No, not the bees that pollinate flowers! B vitamins! They help you get energy from the food you eat, help form red blood cells, and can cause health issues if you don’t get enough of them. And from analyzing the eating patterns of numerous clients, David Rath Nutrition can attest to the fact that most people’s diets are deficient in them, even though they’re found in good supply in many common foods.
The B vitamins consist of: B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), B12 and folic acid. Food sources include fish, poultry, meat, eggs, dairy, leafy green veggies, beans and peas. Also, breads and cereals are often fortified with them. B vitamins are concentrated so that you’ll often find them in supplements in amounts equaling 100% or more of the Recommended Daily Value (read DV on supplement bottle labels). In contrast, the mineral calcium takes up lots of space, so you’ll not usually see this nutrient in amounts greater than about 200 mg (about 20% of the DV).
B6 and B12 are two of the B vitamins that have been in the news lately regarding their implications for health. Tufts University researchers studied 2,229 men and women and found that low vitamin B6 was associated with inflammation in the body, confirming the results of previous studies that found this relationship. Inflammation is associated with a wide range of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes and some cancers. Good sources of B6 are chicken fish, eggs, whole grains, bananas, potatoes, broccoli, lima beans, and walnuts. You should get at least 1.3 to 1.7 milligrams of B6 daily to prevent deficiency, although some recommendations call for twice that much for optimal health and disease prevention.
The Journal of the American Geriatric Society reported this year that older people deficient in vitamin B-12 are at higher risk for neurological impairment. An acidic environment is needed to absorb B-12 from food, and as we age our stomachs become less acidic, making us unable to absorb what we need. So if you are over 50 you should get at least 2.4 micrograms a day from a multivitamin or fortified food. (Take a multivitamin/mineral supplement formulated for adults 50+ and you’ll get plenty of B12 and other nutrients in the amounts needed, or not needed, in the case of iron. Iron is an oxidant and too much beyond what you need can increase your risk of heart disease.) Also, since B12 comes mainly from animal food sources, vegetarians may have trouble getting enough as well.
Sources: Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 2012
Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, July 6, 2012