Almost nobody knows what vitamin B is and what exactly is for. Above all, most people are probably not aware of the amount of vitamin B the body needs daily and the foods that contain it.
Vitamin B is absolutely essential for our health, as it strengthens our immune system, regulates our metabolism, and assumes many other important tasks in the body. Vitamins are small molecules that have a great effect on the body in its smallest concentration (milligrams and less). Among other things, they ensure that we or our body can absorb and process nutrients properly.
What is vitamin B?
Vitamin B is equivalent to a whole group of eight vitamins. Each of them is a precursor to a coenzyme. Pharmacologically and also chemically, these are completely different substances.
Their numbering is not consistent either. This has historical relevance because some substances that were initially counted as vitamins could not be confirmed later as vitamin B.
Where is vitamin B?
Vitamin B is very common and is produced in plants and animals. Typical sources of the vitamin are liver, fish, milk, kale, broccoli, or spinach. There is something special in vitamin B12 because it is barely contained in plant-based foods.
But in contrast to the other vitamins, which by the way are easily soluble in water , vitamin B12 can be stored in the body.
The history of the discovery of vitamin B
The influence of diets on the development of mammals, in this case mainly in mice and rats, was the subject of much scientific research in the early twentieth century.
English scientist Sir Frederick Hopkins discovered in 1912 that the lack of certain essential compounds leads to significant disruptions in growth. He referred to these connections collectively as “accessory factors of power.“
At that time I already understood that certain vital and complex compounds cannot be synthesized by the body itself and, therefore, must constantly be fed through food. Therefore, I already suspected a direct connection between certain diseases and the insufficiency of these substances.
At that time, an unexplained disease had occurred in Java and Japan, the ‘Beriberi’. This disease arose after the introduction of English rice peeling machines.
It was soon suspected that a shortage of vitamin B was developing the disease. Therefore, in the same year 1912, the Polish biochemist Casimir Funk ( 1 ) dealt with the isolation of the active substance against this vitamin B deficiency.
The Japanese doctor Takaki Kanehiro ( 2 ) had taken a very simple and logical step. He added parts of the rice bran that had previously been removed to the rice and thus could cure the disease.
As a consequence, Casimir Funk isolated the rice bran material that apparently cured this deficiency disease. The chemical analysis of this substance showed a nitrogen amine.
That was the birth of the word vitamin, which is composed of vita (life) and amine.
[Explanation: amines are organic derivatives of ammonia (NH3). At least one hydrogen atom must be replaced by an aryl or alkyl group.]
B vitamins in detail
- Vitamin B1: It is chemically thiamine, its active form is thiamine diphosphate or thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP). Vitamin B1 deficiency was responsible for beriberi, which may be associated with symptoms of heart failure, neurological disorders, or muscular atrophy. Korsakow syndrome can also be triggered by this vitamin deficiency, which is a form of memory disorder (amnesia) that can be observed especially in alcoholics.
- Vitamin B2: This is chemically riboflavin.
- Vitamin B3: “Niacin” is nicotinic acid. It is required for the implementation of nutrients, for digestion, for the formation of hormones, and for blood circulation.
- Vitamin B4: It is “Hill” that our body can produce. This substance is similar to a vitamin, but in reality, it is not.
- Vitamin B5: This is pantothenic acid.
- Vitamin B6: There are 3 substances that are equated with vitamin B6: pyridoxal, pyridoxine, and pyridoxamine. As an active expression of these compounds, pyridoxal phosphate is also the most important coenzyme in the metabolism of amino acids, as it is necessary for all chemical reactions with amino acids. However, B6 deficiency is rare.
- Vitamin B7: Biotin is often also called vitamin H.
- Vitamin B9: It is folic acid, also called folate, it can be known as vitamin M or vitamin B11. Folates play a particularly important role in cell division and growth processes. The recommended daily requirement is only 0.3 milligrams. However, more than half of people do not reach this amount.
- Vitamin B12: Cobalamin is a very complex and low molecular weight natural product. This vitamin can only be synthesized by microorganisms. Therefore, it can be found in algae, eggs, liver, meat, and milk. Vitamin B12 can be synthesized in the human colon, but the body no longer absorbs it at this time. Vegans should take this vitamin artificially. By the way, our liver can store large amounts of vitamin B12. Therefore, vitamin B12 supplements are quite useless for healthy people. A deficiency of vitamin B12 is mainly the result of the lack of the so-called intrinsic factor, which may be associated with the formation of altered blood (pernicious anemia).
- Vitamin B15: It was mistakenly counted among vitamins in the past, it is the sodium salt of pangamic acid. Our body can produce this vitamin B15 in sufficient quantities. What it is actually used for physiologically has not yet been clarified.
- Vitamin B17: Tonsillin is a glycoside that releases hydrocyanic acid, and vitamin B17 is just an imaginative and ambitious name.
