Health Benefits of B Complex (2024)

What Is Vitamin B Complex?

Vitamin B complex is a supplement that contains eight B vitamins that perform important and related roles in your body’s cellular function.

The vitamins that make up B complex are thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9), and cobalamin (vitamin B12).

Most of the B vitamins are found in a wide range of foods because they are so important to cellular function. Some, like vitamin B12, are found mostly in meat and other animal food sources. You might need a B complex supplement if you can't get the recommended daily amount of B vitamins from your diet.

What Do the B Vitamins Do?

The B vitamins have many roles.

Thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and biotin help convert food to energy, and help your cells grow, develop, and function. They also have their own unique roles:

Thiamine helps keep your nervous system healthy.

Riboflavin is an antioxidant.Antioxidants stop molecules called free radicals from damaging your cells and causing disease.

Niacin helps your digestive system, skin, and nerves function properly.

Pantothenic acid helps your body make and break down the fats in the foods you eat. It also has a role in producing red blood cells, as well as sex- and stress-related hormones.

Pyridoxine plays an important part in brain development and function. It also helps make neurotransmitters (“messenger” cells) and the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine. Finally, pyridoxine helps make white blood cells and T cells, which are important for a healthy and strong immune system.

Biotin helps make fatty acids and glucose, both of which provide fuel for your body.

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, which comes from foods. This B vitamin helps make your genetic material, the information in your body that is passed down from your parents. It also helps your body make red blood cells.

Cobalamin also helps make genetic material and red blood cells and is important for keeping your nerve cells healthy

Benefits of Vitamin B Complex

The B vitamins help enzymes in your body do their jobs and are important for a wide range of cellular functions, like breaking down carbohydrates and transporting nutrients throughout the body.

In addition, B complex can provide health benefits like:

May improve brain function

The B vitamins play a role in keeping your brain healthy. Adequate amounts of B vitamins in the body are essential for optimal body, brain, and nerve functioning.

Research shows that vitamin B6 in particular may play a role in preventing the neurological disorder Parkinson’s disease.

Possible cancer prevention

Data on the role of B vitamins in cancer prevention is mixed. Some studies found that certain B vitamins may help prevent some types of cancer, while others found evidence that high levels of B vitamins might cause some types of cancers.

But there is strong evidence that taking vitamin B3 in supplement form – called nicotinamide – can greatly reduce the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer.

May improve mood and reduce stress

If you have low levels of B vitamins, research shows you may be at a greater risk of depression and higher stress levels. Taking a B complex supplement can help you boost your blood levels to help you feel more calm and content. But it's unclear whether B vitamins have any added benefits for people with normal blood levels.

Possible weight loss

You may have read or heard that taking a vitamin B complex supplement or vitamin B12 shots can help you lose weight. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been proven through research. There are some animal studies that show it might be possible, but scientists aren't sure yet.

May improve heart health

Some studies show that certain people could improve their heart health if they take B vitamins, but it’s not recommended for everyone. If you would like to take vitamin B for your heart health, speak to your doctor first, to make sure there aren’t any reasons not to take it.

May improve nerve function

A lack of vitamin B, specifically vitamin B12, is linked to some problems with the nerves. Too little vitamin B12 can cause a painful condition called neuropathy. If you’ve been diagnosed with a vitamin B12 deficiency, your doctor will likely recommend a vitamin B12 supplement.

But if you have neuropathy caused by another disease, like diabetes, experts aren’t sure if taking a vitamin B12 supplement will help ease the symptoms.

May strengthen the immune system

More research is needed, but it seems that some forms of vitamin B may help help strengthen your immune system. For example, pyridoxine helps produce the white blood cells and T cells your body needs to boost your immune system.

May protect gut health

There are no studies that show healthy people who take vitamin B will strengthen their gut health. But some studies do show that taking vitamin B supplements helped improve appetite. Other studies showed that people with intestinal diseases, likeinflammatory bowel disease (IBD), need extra vitamin B. If you have a bowel disease, your doctor may encourage you to eat more vitamin B-rich foods or may prescribe a supplement. These diseases can prevent your body from absorbing the vitamins from your food.

