidney beans (a source of B1 and B2)
    • bananas (a source of B6 and B7)

    Vitamin B5 is found in almost all foods.


    Although B complex supplements are generally considered safe, they may cause certain side effects, such as skin problems and an increase in blood sugar levels. 

    Using B Complex Supplements for Health

    If you're not getting enough B vitamins from your diet, taking a B complex supplement may be beneficial. Deficiency in B vitamins can cause a number of symptoms, including tiredness, anemia, loss of appetite, depression, abdominal pain, muscle cramps, hair loss, and eczema. Consult your health care provider to find out whether a B complex supplement is right for you.


    American Cancer Society. "Vitamin B Complex". May 2010.

    Chang TY, Chou KJ, Tseng CF, Chung HM, Fang HC, Hung YM, Wu MJ, Tzeng HM, Lind CC, Lu KC. "Effects of folic acid and vitamin B complex on serum C-reactive protein and albumin levels in stable hemodialysis patients." Curr Med Res Opin. 2007 Aug;23(8):1879-86.

    Ciappio ED1, Liu Z, Brooks RS, Mason JB, Bronson RT, Crott JW. Maternal B vitamin supplementation from preconception through weaning suppresses intestinal tumorigenesis in Apc1638N mouse offspring. Gut. 2011 Dec;60(12):1695-702. doi: 10.1136/gut.2011.240291. Epub 2011 Jun 9.

    Clarke R, Lewington S, Sherliker P, Armitage J. "Effects of B-vitamins on plasma homocysteine concentrations and on risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia." Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2007 Jan;10(1):32-9.

    Cui R, Iso H, Date C, Kikuchi S, Tamakoshi A; Japan Collaborative Cohort Study Group. Dietary folate and vitamin b6 and B12 intake in relation to mortality from cardiovascular diseases: Japan collaborative cohort study. Stroke. 2010 Jun;41(6):1285-9. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.110.578906. Epub 2010 Apr 15.

    Galan P, Kesse-Guyot E, Czernichow S, Briancon S, Blacher J, Hercberg S; SU.FOL.OM3 Collaborative Group. "Effects of B vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids on cardiovascular diseases: a randomized placebo controlled trial." BMJ. 2010 Nov 29;341:c6273. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c6273.

    Neiva RF, Al-Shammari K, Nociti FH Jr, Soehren S, Wang HL. "Effects of vitamin-B complex supplementation on periodontal wound healing." J Periodontol. 2005 Jul;76(7):1084-91.

    Smith AD, Smith SM, de Jager CA, Whitbread P, Johnston C, Agacinski G, Oulhaj A, Bradley KM, Jacoby R, Refsum H. Homocysteine-lowering by B vitamins slows the rate of accelerated brain atrophy in mild cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled trial. PLoS One. 2010 Sep 8;5(9):e12244. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012244.

    Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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