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The Difference Between B Vitamins

Written By  Go Vita

When it comes to staying energised and reducing stress, there’s no denying B vitamins play a vital role!

A deficiency in B vitamins can adversely effect your overall health and wellbeing, as well as your exercise performance and post-exercise recovery rates, because the B-group are needed to convert protein and carbohydrates into energy and also to support healthy energy production in the cellular mitochondria (the cells’ energy powerhouse).

A well-balanced and nutritious diet is your first, and most important, building block to supporting good health and preventing disease. So to help you on your way, check out the table below to see how each of the different B vitamins interact with the body and the key foods they can be found in.



Main food sources


Key effects


Vitamin B1 (thiamine)


Yeast extract, fortified cereals, nuts, soya beans, wholegrains, spinach, peas, egg yolk
  • Supplementation may improve mood and mental alertness, because thiamine produces acetylcholine, which is critical for memory and concentration.
  • Important for carbohydrate metabolism; may decrease sugar cravings.
  • Needed for nervous system maintenance.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)


Liver, milk, eggs, okra, yeast extract, kidney, cheese, beef, yoghurt, fish, chilli
  • Important for metabolism; improves energy levels.
  • Needed for all cell growth and development, and for the formation of hair, skin and nails.
Vitamin B3 (niacin)


Liver, mushrooms, beef, pork, fish, chicken, fortified cereals, yeast extract, wheatgerm, corn, peanuts
  • Used by the body to help energy be released from digested food.
  • The body’s requirements for niacin increase with greater physical activity.
  • Essential for the formation of red blood cells.
  • Important for metabolism and the nervous and digestive systems.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)


Liver, kidneys, sweet potatoes, lentils, broad beans, peanuts, tahini, nuts, avocado, dried figs
  • Helps to provide the body with a constant supply of energy to every cell; converts fat and sugar in food into a form that cells can use.
  • Assists the body in fighting infection.
  • Involved in the synthesis of anti-stress hormones in the adrenal glands.
  • Supports energy and mood, and may improve insomnia and tiredness.
  • Helps support healthy skin.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)


Beef, turkey, liver, fish, chicken, eggs, wheatgerm, bananas, Brussels sprouts, pine nuts


  • Many women claim vitamin B6 reduces symptoms of premenstrual tension, such as mood swings or depression.
  • Needed for the production of the feel-good nerve transmitter, serotonin.
  • May reduce heart disease risk by lowering homocysteine levels (together with folic acid and B12).
  • Important for the functioning of the immune and nervous systems; may improve tiredness and fatigue.
  • Needed for healthy skin and for forming antibodies, which fight infection.
  • Assists in the production of the red oxygen-carrying blood pigment, haemoglobin.
Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin)


Dairy products, offal (liver, kidney, heart), eggs, beef, seafood


  • Supplements and injections of B12 are used for disorders involving low energy and mood, because it is needed for the production of the feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine.
  • Required for the production of red blood cells and to create the myelin sheath around nerves that allows for the quick transmission of nerve impulses.
  • B12 is involved in regulating the appetite.


Liver, orange juice, wheatgerm, Brussels sprouts, spinach, broccoli, chickpeas, nuts, avocado
  • Proven to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.
  • Vital for the proper formation of red blood cells, helping to counter tiredness and the fatigue of anaemia.
  • In some patients may provide cognitive benefits.

What about Activated B Vitamins?

B vitamins are hard work for the body to use. They are dependant on co-factors and coenzymes for absorption and utilisation. If we have poor digestion, a weak liver or lack of cofactors then B vitamins feed the toilet.
Activated B vitamins are self-contained and complete for optimal efficiency. These boosted Bs are ready to roll as soon as they slide down your throat. Unlike normal inactive B vitamins, activated B vitamins don’t have to be broken down and bound into an active form. They are biologically active so you get more results for less effort. Activated B vitamins are shunted straight off to make more energy, alertness, tissues and supercharge our systems. It’s a very energy efficient “do less, get more” mode of supplement. Because they are utilised rapidly then less is eliminated. B vitamins are usually made active by adding a phosphate group which equips it for efficiency. Though they are more expensive than inactive forms you get more B for your buck.

Information presented is for information purposes only and is not intended to replace advice or treatment from qualified healthcare professionals. The information is not intended to treat or diagnose. Always consult your healthcare professional before taking nutritional or herbal supplements. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have any allergies or diagnosed conditions, or are taking prescription medications, always consult your healthcare professional before taking nutritional or herbal supplements.

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