All the B-Complex Vitamins are water-soluable, and are usually derived from bacteria, yeasts, fungi, or molds. The known B-complex vitamins are: B1 Thiamin, B2 Riboflavin, B3 Niacin, B5 Pantothenic Acid, B6 Pyridoxine, B12 Cyanocobalamin, B15 Pangamic Acid, Biotin, Choline, Folic acid, Inositol, and PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid). Although these are the only vitamins in the B-complex that have been identified, scientists know that there are many more yet to be identified. They estimate there to be well over 100 vitamins in this complex which all work together. This is one reason why a B-complex vitamin taken from whole foods is essential rather than a synthetic vitamin or a grouping of just these known vitamins. The unidentified vitamins in the B-complex are necessary to help the others function, and just because we don't know their names doesn't mean we shouldn't try to include them in our diets.
Because the B Vitamins are water soluble, any excess of these vitamins that the body does not need is excreted from the body, so an excess does neither good nor harm. When you take B vitamins, you will notice shortly afterward that your urine is a bright yellow color. If this happens, you know your vitamin is synthetic. Please don't take synthetic vitamins, your body can't absorb them and you are wasting your money. See How to Choose a Good Nutritional Supplement.
Nutritional yeast is one of the richest source for some of the B vitamins. Another rich source is the production of some of the B vitamins in the intestinal tract by certainly healthy bacteria. These bacteria grow best on lactose and small amounts of fat in the diet. Maintaining a milk-free diet or taking sulfa drugs and other antibiotics can destroy the bacteria which produces these vitamins. Sleeping pills, insecticides, and estrogen also can destroy these bacteria in the intestinal tract (1).
When any one of the B vitamins is taken in increased amounts for therapeutic reasons, the other B vitamins should also be increased accordingly. For instance, the RDA for B6 is 2 milligrams. If you decide to take 50 mg of B6 (such as pregnant women do for morning sickness nausea), that is 25 times the RDA. So the other vitamins in the complex should also be increased by 25 times.
The typical American diet supplies so little of these vitamins that almost everyone is deficient in at least some of the vitamins in this group. Caffeine destroys Thiamine, and eating processed sugar and grains produces a large deficiency. Drinking alcohol also causes a deficiency.
One important combination of B Vitamins is B-12, B-6 and Folic Acid. Studies show that this combination, taken daily for two months, can reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke, Alzheimers, by 50%. It lowers homocysteine and cleans out arteries.
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(1) Dunne, Lavon J. (1990). Nutrition Alamanc. 3rd edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 18.