B Vitamins - B Vitamin Sources

B Vitamin Sources

B vitamins are found in whole unprocessed foods. Processed carbohydrates such as sugar and white flour tend to have lower B vitamin than their unprocessed counterparts. For this reason, it is required by law in the United States (and many other countries) that the B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid be added back to white flour after processing. This is sometimes called "Enriched Flour" on food labels. B vitamins are particularly concentrated in meat such as turkey and tuna, in liver and meat products. Good sources for B vitamins include kombucha, whole grains, potatoes, bananas, lentils, chili peppers, tempeh, beans, nutritional yeast, brewer's yeast, and molasses. Although the yeast used to make beer results in beers being a source of B vitamins, their bioavailability ranges from poor to negative as drinking ethanol inhibits absorption of thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), biotin (B7), and folic acid (B9). In addition, each of the preceding studies further emphasizes that elevated consumption of beer and other ethanol-based drinks results in a net deficit of those B vitamins and the health risks associated with such deficiencies.

The B12 vitamin is of note because it is not available from plant products, making B12 deficiency a legitimate concern for vegans. Manufacturers of plant-based foods will sometimes report B12 content, leading to confusion about what sources yield B12. The confusion arises because the standard US Pharmacopeia (USP) method for measuring the B12 content does not measure the B12 directly. Instead, it measures a bacterial response to the food. Chemical variants of the B12 vitamin found in plant sources are active for bacteria, but cannot be used by the human body. This same phenomenon can cause significant over-reporting of B12 content in other types of foods as well.

Another popular means of increasing one's vitamin B intake is through the use of dietary supplements. B vitamins are also commonly added to energy drinks, many of which have been marketed with large amounts of B vitamins with claims that this will cause the consumer to "sail through your day without feeling jittery or tense." Some nutritionists have been critical of these claims, pointing out for instance that while B vitamins do "help unlock the energy in foods," most Americans acquire the necessary amounts easily in their diets.

Because they are soluble in water, excess B vitamins (such as may be ingested via supplements) are generally readily excreted, although individual absorption, use and metabolism may vary…" The elderly and athletes may need to supplement their intake of B12 and other B vitamins due to problems in absorption and increased needs for energy production. In cases of severe deficiency B vitamins, especially B12, may also be delivered by injection. may also be delivered by injection to reverse deficiencies. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetics may also be advised to supplement thiamine based on high prevalence of low plasma thiamine concentration and increased thiamine clearance associated with diabetes. Also, Vitamin B9 (folic acid) deficiency in early embryo development has been linked to neural tube defects. Thus, women planning to become pregnant are usually encouraged to increase daily dietary folic acid intake and/or take a supplement.

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