Life Is Like A Box Of B-Vitamins. . .
I was having some trouble coming up with a fun and engaging way to start this blog, so I decided to have a chat with an old friend, Forrest Gump, since I was relatively sure he had some interesting things to say on the topic. Sure enough, he certainly did, and gave me the spark of inspiration needed to get this blog off to a great start! Below follows the short conversation we had:
Emiel: Hey Forrest, I’m having some trouble coming up with a fun and engaging way to start a blog about B-vitamins, can you tell me something interesting about them?
Forrest Gump: Well shucks, B vitamins are somethin’ special, I tell ya! They’re like a box of chocolates, ya never know what you’re gonna get. But one thing’s for sure, they’re important for keepin’ your body runnin’ like a well-oiled machine.
Now, these B vitamins are a real powerhouse team, just like me and my good buddy Lieutenant Dan. They work together to help your body turn food into energy, keep your skin and hair healthy, and even support your nervous system. It’s like they’re runnin’ a relay race inside your body, passin’ the baton from one to the other, all workin’ together towards the finish line.
And just like how Lieutenant Dan had his own unique strengths and abilities, each B vitamin has its own special role to play. There’s vitamin B6, which helps with brain function and mood regulation, and vitamin B12, which is important for makin’ red blood cells and keepin’ your cardiovascular system healthy.
Now, I ain’t no scientist, but I do know that gettin’ enough B vitamins is important for feelin’ good and stayin’ healthy. So next time you’re chowin’ down on a plate of shrimp, just remember that you’re gettin’ a healthy dose of vitamin B12, just like I did on that boat with Bubba.
Emiel: Wow, you surprisingly know quite a bit about B-vitamins Forrest, color me impressed! B-vitamins often get overlooked, but like you mentioned, they are incredibly important for almost every bodily function. At Nootropics Depot, we are especially enamored with the nootropic benefits of the B-vitamins! You are right too, B-vitamins are indeed like a box of chocolates, they all have distinctly different effects, which is why we came out with a highly optimized B-vitamin stack, which I’ll be exploring in this blog. Thanks again for the insights Forrest, it was a pleasure chatting!
Forrest Gump: You’re welcome, Emiel. And remember, just keep writin’ and keep movin’ forward, and before you know it, you’ll have a whole bunch of folks readin’ what you got to say. Best of luck to ya, my friend.
Shrimp indeed are relatively high in vitamin B12, packing on average about 1-2 micrograms of vitamin B12 per 100 grams. That’s not a lot compared to what we would normally supplement with, but still is a very significant portion of our recommended daily intake, which is set at 2.4 µg!
Well, that definitely gave me the spark of inspiration to get this blog off to an excellent start! This conversation was generated by Chat GPT, it’s quite incredible how far AI has come! While I haven’t found much use for it in terms of writing real meaningful content, it is quite spectacular for producing and transforming content into the voice of whoever you would like. This conversation, while obviously quite silly, actually hit on some pretty good points. One of those being that B-vitamins are essential for almost every bodily function, and certainly are important for “feelin’ good and stayin’ healthy”! Secondly, they are found in many different foods, and this is obviously where we get the majority of our B-vitamins from.
However, some of these foods are not incredibly common in our diet. For example, as the generated conversation revealed, vitamin B12 is indeed found in high concentrations in various types of shellfish, including shrimps. In fact, I was quite surprised to learn that clams perhaps contain the highest concentration of vitamin B12, with a 100 gram serving of clams delivering almost 100 µg of vitamin B12!
Clams are perhaps the richest source of vitamin B12, clocking in at almost 100 µg of vitamin B12 per 100 gram serving! That sounds like a great excuse to eat more delicious bowls of clam chowder. That all being said though, shrimps and clams are perhaps not featured heavily in most of our daily diets, unless you are living in coastal regions of the world. In fact, vitamin B12 is predominantly found in animal products, which obviously poses problems for vegans and vegetarians. Most vegans and vegetarians are actually low in vitamin B12, which is one of the reasons we decided to include it in our vegan version of OmegaTAU. Low vitamin B12 intake in these individuals can cause a slew of issues, mainly related to cognitive function, mood and energy levels, thus it is important to pay special attention to vitamin B12 intake if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.
