A considerable fraction of the general population reports using one or more vitamin supplements. Reasons include fighting stress and tiredness, and improving mental function. Until recent decades, there was only modest support from the allopathic community that supplements could render any benefit.
Using questionnaires that tracked mood states, levels of perceived stress, and general health, researchers at the Brain Performance and Nutrition Center of Northumbria University, in the UK, discovered a relationship between vitamin supplement intake and overall performance as related to fatigue, mood, and feelings of well-being. High-dose B-vitamin supplementation “…led to significant improvements in ratings…” in the vigor subscale of the subjective assessments. (Kennedy. 2010) Cognitive and executive function improved in parallel fashion as a result of physical reinvigoration. The authors concluded that, “Healthy members of the general population may benefit from augmented levels of vitamins/minerals via direct dietary supplementation.”
When questioned about the rationale behind supplementation, the answer should list poor dietary choices, processed food, depleted soil, chemical fertilizers and biocides, synthetic additives, malabsorption, careless food preparation, haphazard storage and shipping, and the use of medications and alcohol. Feel free to add a few.
Because the vitamin B complex is water-soluble and relatively delicate, it responds to whatever insults include boiling or steaming, heat, and prolonged exposure to light. Not only that, but the complex is vulnerable to the aerosol pesticides used by the produce brokers who store foods prior to over-the-road shipping.
The B vitamins comprise a group that plays a vital role in cell metabolism. They were once thought to be a single vitamin, but later were found to have distinct functions in the body, although they coexist in the same foods. They received their numbers based on the order in which they were isolated. In conjunction, the B complex is helpful to combat most symptoms and causes of conditions such as depression, stress, coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular concerns. Working together, the B’s are able to support metabolic homeostasis, the immune system, and the nervous system, while simultaneously maintaining healthy skin, muscle tone, and promoting cell growth and division. Neat, eh?
The water-solubility of B vitamins helps them disperse throughout the body, but also means that they need replacement every day. Excess is excreted in urine, which explains the dark yellow-orange color that occurs after taking the supplement. (That would be riboflavin, B2.) One of the B group’s claims to fame is its role in the burning of carbohydrates for energy. If this metabolic purpose is impaired, fatigue strikes, often with a vengeance. Thiamine in particular, or one of its derivatives, is known to improve energy metabolism during physical fatigue (Nozaki. 2009), and is a reputed activator of carbohydrate processing (Masuda. 2010).
If taken as an isolated supplement, a singular B vitamin may act as a drug, even though there are few adverse reactions, with the possible exception of very high-dose pyridoxine (B6) being associated with sensory neuropathy. (Scott. 2008) Alcohol of any type, even the comparatively innocuous beer, will result in a net deficit of the B vitamins.
The stress that characterizes the Western lifestyle takes a physical, as well as psychological, toll. The mood changes and testiness that follow physical exhaustion are shared with family and friends. B-vitamin supplementation has shown itself to attenuate the causes and effects, either one at a time or together. (Stough. 2011) People with the lowest levels of the B vitamins in their diets usually have the poorest memories and cognitive abilities. Those with gastric dysfunction, such as that characterized by low stomach acid or deficit of intrinsic factor, will absorb the least vitamin B12 from their foods, so are well-advised to supplement.
The interaction of the body’s chemistry is complex. We need vitamin B2 to metabolize B6. We need B6, B12, and folate to clear homocysteine, a marker for cardiac involvement. But taking an isolated B vitamin without the rest of the family upsets the apple cart. The RDA is a poor guide because it recommends only that dose of a nutrient that will prevent deficiency disease, such as beriberi or pellagra. Meeting with a health care professional can help you to figure what’s what.