Vitamins play a major role in all of our body functions and necessary for life itself.B Vitamins are perhaps one of the most widely known energy sources. I discussed a few of the B vitamins in a previous post about anemia. There are a total of …

Vitamins play a major role in all of our body functions and are necessary for life itself. B Vitamins are perhaps one of the most widely known energy sources.

There are a total of 8 B vitamins, which are all water-soluble. For the sake of this article B vitamins = B1, B3, B6, B9, and B12

B vitamins are required for:

  • proper functioning methylation cycle

  • monoamine oxidase production

  • DNA and RNA synthesis and repair

  • repair and maintenance of phospholipids

  • neuronal function

  • synthesis (making of) many other neurochemicals and signaling molecules

A significant portion of developed countries are deficient in all the B vitamins. This means the wealthier countries (not 3rd world or developing countries) are doing something wrong with their diet.

Deficiencies in B vitamins can cause or are linked to:

  • Decreased memory

  • Decreased cognitive function or neurologic cognition

  • Dementia

  • Depression

  • Cardiovascular Disease

  • Decreased mitochondrial function

  • Osteoporosis

  • Neural tube defects

B1 = Thiamine – B1 is the first of the B vitamins to be discovered. B1 turns food into energy. Alcoholism, Crohn’s disease, anorexia, and loop diuretics (e.g., Lasix) can cause B1 deficiency.

B3 = Niacin – Often found in sports or energy drinks (“pre-workout”). Excessive niacin can give you a flushed or tingling feeling. Interestingly, in this PubMed article, the most noted benefit of Niacin in a pre-workout drink is improved mood. Guess what? Exercise alone – without the potentially harmful side-effects of the filler ingredients and artificial sweeteners or colors improves the mood!

Native Americans have been shown to have a predisposition for Pellagra – a B3 deficiency. Pellagra has been described as “the disease of the 4 D’s” = diarrhea, dementia, dermatitis, and death. It is attributed to higher corn, with subsequent low tryptophan, and a low animal protein diet. Pellagra is reversible by adding animal products back into the daily diet.

People with Crohn’s disease are also at risk for a vitamin B3 deficiency.

B6 = Pyroxidine – “In the brain, PLP is required for the synthesis of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and γ-aminobutyrate (GABA), and as such is involved in both neuronal excitation and inhibition.” (PubMed article) In other words, without this vitamin, it’s difficult to produce (synthesize) hormones/chemicals necessary for normal moods – such as serotonin & norepinephrine – the ‘happy hormones’. There are 6 forms of B6 in mammals. A deficiency of B6 can result in a weakened immune system through several multi-step and complicated body processes.

B9 = Folic Acid – Crucial for the development of DNA. It is an essential co-factor in the methylation of B12. Methylation is a process of adding a ‘methyl’ group to other chemical compounds in order for our body to use the vitamin. Methylation of certain vitamins (like B12) is necessary for the body to absorb it. Those with the expressed MTHFR gene are unable to methylate B12 or other vitamins that require this process. Deficiency in B9 can include neural tube defects, cancer, depression, and cardiovascular disease.

B12 = Cobalamin – Helps make red blood cells. Pernicious anemia is caused by the lack of or reduced intrinsic factor normally found in the stomach lining – which will not allow the body to absorb dietary B12. In other words, supplementing B12 may not correct the deficiency. Similar to other B vitamins, deficiencies are common in wealthier countries because of the lack of animal products in their diet.

Simplified Case Study (Dr. Damon Zavala, DO)

A woman presented to the clinic needing ‘general assistance’. She used a walker and wheelchair for mobility. She had extreme difficulty walking with a smooth gait pattern. She had an irregular and shaky gait. This woman had debilitation and neurological deficits. Normal lab panel showed a low level of B12, but nothing causing alarm or concern. Subsequent lab work was performed that included a methylmalonic acid level (MMA level). This lab showed the ‘true’ deficiency in B12 where routine lab work would not. Her B12 level was restored with B12 injections and the patient returned to a normal and productive life. She no longer needed to use assistive devices for ambulation (walking).

Follow-up would ask the question – Did this woman have the MTHFR gene and was it ‘expressed’ or ‘turned on’?