While a vegan diet is accompanied by lots of benefits, there are also some downsides to it. One of the main downsides being that vegans more often than not, have very low vitamin B12 intake. Thus, special attention should be taken for optimizing vitamin B12 intake if you are a vegan or vegetarian.
Throughout human history, we’ve actually seen major B vitamin deficiencies pop up here and there, rearing their heads in fairly dramatic ways. These B vitamin deficiencies are almost always due to major changes in our diet. For example, due to technological advancements, we progressively started to refine the rice grain, by polishing it. The whole rice grain, which we commonly refer to as ‘brown rice’ is a significant source of vitamin B1 (thiamin). The thiamin is contained within the outer layer of the rice grain, and thus, during the polishing process used to make ‘white rice’, the thiamin containing layer is removed. In many Asian countries, diets primarily consist of rice, and thus, once polished rice became more common, so did thiamin deficiencies. This was first discovered in 1883 when Takaki Kanehiro, a Japanese physician, noted that sailors on a 9 month long training mission for the Japanese Imperial Navy were contracting an odd illness. Out of the 376 sailors on board, 169 sailors contracted this mysterious illness. At first, it was thought that this illness was infectious, but Takaki Kanehiro noted that similar issues were not occuring on ships from Western navies, and the higher ranking officers on the Japanese ship seemed to be immune. Takaki Kanehiro noted that polished white rice was provided for free on this ship, and thus, the majority of the sailors were practically only eating rice. The higher ranking officers, on the other hand, consumed a much more varied diet, as did sailors on ships from Western navies. Takaki Kanehiro devised a plan for the next voyage in 1884, to provide a much more varied diet, which included whole grains. On this voyage, only 16 sailors out of a crew of 333 sailors, contracted the then mysterious illness.
More than ten years later, in 1897, Christiaan Eijkman, a Dutch physician, discovered that chickens fed polished rice developed a strange illness, and this was ameliorated by switching the polished rice to unpolished rice. At the time, we didn’t have a concept of what vitamins were, and thus, a lot of research was conducted on this subject. This eventually led to Christiaan Eijkman and Frederick Gowland Hopkins discovering vitamins, and they were both awarded the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine in 1929. Unfortunately, the Polish-American biochemist, Casimir Funk, is oftentimes somewhat unfairly left out of this story. We actually have Casimir Funk to thank for the name ‘vitamin’, which he initially called ‘vital amine’, which he then shortened to ‘vitamine’. Later it was discovered that vitamins did not have to be nitrogen containing amines, and thus the ‘e’ was dropped, and we were left with the name ‘vitamin’!
The humble rice grain, one of the most commonly consumed foods on the planet, and also the grain that led to the discovery of vitamins! The brown rice grain on the left, contains a fairly high concentration of vitamin B1 (thiamin) while the polished rice grain on the right has been stripped of most of its thiamin, since it is contained in the outer layer that is polished off.
B-Vitamins | The Drivers Of Cellular Excellence
As we just discovered, B-vitamins are clearly quite important to our overall well being, but there are quite a few of them, eight to be exact! Each one has a different function in the body, and each B-vitamin has its own unique dietary source. Some B-vitamins are relatively easy to acquire in adequate amounts from common dietary sources, such as vitamin B1 (thiamin) from rice, whilst others can be much harder to obtain, for example vitamin B12 (cobalamin), which is mostly consumed via animal proteins and seafood. Some B-vitamin forms need to be dosed at low levels, since high levels of these vitamins can cause issues, whereas other B-vitamins actually benefit from being dosed way above their recommended daily intake values. During our research we quickly came to the realization that achieving the recommended daily intake values is only really enough to prevent issues associated with deficiency, however, dosing certain B-vitamins higher and in particular forms, can do a great job at optimizing various aspects of our health and cognitive function. With that in mind, we set out to develop a highly balanced yet impactful B-vitamin supplement which you can clearly feel.
