Imagine- Over the course of two months, a 62-year-old man developed numbness and a “pins and needles” sensation in his hands, had trouble walking, experienced severe joint pain, began turning yellow, and became progressively short of breath. The cause was lack of vitamin B12 in his bloodstream, according to a case report from Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Another article published in New England Journal says this condition could have been worse- a severe vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to deep depression, paranoia and delusions, memory loss, incontinence, loss of taste and smell, and more. But vitamin B12 is not all that one needs.
Vitamin B complex is an essential nutrient for growth, development, a variety of other bodily functions. B vitamins are found in plant and animal food sources and are known by various names like thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3, also called nicotinamide or nicotinic acid amide), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folic acid or folate (B9), cobalamin (B12).
Without vitamin B, we would lack energy because they are involved in the metabolic processes that release energy from carbohydrates, fat, and protein. They are also crucial for energy production and utilization.
These vitamins also play a role in cell multiplication and the production of red blood cells. B Vitamins are important for our nervous system and can boost our energy levels and improve our mood.
Some of the B vitamins have also proved to relieve osteoarthritis or premenstrual syndrome pain. Extra B6 has been reported to improve PMS symptoms in many women. Like many other micronutrients, vitamins in group B also appear to be more effective in combination.
People under the age of 30 can go for a low-potency vitamin B supplement to maintain good health and sound diet. If you are over 30, consider taking a moderate-potency supplement. The ability to process nutrients, B 12 in particular, decreases with age, so consult with your doctor about the right amount of these that you should take.
A moderately potent vitamin B-complex supplement can help you if you are consistently dealing with a lot of pressure at work or at home. Some studies have also found very high doses of this B vitamin helpful for depression and anxiety.
Some B vitamins help cells burn fats and glucose for energy. Others help make neurotransmitters like serotonin. And some B's assist with the production and repair of DNA.
Deficiency of vitamin B1 causes beriberi. Symptoms of this disease of the nervous system include weight loss, emotional disturbances, Wernicke's encephalopathy (impaired sensory perception), weakness and pain in the limbs, periods of irregular heartbeat, and edema (swelling of bodily tissues). Heart failure and death may occur in advanced cases.
Deficiency of vitamin B3, along with a deficiency of tryptophan causes pellagra. Symptoms include aggression, dermatitis, insomnia, weakness, mental confusion, and diarrhoea. In advanced cases, pellagra may lead to dementia and death (dermatitis, diarrhoea, dementia, and death).
Deficiency of vitamin B12 results in a macrocytic anaemia, elevated homocysteine, peripheral neuropathy, memory loss and other cognitive deficits. It is most likely to occur among elderly people, as absorption through the gut declines with age; the autoimmune disease pernicious anaemia is another common cause. It can also cause symptoms of mania and psychosis. In rare extreme cases, paralysis can result.
The best source of the B vitamins is a varied diet. Animal proteins -fish, chicken, and organ meats such as liver, are excellent sources of most B vitamins and practically the only source of vitamin B12. Leafy green vegetables and legumes are rich sources of folic acid, which animal proteins tend to have low amounts of. Be sure to consult a physician if you're interested in taking B's for medicinal use.
Image Source: Getty