Ellen Says: The B vitamins are eight water-soluble vitamins that play important roles in cell metabolism. The B vitamins were once thought to be a single vitamin, referred to as vitamin B (much as people refer to vitamin C or vitamin D). Later research showed that they are chemically distinct vitamins that often coexist in the same foods. In general, supplements containing all eight are referred to as a vitamin B complex. Individual B vitamin supplements are referred to by the specific name of each vitamin (e.g., B1, B2, B3 etc.).
B vitamin deficiency
Several named vitamin deficiency diseases may result from the lack of sufficient B-vitamins. Deficiencies of other B vitamins result in symptoms that are not part of a named deficiency disease.
Vitamin Name Deficiency effects
Vitamin B1 thiamine Deficiency causes beriberi. Symptoms of this disease of the nervous system include weight loss, emotional disturbances, Wernicke's encephalopathy (impaired sensory perception), weakness and pain in the limbs, periods of irregular heartbeat, and edema (swelling of bodily tissues). Heart failure and death may occur in advanced cases. Chronic thiamine deficiency can also cause Korsakoff's syndrome, an irreversible psychosis characterized by amnesia and confabulation.
Vitamin B2 riboflavin Deficiency causes ariboflavinosis. Symptoms may include cheilosis (cracks in the lips), high sensitivity to sunlight, angular cheilitis, glossitis (inflammation of the tongue), seborrheic dermatitis or pseudo-syphilis (particularly affecting the scrotum or labia majora and the mouth), pharyngitis, hyperemia, and edema of the pharyngeal and oral mucosa.
Vitamin B3 niacin Deficiency, along with a deficiency of tryptophan causes pellagra. Symptoms include aggression, dermatitis, insomnia, weakness, mental confusion, and diarrhea. In advanced cases, pellagra may lead to dementia and death.
Vitamin B5 pantothenic acid Deficiency can result in acne and paresthesia, although it is uncommon.
Vitamin B6 pyridoxine Deficiency may lead to microcytic anemia (because pyridoxyl phosphate is the cofactor for heme synthesis), depression, dermatitis, high blood pressure (hypertension), water retention, and elevated levels of homocysteine.
Vitamin B7 biotin Deficiency does not typically cause symptoms in adults but may lead to impaired growth and neurological disorders in infants. Multiple carboxylase deficiency, an inborn error of metabolism, can lead to biotin deficiency even when dietary biotin intake is normal.
Vitamin B9 folic acid Deficiency results in a macrocytic anemia, and elevated levels of homocysteine. Deficiency in pregnant women can lead to birth defects. Supplementation is often recommended during pregnancy. Researchers have shown that folic acid might also slow the insidious effects of age on the brain.
Vitamin B12 cobalamin Deficiency results in a macrocytic anemia, elevated homocysteine, peripheral neuropathy, memory loss and other cognitive deficits. It is most likely to occur among elderly people, as absorption through the gut declines with age; the autoimmune disease pernicious anemia is another common cause. It can also cause symptoms of mania and psychosis. In rare extreme cases, paralysis can result.