It can be hard to understand what each B-vitamin is doing, and thus, the rest of this blog will be structured in a manner by which we highlight each individual B-vitamin and its role in our body/brain. This will then also help us to more accurately explain the decisions we made in the development and may help shed some light on why exactly it is such a subjectively noticeable B-complex! Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Vitamin B1 | Thiamin | Energy Metabolism, Cognition & Mood
Dietary food sources for thiamin are relatively diverse, but the largest contributor to vitamin B1 intake is likely whole grains. As we already mentioned, refined grains have much lower thiamin content, and since grains are a staple food source for most of the world, this can cause major issues. Due to this, when grains are refined these days, they are usually also fortified with vitamin B1 in order to circumvent any potential deficiencies.
Whole, unrefined grains are one of the most important sources for dietary thiamin. Other major sources include beans, fish and pork. Thiamin is an incredibly important B-vitamin, and humans are very sensitive to deficiencies.
In recent years, thiamin has been gaining more and more attention, with a particular emphasis being put on achieving much higher levels of thiamin then were previously thought to be adequate. In fact, even mega dosing protocols are becoming popular, due to their effects on energy levels and mood. The rising popularity of thiamin for this purpose makes a lot of sense when we look at the effects it has on energy metabolism.
Vitamin B2 | Riboflavin | ATP Synthesis, Methylation & Mood
The dietary sources for riboflavin are also relatively diverse, but appear to be highest in meat and dairy products. Specifically, riboflavin is high in organ meats like liver and heart, however, these are not commonly included in our diets. This does make it somewhat challenging for vegans to consume enough riboflavin, but luckily there are also some plant based sources for riboflavin such as spinach, almonds, mushrooms and avocados. Yeast extracts also appear to be relatively high in riboflavin, perhaps this is why those cheesy tasting nutritional yeast flakes look so yellow!
Riboflavin is present in a wide variety of foods, but our main dietary sources are meats and dairy products, with some minor content in nuts, legumes and green vegetables. Riboflavin is likely a B-vitamin many of us are already intimately familiar with, albeit somewhat unknowingly.
Have you ever poured an energy drink into a glass, and noticed that it looks like a mix of highlighters and urine? This weird color is due to the frequent addition of riboflavin, which has an incredibly bright yellow color. In fact, many foods even contain added riboflavin as a coloring agent! For those of you who have experimented with riboflavin supplements, especially in high doses, you will have probably noticed that your urine turns an almost fluorescent color of yellow. This is due to the fact that riboflavin, like most of the other B-vitamins, is highly water soluble and generally is used immediately in the body and not stored. Thus, due to its very strong coloring properties, riboflavin can quite readily color our urine a bright yellow color. However, we obviously don’t take riboflavin just for the novelty of making our pee glow in the dark, so what is it good for?
Vitamin B3 | Niacin | NAD+ synthesis, Neuroprotection & Mood
Niacin is present in lots of different foods, and has something very unique going for it too, it can be synthesized from L-tryptophan. L-tryptophan is an amino acid which is found in protein-containing food, and 60 mg of L-tryptophan converts to about 1 mg of niacin. This means that eating practically any protein containing food will be a good source of niacin. Lots of other foods contain free niacin too, as per usual with the B-vitamins, high levels can be found in meats, but niacin is also present in lots of different vegetables, nuts and legumes. Thus, getting niacin from your diet, in general, is quite easy!
Due to our bodies ability to convert the amino acid L-tryptophan, which is abundantly present in protein-containing foods, to niacin, makes it quite easy to obtain niacin through our diet! A lot of us are probably quite familiar with niacin, because it is a pretty infamous B-vitamin. If you take too much niacin, you will oftentimes experience an intense flushing sensation.
This effect has been dubbed the “niacin flush”. This flush is caused by a rapid and transient release of histamine in the skin, which causes a very pronounced vasodilatory effect. For many, this is quite an uncomfortable sensation, but others actually enjoy this effect.
