Water-Soluble Vitamins: B-Complex and Vitamin C

B-Complex and Vitamin C - Deficiency Symptoms & Common Food Sources

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Water-soluble vitamins are those vitamins that are dissoluble in water and excreted out of the body via urine after its use. These vitamins cannot be stored by the body, hence a continuous supply of water-soluble vitamins via diet, supplements or both is necessary. There are 9 different water-soluble vitamins, 8 B-complex vitamins, and vitamin C.

B-Complex Vitamins

B-complex includes 8 Vitamins –

B1Thiamine
B2Riboflavin
B3Niacin
B5Pantothenic Acid
B6Pyridoxine
B7Biotin
B9Folic Acid
B12Cobalamin

Thiamine (Vitamin B1)

Vitamin B1 as the name suggests is the first vitamin of the B-complex group. It helps in converting carbohydrates, proteins, and fats from the food we eat into energy, which the body can use. It helps in maintaining proper nervous system functions and boosts normal appetite.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for thiamine for male adults is 1.2 milligrams/ day and for female adults is 1.1 milligrams/ day.

Thiamine deficiency is rare, but it can occur in individuals with excessive alcohol consumption, where meals are often replaced by alcohol. Individuals who consume a diet rich in refined or processed carbohydrates are at a greater risk of thiamine deficiency.  (1)

Also Read: 7 Amazing Health Benefits of Thiamine (Vitamin B1)

Signs and symptoms of thiamine deficiency

Cardiovascular symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Tachycardia
  • Heart failure
Gastroenterological symptoms
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Anorexia
  • Constipation
Neurologic symptoms
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Poor memory
  • Korsakoff syndrome
  • Wernicke encephalopathy
  • Foot drop

Foods rich in thiamine include

  • Whole grains (unprocessed)
  • Lentils and pulses (unpolished)
  • Nuts
  • Seeds such as pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
  • Green peas
  • Fish

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)

Riboflavin is the second member of the B-complex family. It is a unique B-vitamin and is found in a variety of foods. In the year 1879, it was isolated from milk whey, but it was not in its pure form. Recent research has uncovered the fact that riboflavin plays a pivotal role in protecting against certain types of cancers and heart diseases. (2)

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The recommended dietary allowance for riboflavin for adult males is 1.3 milligrams/ day and 1.1 milligrams/ day for adult females.

Also Read: 7 Amazing Health Benefits of Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)

Signs and symptoms of riboflavin deficiency

Deficiency of riboflavin is known as ‘ariboflavinosis’. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Cheilosis – cracks on outside of lips
  • Angular stomatitis – cracks at the corners of the mouth
  • Magenta tongue – inflammation of the tongue
  • Seborrheic dermatitis – scaly skin inflammation

Food sources of riboflavin include

  • Milk and milk products
  • Whole grain cereals
  • Meat
  • Fatty fish
  • Dark green leafy vegetables

Niacin (Vitamin B3)

Vitamin B3, also known as niacin plays an important role in the production of sex and stress-related hormones. It further enhances overall circulation and lowers the level of inflammation. Niacin protects against heart diseases and helps in reducing high cholesterol levels too. (3, 4)

The recommended dietary allowance for niacin for adult males is 16 milligrams/ day and for adult females is 14 milligrams/ day.

Also Read: 6 Amazing Health Benefits of Niacin (Vitamin B3)

Signs and symptoms of niacin deficiency

Disease caused by niacin deficiency is called ‘pellagra’. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Headache
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Disorientation
  • Poor memory
  • Pigmentation of skin exposed to sunlight

Dietary sources of niacin include

  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Organ meat
  • Fatty fish
  • Mushrooms
  • Peanut
  • Green peas

Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)

Pantothenic acid or vitamin B5 is an important vitamin required for the synthesis of coenzyme A, an important molecule that is required to activate other chemical reactions within the body. (5)

Also Read: 7 Amazing Health Benefits of Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)

Signs and symptoms of vitamin B5 deficiency

Vitamin B5 deficiency is rare, but it may include the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Burning feet
  • Abdominal pain
  • Upper respiratory tract infections

