Vitamin B – unlike vitamins A, C, D or E – is a complex of vitamins, including vitamin B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxin), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate or folic acid) and B12 (cyanocobalamin).
Vitamin B supplements are available as tablets, sprays and in gummies. Each form has its own advantages. Vitamin B tablets are often the strongest, while sprays will optimise absorption (as the formulation is quickly absorbed through the wall of the mouth). Gummies, meanwhile, are a tasty option for those who don't like swallowing tablets.
The most popular option is a B vitamin complex, which contains all the important B vitamins. Vitamin B12 is often available separately, and is particularly important for vegans. B vitamins are also commonly included in multivitamins, for the broad range of health benefits they can provide; from supporting heart and brain health to energy production.
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Vitamin B guides
What are the benefits of vitamin B?
Between them, the B vitamins boast more than 20 Government-authorised health claims. These include supporting the normal function of the immune system, psychological function, supporting the heart, and maintenance of normal red blood cells.
They are also a popular choice for their contribution to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue, and supporting a normal energy-yielding metabolism. One of the best-known B-vitamins, biotin, is also used to support healthy-looking hair and skin.
Find out more in this vitamin B nutrient guide.
What are the types of vitamin B?
Vitamin B – which includes thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxin, biotin, folate (folic acid) and cyanocobalamin – has numerous benefits. Although some of these benefits are common to the various B vitamins (for example, they all support a normal energy-yielding metabolism and the normal functioning of the immune system), some also have unique benefits that may be worth considering when choosing the best vitamin B supplement for you.
Vitamin B12 is a popular B vitamin, which is available separately from the B complex. It's important for energy, immunity and red blood cells, and it particularly difficult to get from a vegan diet.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
Vitamin B1 is known primarily for its benefits for energy production, with severe or sustained deficiency causing a disease called 'beri-beri', meaning extreme weakness. This is an extremely rare condition in developed countries, but it does illustrate the importance of vitamin B1 and ensuring that we get enough through our diet (either from food alone, or in conjunction with vitamin B tablets).
Thiamine is also often added to heart health supplements, as it contributes to the normal function of the heart.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
One of the better-known B vitamins, vitamin B12 is needed for several functions; notably the formation of the red blood cells that carry oxygen and nutrients around our bodies. It is also important for the normal functioning of the immune system, a healthy nervous system, and energy-yielding metabolism.
Unfortunately, deficiency is relatively common, particularly in older adults – with studies suggesting that 60 per cent of people over 75 years are likely to have low levels of vitamin B12. Those with digestive conditions (which make the gut less able to absorb the vitamin) and people eating a vegan or plant-based diet are also at risk, given that animal sources are by far the richest source (namely liver, beef, poultry, clams, oily fish, and dairy products.)
This guide to vitamin B12 explains more, including how vitamin B12 deficiency can cause a range of symptoms, including loss of energy and appetite, weight loss, tingling in the hands and feet, and depression.
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
Niacin has a broad range of benefits, and is often added to calming supplements (including Healthspan's Saffron supplement, 5-HTP and Night-time 5-HTP) because it contributes to normal psychological function and the normal functioning of the nervous system.
Vitamin B3 also contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue, so is added to supplements like Ginkgo and Ginseng.
As vitamin B is water-soluble, the body cannot store excess amounts, so any excess is excreted through urine. This means that there is little danger of taking too much – but also that a regular intake is required to ensure the body has what it needs.
Niacin also contributes to the maintenance of normal mucous membranes and normal skin. It often appears in skincare products as niacinamide, to help even the skin tone and reduce the appearance of age spots and unwanted pigmentation.
A key benefit of vitamin B6 is its contribution to the normal function of the immune system. Specifically, research has found that vitamin B6 plays a key role in the production of T lymphocytes and interleukins (cells that help defend the body against infection and illness).
As a result, vitamin B6 deficiency reduces immunity, particularly the formation of serum antibodies. The same research also noted that older adults, as well as those with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, had lower levels of vitamin B12.
Vitamin B6 also contributes to normal red blood cell formation. As a study published in The Journal of Immunology states, "Long assumed to be inert oxygen carriers, RBCs [red blood cells] are emerging as important modulators of the innate immune response." In short, they "bind and scavenge" harmful cells and materials in the circulation, and, depending on the body's need, can "either promote immune activation or maintain immune quiescence."
Vitamin B6 also contributes to normal cysteine synthesis. Cysteine (an amino acid), is converted by the body into the powerful antioxidant glutathione, which in turn fights harmful compounds in the body that damage cell membranes and DNA.
Vitamin B Complex
For comprehensive nutritional support, Healthspan's Vitamin B Complex tablets provide 100% of the NRV of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, biotin and folic acid. As a result, these vegan-friendly vitamin B tablets can support brain and heart health, as well as energy levels. These B vitamins can also help to support normal skin and hair, and contribute to the maintenance of normal hormonal activity.
As B vitamins are water-soluble and cannot be stored in the body, an adequate daily intake is essential. Healthspan's Vitamin B Complex is available in large, great-value packs (180 or 360 tablets) to help you safeguard your vitamin B levels day-in, day-out.
At the top of the range, Healthspan's High Strength Vitamin B Complex (also vegan) contains maximum levels of all eight B vitamins to support your brain, heart and energy, as well as benefit your skin, hair and eyes. Added choline, inositol and PABA (originally classified as B vitamins) provide additional support for energy levels, the nervous system and psychological function.
Healthspan's vitamin B Range
As well as the bestselling vitamin B complex options above, Healthspan provides a number of other vitamin B supplements to ensure there's something to suit everyone.
This includes multivitamins, which often include the full spectrum of B vitamins alongside other key vitamins and nutrients. Healthspan's multivitamins are available for children, adults and older adults, with specific formulations for those aged over 50 and 70.
These age-specific formulations contain more B vitamins – and particularly vitamin B12 – to allow for the higher prevalence of deficiency in the older population and reduced absorption of vitamins in the gut.
Vitamin B12 can also be taken as a standalone supplement. Healthspan's Vitamin B12 uses methylcobalamin, a natural form of vitamin B12 that is found in foods and the human body. This also results in a smaller, easy-to-swallow tablet.
For those who struggle to swallow tablets or capsules, or have a digestive health or other condition that makes it harder for the body to absorb vitamin B12 in the gut, Healthspan's Vitamin B12 Blackcurrant Oral Spray provides a convenient, and tasty, alternative – for a high-strength dose anywhere and at any time.
The innovative oral spray format ensures that 250ug vitamin B12 enters the bloodstream quickly, without needing to absorb in the gut. The formula is also vegan- and vegetarian-friendly.