Vitamin B5 | Pantothenic Acid | Coenzyme A Synthesis, Cognition & Skin Health
Pantothenic acid is found in almost all foods in significant levels. Interestingly, pantothenic acid’s name is derived from the ancient Greek word pantos which translates to “all” or “everywhere”, which is in reference to pantothenic acid being abundantly present in the foods we eat. Thus, obtaining enough pantothenic acid through our diets is not particularly hard, even for vegans and vegetarians. In fact, one of the richest pantothenic acid sources is shiitake mushrooms! As per usual with the B-vitamins, pantothenic acid is also found abundantly in meat and dairy products.
Shiitake mushrooms are one of the richest sources of vitamin B5, containing more than 100% of our daily value of vitamin B5 in a 100 gram portion of cooked shiitake mushrooms! Vitamin B5 is an incredibly important B-vitamin, for one particular reason, it is required for the synthesis of coenzyme A (CoA). CoA is used in practically every process which transforms the food we eat into usable energy.
It is particularly important in the citric acid cycle, which is a cycle we have now talked about multiple times already in this blog. When we discussed vitamin B1, we highlighted its importance in the first step of the citric acid cycle, which converts pyruvate to acetyl-CoA. Vitamin B1 is involved here because it acts as a cofactor for the enzyme pyruvate dehydrogenase which carries out this reaction. However, for this reaction to occur, we also need CoA, which we need vitamin B5 for. Thus, without vitamin B5, vitamin B1 can’t even complete its cofactor function with pyruvate dehydrogenase! CoA is also required at other stages of the citric acid cycle, and thus, the whole citric acid cycle is quite dependent on vitamin B5. This means that inadequate levels of vitamin B5 would drastically impact the way in which we convert food to usable energy.
Vitamin B6 | Pyridoxine | Neurotransmitter Synthesis, Mood & Cognition
Vitamin B6 is once again quite abundantly present throughout our diet. A unique attribute of vitamin B6, is that it is particularly high in various fruits, which is somewhat unique because not a lot of the other B-vitamins are found in fruits. When we think of fruits, we more often than not just think that they are a great source of vitamin C. Bananas are a particularly rich source of vitamin B6 though, so George Bluth Sr. was right when he said “there is always B6 in the banana stand!” or was that money? We forget, we haven’t watched ‘Arrested Development’ in a little while, so our memory is fuzzy! As is pretty much always the case with B-vitamins, vitamin B6 is also found abundantly in meats, particularly poultry and fish.
Vitamin B6 is found in relatively high levels in bananas, which is unique because the B-vitamins are not often found in significant amounts in fruits! Vitamin B6 is one of our favorite nootropic B-vitamins, because it acts as a cofactor in the production of various different neurotransmitters.
This is due to the fact that the enzyme, aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase (AADC), requires the active form of vitamin B6, pyridoxal 5′-phosphate (P5P) as a cofactor. AADC is the enzyme that is responsible for the final stage in both serotonin and dopamine synthesis. Serotonin synthesis starts from a dietary amino acid called L-tryptophan, an amino acid which we also discussed in the vitamin B3 section, because L-tryptophan is also a precursor to niacin.
Vitamin B7 | Biotin | Hair, Skin & Nail Health
Vitamin B7, is again present in many different foods, and we only need very small amounts of it to satisfy our daily recommended intake. Thus, biotin is fairly easy to get from our diet, with avocados, sweet potatoes, nuts and of course, meats, being great sources of vitamin B7. Eggs are another great source of vitamin B7, but with a caveat. Raw eggs contain a protein called avidin, which strongly binds to biotin, and can actually lower biotin levels. It has been found that consumption of high levels of raw eggs for this reason can actually deplete biotin. This protein is mostly denatured during cooking though, which means that cooked eggs are a good source of biotin. So with that in mind, don’t try to be a tough guy like Rocky Balboa, by starting your day off by chugging freshly cracked raw eggs, because you may just be depleting your biotin with that trick!
Eggs are a rich source of vitamin B7, providing about 10 micrograms of biotin per egg. Just make sure to properly cook your eggs in order to denature the biotin binding avidin protein! Biotin is perhaps most famous for its skin and hair effects. In fact, biotin actually used to be called vitamin H, in reference to the German word “haar und haut” which translates to hair and skin.
