We were often told to have balanced diet; do you know why? Micronutrients are essential for proper functioning of mind and body which can’t be obtained from single source. It can only be received from various sources. 

Vitamin B is a water-soluble nutrient which performs various function in our body like cell function and metabolism, conversion of nutrients into energy and many more.  Its deficiency causes several ill effects like palpitations, tinnitus, paranesthesia, depressions, dementia, glossitis. 

Types of Vitamin B

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
  • Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
  • Vitamin B9 (Folate)
  • Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

What is Vitamin B Deficiency?

Vitamin B deficiency is the health condition caused by long-term inadequacy of Vitamin B in human body. It may be caused by inadequate intake of Vitamin B rich diet, enhanced consumption during pregnancy, alcoholism and malabsorption due preexisting health conditions like atrophic gastritis and diseases that affects small intestines. 

Causes of Vitamin B Deficiency

The condition of Vitamin B deficiency can be developed due to various factors. Some of the major cause have been illustrated below:

  • Inadequate Diet: The most common cause of Vitamin B deficiency across the globe is our diet. We often consume foods which are poor in essential vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin B.
  • Alcoholism: As vitamin B is water soluble vitamin, it can be easily be excreted through increased frequency of urination. Prolonged alcoholism affects the vitamins in our body through excessive excretion and malabsorption.  
  • GI Disorders: Vitamin B deficiency disorders can also be caused by malabsorption. The inadequate absorption of Vitamin B can occur due to presence of preexisting health conditions like atrophic gastritis and diseases that affects small intestines.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Functions of Vitamin B1

Vitamin B1 is also known as thiamine which is responsible for breaking down of food into simplest consumables unit glucose and its conversion into energy. It also keeps our nervous system healthy. 

Symptoms of Vitamin B1 Deficiency 

The common symptoms of vitamin B1 deficiency include:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling in hands and feet
  • Muscle weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Confusion
  • Body Pain
  • Nystagmus
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty speaking

Health Risks due to Vitamin B1 Deficiency

  • Beriberi: Severe thiamine deficiency would lead you to deadly disease like beriberi. It affects the cardiovascular (dry beriberi) and nervous systems (wet beriberi). It may even lead to heart failure.

Sources of Vitamin B1

The rich source of vitamin B1 includes:

  • Whole grains
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Green leafy vegetables

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Functions of Vitamin B2

Vitamin B2 is also known as riboflavin, which is responsible for energy production in our body, helps in maintaining our vision and provide healthy skin.  It also affects our nervous system.

Symptoms of Vitamin B2 Deficiency 

The common symptoms of vitamin B2 deficiency include:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling in hands and feet
  • Muscle weakness
  • Confusion
  • Body Pain
  • Nystagmus

Health Risks due to Vitamin B2 Deficiency

  • Ariboflavinosis: This is very rare disease caused by the deficiency of vitamin B2. It is often seen in the people with prolonged case of alcoholism which affects the renal and digestive function of the body. 

Sources of Vitamin B2

The rich source of vitamin B2 includes:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Oats
  • Cooked beef
  • Mushrooms
  • Yoghurt
  • Rice

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Functions of Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3 is also known as niacin, which is responsible for the conversion of carbohydrate, fat and protein into energy. It also helps in regulation of our skin health and nervous system.

Symptoms of Vitamin B3 Deficiency 

The common symptoms of vitamin B3 deficiency include:

  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Inflamed tongue
  • Insomnia
  • Hair loss
  • Dermatitis 
  • Aggression
  • Diarrhoea
  • Ataxia
  • Dementia

Health Risks due to Vitamin B3 Deficiency

  • Pellagra: This is very rare disease caused by the deficiency of vitamin B3. It affects the skin and neural health of the individual.

Sources of Vitamin B3

The rich source of vitamin B3 includes:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Wheat flour
  • Eggs
  • Milk

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

Functions of Vitamin B5

Vitamin B5 is also known as pantothenic acid, which is responsible for the conversion of carbohydrate, fat and protein into energy. It also helps in producing RBC and steroid hormones.

Symptoms of Vitamin B5 Deficiency 

The common symptoms of Vitamin B5 deficiency include:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Upper respiratory infections

Health Risks due to Vitamin B5 Deficiency

Since vitamin B5 is present in almost all the food items, its deficiency is very rare to be found.

Sources of Vitamin B5

The rich source of vitamin B5 includes:

  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggs
  • Broccoli
  • Whole grains

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

Functions of Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is also known as pyridoxine, which is responsible for the conversion of carbohydrate, fat and protein into energy and formation of haemoglobin which carries oxygen in the body.

Symptoms of Vitamin B6 Deficiency 

The common symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency include:

  • Nausea
  • Rashes
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Anaemia
  • Prone to infections

Health Risks due to Vitamin B6 Deficiency

  • Peripheral Neuropathy: Although vitamin B6 deficiency is very rare but in severe deficiency it may cause neural complications like peripheral neuropathy and seizures. 

Sources of Vitamin B6

The rich source of vitamin B6 includes:

  • poultry
  • fish
  • Bread
  • Wholegrain 
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Soya beans
  • Peanuts
  • Milk
  • Potatoes
  • Fortified cereals

Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

Functions of Vitamin B7

Vitamin B7 is also known as biotin, which is responsible for the conversion of carbohydrate, fat and protein into energy. It is often observed that high intake of biotin can lead to CVD.

