The B vitamins (also known as the B complex vitamins) are a group of eight water soluble vitamins. They all play an important role in cell metabolism (the process which allows your body’s cells to get energy and nutrients from the food you eat) and were initially thought to be a singular B vitamin. Today I am going to be discussing the B vitamin group in greater detail.
The B vitamins were initially discovered by Elmer V. McCollum and his team of researchers who were performing nutritional studies on rats. Between 1912 and 1914 these studies had led to the discovery of vitamin A – the first of the thirteen vitamins to be discovered. Following on from this, McCollum’s team discovered the vitamin B complex in milk some time between 1915 and 1917. Since these B vitamins were thought to be a singular vitamin, McCollum adopted Chashmir Funk’s term and named his discovery vitamin B.
The main reason that the B vitamins were first thought to be just one single vitamin is that they are found together in a number of foods. They also perform similar functions in the body with all the B vitamins having a key role in the either the conversion of foods to energy or the creation of new cells. However, further research revealed that there was not one B vitamin – there were eight…
1) VITAMIN B1 (THIAMIN):- Vitamin B1 was discovered by Robert Williams in 1935 as part of a search for a cure for the disease beriberi. Its main function is to help the body’s cells break down blood sugar into energy but it also helps maintain a healthy nervous system. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for this vitamin is 1mg in men and 0.8mg in women. Some of the foods that contain vitamin B1 include brown rice, whole grain products and green vegetables.
2) VITAMIN B2 (RIBOFLAVIN):- Vitamin B2 was was first discovered in the late nineteenth century but was not recognised as a vitamin until 1935 when it was isolated by Kuhn and Karrer. Its main function is to help the body’s cells get energy from the foods we eat but it also promotes healthy skin and healthy vision. The RDA for this vitamin is 1.3mg in men and 1.1mg in women. Vitamin B2 can be found in dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt.
3) VITAMIN B3 (NIACIN):- Vitamin B3 was officially discovered by Conrad Elvenhjem in 1937 as part of research into a cure for the disease pellagra. Its main function is to assist in the conversion of blood sugar into energy but it also promotes healthy nerves and a healthy digestive system. The RDA for this vitamin is 19mg in men and 15mg in women. Some of the foods that contain vitamin B3 include meat, eggs and peanuts.
4) VITAMIN B5 (PANTOTHENIC ACID):- Vitamin B5 was discovered by R.J. Williams in 1933 when he identified it as a growth factor in yeast. Its main function is to help the body’s cells break down food into energy but it also helps the body heal wounds and produce red blood cells. The RDA for this vitamin is 5mg in both men and women. Vitamin B5 can be found in fresh vegetables, eggs and salmon.
5) VITAMIN B6 (PYRIDOXINE):- Vitamin B6 was discovered by Paul Gyorgy in 1938 when he was looking for a cure for the disease acrodynia. Its main function is to help the body’s cells break down proteins into a form that they can use but it also plays a key role in regulating hormones. The RDA for this vitamin is 1.4mg in men and 1.2mg in women. Some of the foods that contain vitamin B6 include salmon, nuts and peas.
6) VITAMIN B7 (BIOTIN):- Vitamin B7 was first noticed by M.A. Boas in 1927 and isolated by Vincent Du Vigneaud in 1940. Its main function is to help the body’s cells break down fats and carbohydrates for energy but it also assists in the breakdown of amino acids. The RDA for this vitamin is 0.03mg in men and 0.01mg in women. Some of the foods that contain vitamin B5 include liver, milk and egg yolks.
7) VITAMIN B9 (FOLIC ACID):- Vitamin B9 was first noticed by Lucy Willis in 1930 and isolated by Henry K. Mitchell in 1941. Its main function is to help the body produce DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), RNA (ribonucleic acid) and new cells but it also works with vitamin B12 to help produce red blood cells. The RDA for this vitamin is 0.2mg in both men and women. Vitamin B9 can be found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, green beans and brocolli.
8) VITAMIN B12 (COBALAMIN):- Vitamin B12 was discovered simultaneously by Karl Folkers, E. Lester Smith and L.F.S. Parker in 1948, as the result of a search for a cure for pernicious anemia. Its main function is to work with vitamin B9 to prodce DNA and RNA but it also assists in hormone production. The RDA for this vitamin is 0.002mg in both men and women. Some of the foods that contain vitamin B12 include liver, fish and dairy products.
I hope this article has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had regarding the B vitamins. Despite the fact that they are often found together in foods and perform similar functions they are all unique, individual vitamins. Each and every one is essential for the proper functioning of your body so make sure you are consuming enough of all eight.