Vitamin B benefits
The role of vitamins and whether they are vital to us has not been clear for a long time. The best known is vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, which was discovered in the early twentieth century.
Then, and also thanks to the best methods of measurement and analysis, more and more types of vitamins were found and investigated. Today we know 13 types of vitamins that are important for humans and that are divided into fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins.
Unlike these fat-soluble vitamins, water-soluble vitamins, vitamin B, and the well-known vitamin C are added to the body every day since they cannot be stored. The only vitamin that the human body can produce is vitamin D.
It is produced by the body when it is exposed to the sun as if it were a kind of photosynthesis, so to speak, we can call it ‘the sun’s vitamin’ . Especially in winter it is difficult for us to get enough sun exposure, so our body uses summer vitamin D stores.
The most important vitamin group is B vitamins, of which there are 9 in total. Consequently, there is no vitamin B per se, however, each of the “B vitamins” performs essential tasks.
Types of vitamin B
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) contributes to the fact that carbohydrates are used, because if this vitamin is missing, our body can no longer convert carbohydrates into glucose, and our brain depends on glucose for brain function.
In addition, vitamin B1 plays a crucial role in the transmission of signals in the nerves. Like most other B vitamins, thiamine is found in cereals and nuts. Other suppliers of vitamin B1 are meat products, potatoes, or legumes.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) has an essential function in the metabolic process and respiratory function, where it is responsible for the transport of oxygen to the blood. The best way to take vitamin B2 is with milk and dairy products, meat, vegetables, and potatoes.
Vitamin B3 (niacin) is involved in many metabolic processes with which the body regulates the energy balance of cells. The most important task of vitamin B3 is the regeneration of the nervous system, muscles, and skin.
A special feature of niacin is that the human body can also produce it if there is enough protein. Vitamin B3 also helps reduce cholesterol levels if they are too high. An insufficient permanent supply of vitamin B3 can often cause unpleasant side effects, such as skin changes or nervous system disorders.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) is involved in almost all basic metabolic processes, such as the formation of hormones, and is actually needed throughout the body. Its name is derived from the Greek word “pantothen”, which means “everywhere.”
Pantothenic acid is found in all foods of animal and plant origin, which makes it much easier to assimilate. Avocados, eggs, and nuts are particularly good carriers of vitamin B5 and as well as certain types of fish such as herring.
However, it should be borne in mind that it is a very heat sensitive vitamin and is easily lost when cooking food, for example. It is interesting and proven by numerous studies that vitamin B5 works very effectively in wound healing, since it actively promotes cell proliferation and, therefore, contributes to the new formation of skin layers.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is perhaps the best known of the vitamins of group B, and rightly so since it has very different properties and is involved in many different processes in the body.
For example, it controls the metabolism of proteins and is important for the production of new organic nerve connections. Like vitamin B5, it is extremely sensitive to heat and can be destroyed during cooking.
Until recently, the vitamin B7 (biotin) was called vitamin H. However, the like folic acid now belongs to the family of vitamin B. Biotin is primarily important in the field of metabolism of fats, the conversion of carbohydrates and proteins, and in the regulation and control of blood sugar levels.
In recent years, biotin has become increasingly popular for “skin, hair and nail” problems, since biotin has proven very beneficial for maintaining healthy hair and nails and is also said to act against inflammatory skin reactions.
That is why more and more people consume biotin supplements. The absorption of biotin through food is relatively easy because it can be absorbed sufficiently through many foods.
These include fish, spinach, rice, bananas, tomatoes, mushrooms and egg yolk.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) plays a crucial role in the formation of red blood cells. The lack of vitamin B12 leads to anemia, which has fatal consequences. In addition, vitamin B12 has an important role in the normal functioning of the nervous system, protects the cardiovascular system, and has a positive effect on cell division and growth.
The need can be covered with meat products, especially with internal products such as beef liver, but it is also found in fish, eggs, or clams. It is recommended that vegetarians rely more on dairy products and eggs to meet their needs.
Folic acid (vitamin B9 and vitamin B11) is one of the best-known representatives, but many do not recognize it as part of the group of vitamin B. Pregnant women, in particular, should be familiar with folic acid, as they require a greater amount.
This is because folic acid is important for the formation, development, and multiplication of cells and, naturally, for the normal mental and physical development of the fetus. Folic acid is no less important in the formation of leukocytes and erythrocytes (white and red blood cells), for which the body needs folic acid.
Basically, folic acid is present in foods such as spinach, nuts, or even lettuce or lamb’s liver, but it can hardly be absorbed in sufficient quantities with a healthy diet.
Vitamin B17 is probably the least known of the group of vitamin B. It is the amygdala substance and is not essential for human metabolism, which means that the term vitamin may be quite unusual and misleading.
It is often used to treat cancer or tumors. The reason for this is that the substance forms hydrocyanic acid, which should kill diseased cells.
Therefore, vitamin B is not only beneficial in professional life, but should also receive more attention in daily nutrition.