Symptoms of Vitamin B7 Deficiency 

The common symptoms of vitamin B7 deficiency include:

  • Hair loss
  • Rashes
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Hallucinations
  • Tingling

Health Risks due to Vitamin B7 Deficiency

  • Neural Disorders: All the member of vitamin B group affects our nervous system. Deficiency of vitamin B7 cam cause several neural disorders like depressions, lethargy and hallucinations. 

Sources of Vitamin B7

The rich source of vitamin B7 includes:

  • Organ Meat
  • Cauliflower
  • Egg yolks
  • Peanuts
  • Chicken
  • Yeast
  • Mushrooms.

Vitamin B9 (Folate)

Functions of Vitamin B9

Vitamin B9 is also known as folate.  It helps body in breakdown, use and synthesis of new protein. Folate is responsible for the formation of red and white blood cells. In addition to this it produces DNA which stores the genetic information. 

Symptoms of Vitamin B9 Deficiency 

The common symptoms of vitamin B9 deficiency include:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Diarrhoea
  • Poor growth
  • Smooth tongue 

Health Risks due to Vitamin B9 Deficiency

  • Neural Tube Defects: Pregnant women require higher intakes of folate than a normal person. It helps in proper development of the foetus. Folate deficiency can cause neural tube defects in foetus such as spina bifida.  
  • Folate Deficiency Anemia: Since folate is important ingredient for the formation of RBC and WBC, its deficiency can cause folate anaemia.

Sources of Vitamin B9

The rich source of vitamin B9 includes:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Organ Meat
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Peas
  • Chickpeas
  • Fortified breakfast cereals 

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

Functions of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B9 is also known as cobalamin.  It helps body in breakdown, of carbohydrates, fat and proteins and converts into energy.  Cobalamin is responsible for the keeping the blood cells, and central nervous system healthy. It also controls the proper usability of folate.

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency 

The common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Anaemia
  • Swollen tongue
  • Jaundice
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Hallucinations

Health Risks due to Vitamin B12 Deficiency

  • Psychological Disorders: Cobalamin is responsible for maintaining healthy neural system of the body. Its deficiency can lead to several psychological disorders such as dementia, paranoia and depressions.
  • Anaemia: Prolonged vitamin B12 deficiency can cause unhealthy and disfigured blood cells which can cause anaemia. Its deficiency hampers the proper utilisation of folate. 

Sources of Vitamin B12

The rich source of vitamin B12 includes:

  • Meat
  • Salmon
  • Cod
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Fortified cereals

Tests for Vitamin B Deficiency

There are several tests available for the diagnosis of Vitamin B deficiency in our body out of which blood test is the most widely used method of diagnosis. In general, we don’t need to do any preparations for the test but in case you are on Vitamin B supplements you need to stop before the test. 

  • Vitamin B Blood Test: Blood test for Vitamin B measures the concentrations of Vitamin B and its constituents in the body. This is the most accurate test for the identification of Vitamin B deficiency. 
  • 24- Hour Urine Test: This test can be performed on the sample collected over the period of 24 hours. The urine needs to be collected in a container for 24 hours after flushing the morning urine and kept in a cool place or refrigeration before handing over to health professional.

Random urine test can also be performed with the flash sample, but the results will not be as accurate as 24-hour test.

Remedies of Vitamin B Deficiency 

  • Vitamin B Supplements: If you are diagnosed with severe Vitamin B deficiency, you should consider medical supplements under supervision of doctors. As higher Vitamin B may lead to irreversible health conditions.
  • Vitamin B Rich Diet: Vitamin B rich food items will help in minimizing the Vitamin B deficiency. Some of the Vitamin B rich food items are like chicken, meat, salmon, cod, tuna, mackerel, fish, milk, cheese, yeast, mushroom, egg yolk, organ meat, soy drinks, chickpeas, peas, leafy green vegetable, broccoli, brussels sprout, potato, whole grain .
  • Fortified Food Items: Several agricultural lands across the globe are poor in micronutrients which will serve nutrient deficient food produces. Fortified seeds will help in providing nutrient rich agriculture produce.

Prevention of Vitamin B Deficiency

It is often said that “Prevention is better than Cure” and indeed this is very much true with reference to micronutrient deficiencies. Vitamin B deficiency can be prevented through consumption of Vitamin B rich diet.

Food items rich in Vitamin B:

  • Chicken
  • Meat
  • Salmon
  • Cod
  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yeast
  • Yoghurt
  • Mushroom
  • Egg 
  • Organ meat
  • Soybean
  • Chickpeas
  • Peas
  • Leafy green vegetable
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Potato
  • Whole grain
  • Fortified food items

Adequate Intake (>19 yrs.):

Simple way to prevent Vitamin B deficiencies is to maintain recommended daily intakes. The recommended daily intake of Vitamin B for an adult is provided in the Table 1. 

Table 1

Vitamin B Adequate Intake for an Adult
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1.1-1.2 mg
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1.1-1.3 mg
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 14-16 mg
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) 5 mg
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) 1.3 mg
Vitamin B7 (Biotin) 30 mcg
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 400 mg
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) 2.4 mcg

Vitamin B is very important water-soluble vitamin essential for regulation of healthy blood cells and nervous system. It plays key role in breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and proteins and its conversion into energy. Adequate intake of vitamin B constituents and prevent several neural and psychological disorders.

Although Vitamin B deficiency has several ill effects, it can be treated with the right consultation and medical supplements as prescribed by medical experts. The best possible way to avoid these complications by consuming adequate amount of Vitamin B as per RDA through various Vitamin B rich diet.