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When Do I Need A B-Complex?

When Do I Need A B-Complex?

It’s quite easy to obtain various B-vitamins through food, but there are a number of factors that could interfere with your body getting enough of these nutrients. Restrictive diets, health conditions, certain medications, and age can all be culprits.

Meet the B-complex

The B-complex is composed of the water-soluble vitamins B-1 (thiamine), B-2 (riboflavin), B-3 (niacin), B-5 (pantothenic acid), B-6 (pyridoxine), B-7 (biotin), B-9 (folate), and B-12 (cobalamin). While each of these nutrients has its own role in the body, they also work synergistically to help produce energy and reduce stress.

Blame the diet

This is list is broad, but B-vitamins can be found in whole grains, meat, eggs, dairy products, beans, seeds, nuts, fruits, and dark, leafy greens. If you follow a restrictive diet (looking at you, vegetarians, vegans, and Whole-30ers), you’re missing out on many opportunities to get B-vitamins.

When you first started these diets, you may have noticed decreased energy levels. This is because some of the foods you cut out are high in B-12, an essential nutrient for red blood cell production and anemia prevention. Alternatively, your B-12 deficiency may be masked by a surplus of other B-vitamins, like folate.

Either way, supplementing with a B-complex can ensure you’re getting the necessary nutrients.

Absorption might be the issue

Certain health conditions, medications, and yes, even age, can contribute to decreased absorption of B-vitamins.

Health conditions

Illnesses like celiac disease, where gluten ingestion causes an immune attack on the villi of the small intestine, and Crohn’s disease, which causes inflammation of the digestive tract, can hinder the absorption of not only B-vitamins, but many other nutrients.


Long-term medications, like proton-pump inhibitors for acid reflux and heartburn reduction, can affect B-12 absorption, while metformin for diabetes, levodopa and carbidopa for Parkinson’s, and birth control can decrease levels of vitamins B-6 and B-12, folate, and riboflavin.


With age comes decreased stomach acid production, which means reduced B-vitamin release from food. Thus, it’s highly recommend individuals over the age of 60 get B-vitamins through supplementation.

The bottom line

You need your B-vitamins! And not only that, you need an adequate intake of them daily. With a B-complex supplement in your life, getting these essential nutrients doesn’t have to “B” complex.

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Gene Bruno is professor of nutraceutical science at Huntington University of Health Sciences and also the senior director of product innovation for Twinlab Consolidation Corporation. Bruno has bachelor's and master's degrees in nutrition, as well as a graduate diploma and master's degree in herbal medicine. As a 40-year veteran of the dietary supplement industry and award-winning formulator, he has developed natural products for dozens of dietary supplement companies; educated and trained natural product retailers and health care professionals; and written articles on nutrition, herbal medicine, nutraceuticals and integrative health issues for trade, consumer and peer-reviewed publications, as well as authoring books and textbook chapters.