Dietary sources of vitamin B5 include

  • Mushrooms
  • Sweet potato
  • Lentils
  • Avocados
  • Chicken
  • Broccoli
  • Sunflower seeds
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Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)

Vitamin B6 is an extremely versatile vitamin and it performs a wide variety of functions in the body. It helps in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that carry information from one nerve cell to another. Furthermore, vitamin B6 is required by the body for the absorption of vitamin B12. It also helps in the production of cells of the immune system and red blood cells. Besides this, vitamin B6 protects the heart, boosts normal growth and functioning of the brain and helps in the production of various hormones in the body. (6)

The recommended daily allowance for vitamin B6 for adult males and females is 2 milligrams/ day.

Also Read: 7 Amazing Health Benefits of Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)

Signs and symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency

  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Muscle pain
  • Worsening of symptoms of anemia

Dietary sources of vitamin B6

  • Fish, tuna
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sweet potato
  • Chicken
  • Spinach

Biotin (Vitamin B7)

Vitamin B7 is also called biotin, or vitamin H. This vitamin plays an important role in strengthening nails and hair. Biotin is also a vital part of various cosmetic products used for skin and hair. It is required to produce various enzymes in the body. Studies have also revealed that biotin enhances liver health. (7)

Also Read: 9 Amazing Health Benefits of Biotin (Vitamin B7)

Signs and symptoms of vitamin B7 deficiency

  • Hair loss
  • Dry, scaly and red skin
  • Depression
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tiredness and fatigue

Dietary sources of vitamin B7 include

Vitamin B7 is found in small amounts in food. Some of them include:

  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Nuts such as almonds
  • Spinach
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes

Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)

Folic acid plays a very important role in brain development and mental health. It helps in the production as well as maintenance of cells, especially during the period of growth, such as pregnancy, infancy, and adolescence. Folic acid works along with vitamin B12 to produce red blood cells. It further aids in the synthesis of DNA and RNA, the genetic material of the body. (8)

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The recommended daily allowance for vitamin B9 for adult males and females is 200 micrograms/ day.

Also Read: 6 Amazing Health Benefits of Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)

Signs and symptoms of vitamin B9 deficiency

  • Anemia
  • Pale skin
  • Poor immunity
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Low energy levels
  • Constipation, bloating and poor digestive health
  • Mouth ulcers

Dietary sources of vitamin B9

  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Yellow-orange colored fruits
  • Lentils and beans
  • Nuts and oilseeds
  • Avocado
  • Beetroot
  • Corns
  • Okra

Cobalamin (Vitamin B12)

Vitamin B12 is essential for maintaining the healthy nervous system. It promotes the formation of red blood cells and helps in protein metabolism. It further protects the heart, boosts the immune system and improves mood. (9)

The recommended daily allowance for vitamin B12 for adult males and females is 1 microgram/ day.

Also Read: 8 Amazing Health Benefits of Cobalamin (Vitamin B12)

Signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency

  • Pernicious anemia
  • Atrophic gastritis
  • Fatigue
  • Poor memory
  • Reduced sensation of touch
  • Walking problem

Dietary sources of vitamin B12

  • Organ meat such as liver
  • Oysters
  • Crabs
  • Eggs
  • Fatty fish such as sardines, trout, tuna, and mackerel
  • Cereals fortified with vitamin B12
  • Swiss cheese

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ‘ascorbic acid’ is a water-soluble vitamin which cannot be produced by the body. Hence, foods rich in vitamin C should be consumed daily.

Vitamin C is an important part of the connective tissue and it plays a vital role in wound healing. It boosts the immune system and keeps infectious diseases and disorders at bay. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant in nature, thus it promotes the regeneration of other antioxidants and destabilizes reactive oxygen species. (10, 11)

The recommended daily allowance for vitamin C for adult males and females is 40 milligrams/ day.

Signs and symptoms of vitamin C deficiency

  • Bleeding gums
  • Swollen gums
  • Gingivitis
  • Poor immune system
  • Slow wound healing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Dry and rough skin and hair

Dietary sources of vitamin C

  • Orange
  • Guava
  • Amla
  • Bell peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Grapefruit
  • Papaya
  • Kale
  • Broccoli


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