There are two thoughts about taking a multivitamin. One group thinks if you eat a well balanced diet, you shouldn’t need to take supplements. This might be true if you ate 7-10 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every single day. That is almost 5 cups of fruits and vegetables, that are minimally processed and have not been in storage for months. Take an honest look at what you ate yesterday, did you get enough fruits and vegetables? You spend approximately 2 dollars per day on car insurance. Shouldn’t you spend about 25 cents a day ensuring that your body gets enough vitamins and minerals? I think you know where I stand on this matter.
One of the more important parts of a multivitamin are the B vitamins. There are seven essential B vitamins that I will discuss over the next two articles. The B vitamins are essential for the general day to day functioning of our bodies. Their uses range from energy and fat metabolism to wound healing to memory. Your body doesn’t store a large reserve of these vitamins and is constantly using its reserve. That is why eating your fruits and veggies and taking a vitamin is important; they help to replace the lost B vitamins.
The B vitamins are sometimes numbered; this numbering system is loosely based on the order in which they were discovered. This is also why some of the B vitamin numbers are not found in multivitamins. Further research has shown that some were not true vitamins; such is the case with Vitamins B4, B8, B10, B11 and B13-17. This leaves the true B vitamins: B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid) and B12 (cyanocobalamin).
I guess the logical place to start is at number 1. Vitamin B1, also called thiamine, was the first chemical to be recognized as a vitamin. Your body primarily uses thiamine for carbohydrate (sugar) metabolism and the proper functioning of nerves and muscles. A deficiency of this vitamin is almost unheard of these days, but it is called beriberi. Symptoms of beriberi include weakness in the arms and legs, ‘burning feet’, edema, swelling of the heart and difficulty breathing. Alcoholism or excessive consumption of sugary foods may lead to thiamin deficiency. Some plants contain anti-thiamin factors that can render thiamine inactive in the body. The most notable are tea, coffee and betel nuts. There are also thiaminases, enzymes that can breakdown the thiamine found in food. These thiaminases are found in some raw freshwater fish and raw shellfish. Excessive consumption of these food items may also lead to thiamin deficiency. There are also some medications that can deplete the body of thiamine; they include, diuretics (water pills) and phenytoin. While the above evidence may suggest otherwise, thiamine deficiency is rare these days. The recommended daily dosage of thiamine is 1-2mg per day. At these doses side effects are rarely seen.
Next up is number 2, riboflavin. Vitamin B2 has too many functions in the body to mention them all. It is primarily responsible for carbohydrate and protein metabolism and energy production. Sadly, taking more riboflavin will not give you more energy, unless you are deficient in this vitamin. Deficiencies are rare. One of the most notable uses of riboflavin is the prevention of migraine headaches. Doses of 400mg per day have been shown to significantly reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. Best results were seen after three months of continuous use. There are no side effects with riboflavin, except that it can turn the colour of your urine bright yellow. There are also some medications that can reduce the effectiveness of riboflavin in the body, such as tri-cyclic antidepressants.
Now we skip number three and four for brevity to discuss vitamin B5, pantothenic acid. Vitamin B5 specific use is the production of the brain chemical acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is associated with memory; unfortunately taking more of this vitamin doesn’t help increase your memory. Deficiency of this vitamin is very rare. It is so rare that special diets and drugs must be used to study vitamin B5 deficiency.
Well I ran out of space rather quickly. Perhaps this will be a three part article or maybe I should just not write so much. Nutrition is very important as it is one of the easiest ways to keep our bodies healthy. The next few articles will feature the other B vitamins and why they are so important to our health.