It was discovered, due to investigations into the negative effects of consuming raw egg whites, with one of the first symptoms being thinning hair, and skin rashes. As we mentioned earlier, raw egg whites contain a protein called avidin, which strongly binds to biotin, leading to gradually declining levels of biotin. At the time when this was being investigated, in the 1930’s, we did not know what biotin was, but we certainly knew that consuming raw egg whites caused a slew of negative effects. Since some of the first symptoms of raw egg white consumption are visually noticeable on our hair and skin, it is no surprise that this vitamin was first called vitamin H by the Hungarian biochemist Paul György. We haven’t mentioned this name yet in this blog, but Paul György was actually very important to the field of B-vitamin research and was also behind the discovery of vitamin B2 and B6!
Vitamin B9 | Folate | Methylation, Homocysteine Metabolism, Mood
Vegans and vegetarians rejoice, because vitamin B9 is found predominantly in vegetables! In fact, research has shown that on average, vegans and vegetarians have amongst the best vitamin B9 status. In addition to this, vitamin B9 is also routinely added to common foods, such as grain based products. In fact, in 1998 the FDA made it mandatory for folate to be added to enriched cereal grain products. With this in mind, if you eat a well-balanced diet which includes lots of vegetables and fortified grain products, you are more than likely getting plenty of vitamin B9! In fact, vitamin B9’s abundant presence in vegetables, and particularly leafly greens, also earned it its name folate/folic acid, based on the latin name “folium” which means leaf!
Edamame beans are not only very fun to eat, but are one of the richest sources of vitamin B9, that’s a win-win in our books! Vitamin B9 is perhaps the most well known for its effects on methylation and RNA/DNA synthesis. Vitamin B9 plays a few key roles here, first and foremost, it helps transport single carbon groups which are necessary for DNA synthesis, these include methylene, methyl, and formyl groups.
Most importantly, vitamin B9 is required for the synthesis of one of the main building blocks of DNA, thymidine. Additionally, vitamin B9 plays an important role in the repair of DNA, through its ability to transport methyl groups.
Vitamin B9 is also crucial for metabolizing homocysteine. This compound can cause a slew of negative health effects when its levels go unchecked, most notably producing cardiovascular and neurological abnormalities. Vitamin B9 helps metabolize homocysteine, which then yields L-methionine. This compound is crucial for the synthesis of the universal methyl donor S-adenosylmethionine. For this reaction however, another B-vitamin, vitamin B12 is required, thus, vitamin B9 and B12 have a highly synergistic effect!
Vitamin B12 | Cobalamin | Methylation, Energy & Cognition
As we mentioned earlier in the blog, vitamin B12 is abundantly present in shellfish and other types of seafood, with clams being one of the richest sources of vitamin B12. That being said, plant sources of vitamin B12 are few and far between, and due to this, low vitamin B12 status is incredibly common amongst vegans and vegetarians. One interesting thing to note about vitamin B12 however, is that it is predominantly produced by bacteria, which includes bacteria that are commonly found in fermented foods. In fact, it appears that kombucha, a tea based beverage produced via bacterial and yeast fermentation, is a very rich source of vitamin B12! This does mean that vegans and vegetarians may be able to consume enough vitamin B12 by consuming fermented foods, yet in many western countries, this is not commonly done.
A fermenting jar of kombucha, which is a surprisingly rich source of vitamin B12. Bacteria, such as those contained in the kombucha bacterial culture, have the ability to synthesize vitamin B12. This makes fermented foods a very interesting vegan source of vitamin B12! Vitamin B12 is perhaps one of the most well-known and hyped up B-vitamins in existence.
We can’t deny it, we are big fans of vitamin B12 too! In fact, we’ve carried a vitamin B12 supplement since day 1, called super B12. Pinpointing exactly what causes this energizing effect is somewhat hard, but it likely results from a combination of vitamin B12’s effect on the citric acid cycle, methylation and myelination. As we have become intimately familiar with during the course of this blog, the B-vitamins are incredibly important for turning food into energy. Vitamin B12 is no different, and pulls this trick off by acting as a cofactor for the enzyme methylmalonyl-CoA mutase, which converts methylmalonyl-CoA to succinyl-CoA, an important input of the citric acid cycle.