A Complete Guide to the B Vitamins

Apr 20, 2021 Energy

What is Vitamin B

The B vitamin family is made up of eight B vitamins. Although they are commonly recognized as a group and often work together in the body, each of the B vitamins performs unique and important functions. To help you better understand the roles of each of the B vitamins, we have put together a friendly B vitamins list to introduce you to each member of this important family of vitamins and to answer the common question: what are the roles of the eight B vitamins?

What are the Different Types of B Vitamins?

The B vitamins are often found together in varying quantities in the same foods. The B vitamins are responsible for many important functions in the body, like converting the food you eat into energy, maintaining healthy cells and tissues within the body, and helping to form new blood cells. A deficiency in any of the B vitamins may impair your health, so it’s important that you get enough of each one through your diet, or through vitamin supplements, if necessary.

So, what is vitamin B and how does it work in the body? There are actually 8 B vitamins. Let’s take a look at each one on our B vitamins list. Read on for details on the following B vitamins:

  • Thiamin (vitamin B1)
  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • Niacin (vitamin B3)
  • Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
  • Pyridoxine (vitamin B6)
  • Biotin (vitamin B7)
  • Folic acid (vitamin B9)
  • Cobalamin (vitamin B12)

What is Thiamin, or Vitamin B1?

Thiamin (Vitamin B1) is needed to help produce cellular energy from the foods you eat, and also supports normal nervous system function.†

What are Good Sources of Thiamin?

Thiamin is found in a wide variety of foods, from lentils to whole grains and pork. Thiamin can also be found in red meats, yeast, nuts, sunflower seeds, peas, milk, cauliflower, spinach, and legumes.

Thiamin Deficiency

Thiamin deficiency is uncommon in the United States, but certain groups of people who have alcohol dependence, diabetes, HIV or AIDS, or people who have had heart failure, have a higher chance of being deficient in this vitamin.

Symptoms of thiamin deficiency can include weight loss, confusion or memory problems, loss of appetite, heart problems, and tingling or numbness in the feet.

What is Riboflavin, or Vitamin B2?

Also known as vitamin B2, riboflavin supports cellular energy production.†

What are Good Sources of Riboflavin?

Riboflavin is found in a variety of foods such as fortified cereals, milk, eggs, salmon, beef, spinach, and broccoli.

Riboflavin Deficiency

Riboflavin deficiency is also relatively rare. People with a higher risk of this deficiency usually follow a vegan diet, or a diet without any dairy products in it. Severe riboflavin deficiency can lead to cataracts and anemia. Some symptoms associated with riboflavin deficiency are skin problems, cracked or swollen lips, sores at corners of the mouth, swelling in the mouth and tongue, hair loss, and red or itchy eyes.

What is Niacin, or Vitamin B3?

Niacin is also known as vitamin B3, and supports cellular energy production.†

What are Good Sources of Niacin?

Good sources of niacin include beef, poultry, and fish, as well as whole wheat bread, peanuts and lentils.

Niacin Deficiency

Niacin deficiency can occur if you don’t get enough of this vitamin in your diet or through supplements. Common symptoms of niacin deficiency lead to a condition called pellagra. Symptoms of pellagra are inflamed skin, brown discoloration of skin that is exposed to sunlight, diarrhea, a bright red tongue, sores in mouth, headache, fatigue, and confusion.

What is Pantothenic Acid, or Vitamin B5?

Pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B5, is widely available in plant and animal food sources and helps support cellular energy production in the body.†

What are Good Sources of Pantothenic Acid?

Rich sources of Pantothenic acid include organ meats (liver, kidney), egg yolk, whole grains, avocados, cashew nuts, peanuts, lentils, soybeans, brown rice, broccoli, and milk.

Pantothenic Acid Deficiency

A deficiency in pantothenic acid is rare because many foods provide enough of this vitamin to people who eat a healthy diet. However, severely malnourished people can develop a pantothenic acid deficiency. Symptoms of pantothenic acid deficiency are headache, burning and numbness of hands and feet, restless sleep, irritability, and a lack of appetite.

What is Vitamin B6, or Pyridoxine?

Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is involved in several cellular reactions throughout the body and is instrumental in keeping various bodily functions operating normally.† Vitamin B6 is needed to metabolize amino acids and glycogen (the body’s storage form of glucose), and is also necessary for normal nervous system function and red blood cell formation.†

What are Good Sources of Vitamin B6?

Vitamin B6 is fairly abundant in the diet and can be found in many of the foods that we consume daily. The following foods are great sources of vitamin B6: 

  • Meat 
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Bananas
  • Fish
  • Fortified cereal grains
  • Cooked spinach

Vitamin B6 Deficiency

Certain groups of people are at a higher risk of vitamin B6 deficiency. These groups include people who have kidney disease, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and alcohol dependence. Vitamin B6 deficiency is also linked to a deficiency in vitamin B12. Common symptoms of this deficiency include anemia, swollen tongue, cracks at the corners of the mouth, confusion, depression, and a weak immune system.

What is Biotin, or Vitamin B7?

Biotin, or vitamin B7, supports carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism and support healthy hair, skin and nails in those that are biotin deficient.†

What are Good Sources of Biotin?

Biotin is commonly found in foods such as brewer’s yeast, strawberries, organ meat, cheese and soybeans.

Biotin Deficiency

Signs of a deficiency in biotin are thinning hair, brittle nails, scaly rash around the eyes, nose and mouth, depression and fatigue.

What is Folic Acid, or Vitamin B9?

Folic acid (vitamin B9) is most commonly known for its role in fetal health and development as it plays a critical role in the proper development of the baby’s nervous system.† This important developmental process occurs during the initial weeks of pregnancy, therefore adequate folic acid intake is especially important for all women of childbearing age.† Adequate folic acid in healthful diets may reduce a woman’s risk of having a child with a neural tube defect.

What are Good Sources of Folic Acid?

Fortified foods such as breads and cereals are good dietary sources of folic acid. Other good sources are dark green leafy vegetables such as asparagus and spinach as well as brewer’s yeast, liver, fortified orange juice, beets, dates and avocados.

Folic Acid Deficiency

Deficiency in folic acid is quite rare since many foods are fortified with this vitamin. However, certain groups of people, such as people with an alcohol use disorder, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or other medical conditions that prevent proper absorption of nutrients need more folic acid intake in their diet or through supplements. Symptoms associated with a folic acid deficiency include headache, weakness, changes in skin, hair or nails, sores on the tongue or inside the mouth, and heart palpitations.

What is Vitamin B12, or Cobalamin?

Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, plays an important role in the pathways of the body that produce cellular energy.† It is also needed for proper red blood cell formation and for normal nervous system function.†

What’s a Good Source of Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is predominantly found in foods of animal origin such as chicken, beef, fish, milk and eggs. People who follow a vegan or strict vegetarian diet may benefit from a vitamin B12 supplement, such as Nature Made Vitamin B12 1,000 mcg Liquid Softgels.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Diets that do not include animal products may not provide enough cobalamin. Vegetarians or vegans with these diets are at higher risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Additionally, people who have conditions that interfere with proper absorption of nutrients, like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, are also at higher risk for developing a deficiency in vitamin B12.  

A deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause a condition called megaloblastic anemia. Symptoms associated with this deficiency include fatigue, weight loss, constipation, numbness and tingling of the hands and feet, loss of appetite, memory problems, confusion, and depression. 

Learn More: Vitamins for Vegans

What’s the Best Source for All of the B vitamins?

One easy way to make sure that you get your daily dose of these important B vitamins is to take a Vitamin B Complex supplement, such as Nature Made Super B Energy Complex, which contains over 100% of the Daily Value of all eight B vitamins in one convenient softgel.

Learn More About Vitamins & Supplements:

This information is only for educational purposes and is not medical advice or intended as a recommendation of any specific products. Consult your health care provider for more information.

†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


Sandra Zagorin, MS, RD

Science and Health Educator

As a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team, Sandra educates healthcare professionals and consumers on nutrition, supplements, and related health concerns. Prior to joining Pharmavite, Sandra worked as a clinical dietitian at University of Chicago Medicine in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Sandra received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Science, with minors in Spanish and Chemistry from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. She earned her Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from RUSH University in Chicago, IL. As part of her Master’s program, Sandra performed research on physical activity participation and correlates in urban Hispanic women.

Read More