May maintain healthy red blood cell levels

If you don’t have enough vitamin B12 or folate, your doctor may recommend you take supplements to help you maintain healthy red blood cell levels. Low levels could be caused by pernicious anemia, not consuming enough vitamins through your diet, or as a side effect of some medications.

Vitamin B Complex Benefits During Pregnancy

If you are pregnant, your doctor or midwife will probably recommend you take prenatal vitamins. Vitamin B complex is included in these multivitamins. They are essential for a healthy pregnancy and for the baby’s growth and development.

  • Thiamine helps your baby’s brain develop.
  • Riboflavin helps with eye health.
  • Niacin may help you with your digestion, and some believe it helps relieve nausea.
  • Pantothenic acid may help relieve leg muscle cramps.
  • Pyridoxine helps your baby’s brain and nervous system develop and might help you if you’re having nausea or trouble sleeping.
  • Folic acid in the first few weeks of pregnancy helps reduce the chances of your baby having a neural tube defect likespina bifida. You should keep taking it throughout your pregnancy, though, because it also helps your body produce red blood cells.
  • Cobalamin works with folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects.

How to Get Vitamin B Complex

Ideally, you should get your daily vitamin B through your usual diet, but sometimes you may need some extra.

B complex vitamin shots

If you are low in vitamin B12, your doctor may recommend that you get B12 shots until the levels return to normal. Although there are vitamin B12 tablets, the shot seems to be more effective, boosting your levels more quickly and efficiently. Depending on what caused the low vitamin levels, you may have to continue having the shots, or you might be able to stop or switch to tablets when your levels get back to normal.

Vitamin B complex tablets

While you can get vitamin B in multivitamins, your doctor may recommend that you take vitamin B complex tablets alone if you have anemia, are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. It’s important to follow the label’s instructions so as not to take too much.

B complex vitamin foods

If you want to increase vitamin B complex through your diet, there are many foods that are high in vitamin B, such as:

  • Almonds
  • Asparagus
  • Atlantic salmon
  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Beef
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Tuna
  • Broccoli
  • Brown rice
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cheese
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Chickpeas
  • Clams
  • Eggs
  • Fortified breakfast cereal
  • Milk
  • Mustard greens
  • Peanuts
  • Pork
  • Romaine lettuce
  • sh*take mushrooms
  • Sockeye salmon
  • Spinach
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sweet potato
  • Yogurt

Do You Need B Complex Supplements?

Not everyone needs to take B complex supplements. You may need a supplement if you:

  • Eat a vegetarian orvegan diet and don’t consume enough foods that contain the vitamins
  • Takeheartburn medications
  • Have hadweight loss surgery
  • Have a disease that affects your stomach lining or gut, such as IBD orCrohn’s disease
  • Have or are at risk of getting age-relatedmacular degeneration (AMD)
  • Are older and don’t get enough B vitamins through your diet

In many cases, you may not need a B complex supplement, but a single B vitamin supplement. For example, if you lack B12, but your levels of other vitamins are normal, then your doctor will likely suggest a B12 supplement.

What Are the Signs of Vitamin B Complex Deficiency?

The signs of a vitamin B complex deficiency depend on which vitamins you are low on.

Symptoms of low thiamine (B1) include:

  • A pins-and-needles sensation in your toes, burning in your feet (especially at night), muscle cramps, and heart abnormalities
  • Confusion
  • A hard time keeping your balance
  • Vision changes
  • Memory loss

If you're low in riboflavin (B2) you might have:

  • Pale skin
  • Cracks in the corner of your mouth and on the lips
  • Sores in the mouth, on the tongue
  • A magenta-colored tongue
  • Patches that appear red, greasy, or scaly on your nose, above your lips, or on your ears, eyelids, and genitals

Low levels of niacin (B3) can cause:

  • A sunburn-like rash that is worse on areas of the skin exposed to the sun
  • An inflamed tongue
  • Burning and sores in your mouth
  • Burning in your throat
  • Decreased saliva
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea, possibly with blood
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Mania
  • Paranoia

Pantothenic acid (B5) deficiency can cause:

  • Numbness or burning in your hands and feet
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Crankiness
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite

Low pyridoxine (B6) symptoms are:

  • Dermatitis
  • A red, greasy, scaly rash
  • Numb or prickling hands and feet
  • A sore and red tongue
  • Cracks in the corners of your mouth
  • Confusion
  • Crankiness
  • Seizures

With low biotin (B7) levels, you might notice:

  • Hair loss
  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Cracking in the corners of your mouth
  • A swollen, painful tongue
  • Dry eyes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Depression

Signs of a folate ( B9) deficiency include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Crankiness
  • Dizziness
  • A red, sore tongue
  • Mouth sores
  • Reduced sense of taste
  • Memory loss
  • A hard time concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Muscle weakness
  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea

Cobalamin (B12) deficiency causes:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Headaches
  • Stomach upset
  • Loss of appetite
  • Heart palpitations
  • Vision changes
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • A sore, red tongue
  • Mouth sores
  • Loss of memory
  • Confusion
  • Numbness or a pins-and-needles feeling
  • Muscle weakness
  • A hard time keeping your balance
  • Incontinence (not able to hold your pee)

Vitamin B Complex Side Effects and Risks

Although B complex offers many health benefits and is essential to the body’s overall function, supplementing with B vitamins does carry some risk, especially at high dosages.

B vitamins are water-soluble, so it’s difficult to overdose on them because your body will flush out the excess. While technically you could get too much vitamin B in your diet, it’s rare. But itispossible to have negative effects from too much of some of the vitamins if you take supplements.

There don’t seem to be any health issues related to having too much thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, biotin, or cobalamin.

Although it is rare, too much niacin from supplements could cause red skin, tingling in the face, arms and chest, and itching. High niacin levels could also cause gout.

Too much pyridoxine could cause nerve pain in the hands and feet, loss of control of body movements (ataxia), and nausea.

Too much folic acid could cause your body to hide or mask a vitamin B12 (cobalamin) deficiency.

Lung cancer

Although some B complex vitamins may help prevent cancer, there is evidence to show that too much of some types may increase the risk of lung cancer. One study found that people who got a lot of B12 from their diet were more likely to get lung cancer. Another study found that men who took vitamin B6 and B12 supplements were more likely to get lung cancer – especially if they smoked.

Peripheral neuropathy

High amounts of vitamin B6, found in B complex supplements, can lead to a condition called peripheral neuropathy, which causes a loss of feeling in your hands and feet.

Liver damage

B complex also contains niacin (vitamin B3). If you take high doses over a long period of time, niacin can damage the liver.


Vitamin B complex is a group of vitamins that are vital for your health and your development. A healthy, well-rounded diet can usually supply you with all the vitamin B you need, although there are some situations where your doctor may recommend that you take a supplement. These include if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a disease that affects your intestines and how well you digest your foods, or if you have a strict diet that doesn’t give you enough vitamins.

Vitamin B Complex FAQs

What is B complex good for?

Vitamin B complex helps your body grow and develop, particularly your brain and nervous system.

Is it better to take B12 or B complex?

Most people don’t need to take a B complex supplement, as their diet should provide enough of the vitamins. If you don't have enough vitamin B12, you can have B12 shots or take it as a tablet, depending on what your doctor recommends. Whether one is better than the other depends on your health and what your doctor advises.

What does vitamin B complex do in the body?

Vitamin B complex mostly helps your body’s cells grow and develop. The vitamins that make up B complex help your nerves, help make red blood cells, support your immune system by helping make white blood cells and T cells, and may even destroy free radicals that cause damage to your body.

Is it OK to take B complex every day?

It’s probably not necessary to take B complex every day if you eat a healthy diet and have no medical conditions that make it difficult to absorb the vitamins from your food. That said, unless your doctor says otherwise, there is usually no harm in taking a daily supplement.

What should you avoid when taking vitamin B complex?

If you are taking vitamin B12, there are some drugs to avoid, or you may have to change the dosage times, because they might stop your body from absorbing the vitamin. This includes colchicine (for gout), proton pump inhibitors (to lower stomach acid production), aminosalicylic acid (for digestive issues), and even vitamin C tablets.

Health Benefits of B Complex (2024)
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