Ask Clark’s

"ask clarks" headerI was talking with my neighbor the other day, and he was telling me that he takes B-vitamins to increase his energy level. What are B-vitamins, and can they be used to increase energy? -A question from Alex of Mentone

By Clark’s Nutrition    

B-vitamins have many different effects on the human body, with one of these being an increase in energy levels. Energy is obtained from foods that have macronutrients which are proteins, carbohydrates and fats. B-vitamins have active cell enzymes that help manufacture high energy compounds like adenosine tri-phosphate (also known as ATP) from these macronutrients.  So ultimately, B-vitamins help with energy either inadvertently or directly. The B-vitamins that work in the ATP energy building area are vitamins B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid) B6 (pyridoxine hcl) and biotin. Additionally the building of red blood cells is dependent on vitamins B12 and folic acid with additional help from B6. Red blood cells are rich in hemoglobin which carries oxygen to cells in the body and to the brain. Oxygen is essential for humans to exist; therefore red blood cell production is a very important component to maintaining a healthy life. This process gives us another possible reason why some might get energy from B-vitamins.

Food sources of B-vitamins include the following groups: vegetables (folic acid), protein foods (meat, sea foods, nuts and seeds, and legumes), soy foods (b1, b2, b3, b6, b12, and folic acid), whole grains (folate, b1, b2, and b3), fruits (folic acid), milk products (b12, b2). Although we grouped these together for saving space, consider looking at specific foods for guaranteed availability and possible percent of daily value also known as the RDA.

Each one of the B-vitamins has a deficiency symptom as well. Deficiencies in the United States are typically less common than in countries that don’t have food(s) that are fortified which is a common practice in the U.S. As an example of one of these deficiencies, a b-12/ folic acid deficiency is typically seen in certain types of anemia (Macrocytic). Current and recurring research has  also suggested individuals at the early onset stages of Alzheimer’s disease are typically low in blood levels of b12, indicating a sub-clinical effect on B-vitamin deficiency and a possible link to development to Alzheimer’s disease. For this and other reasons, many individuals choose to take a multivitamin to prevent possible deficiency or sub clinical deficiency. Currently, serum folic and vitamin b12 levels are not diagnostically reliable tests for screening presymptomatic Alzheimer disease. However, the results may statistically be significant if increases are seen in sample size populations. Additionally getting adequate amount of B-vitamins are important for nerve, energy and mental cognition. A recent study done in Geneva Switzerland by Professor Scholey with the Center for Psychopharmacology on supplemental B-vitamins and the use of multivitamins suggested improved mental, cognitive, working memory, attention and improved mood.

So maybe what your neighbor is talking about is just feeling better. Remember that all individuals are not going to respond the same way when using supplementation.  Always check with a qualified health professional if you have any questions about your health.

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  1. Whitney, Understanding Normal & Clinical Nutrition, Belomnt CA, 2012, pg 38-42.
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  6. Buccal Cytome Biomarkers and Their Association with Plasma Folate, Vitamin B12 and Homocysteine inAlzheimer’s Disease. Thomas P, Fenech M. J Nutrigenet Nutrigenomics. 2015;8(2):57-69. doi: 10.1159/000435784.