Life Extension, range of fresh fruit and vegetables containing vitamin b on white background

B vitamins and their new discovered necessity

Recent research has shown that vitamins B are not just that vitamin for an energy boost. Though truly, B vitamins play vital roles in the body.  

While some may overlook the humble B vitamins, recent scientific discoveries have unveiled the true magnitude of their importance in supporting our overall health. 

These often-underestimated nutrients, collectively known as B vitamins, play a crucial role in numerous bodily functions, acting as essential coenzymes in various metabolic processes.

What is vitamin B good for?  

First things first; we need to establish the specific role of each of the b vitamins. 

Research has shown that B vitamins are necessary for: (1) 

  • DNA/RNA synthesis and repair
  • Proper immune function
  • Neurotransmitter synthesis

What each B vitamin does

The B group's vast array

  • B1 (thiamine) aids restore food into energy, playing an essential role in metabolism. (2)
  • B2 (riboflavin) assists convert nutrients into energy and provides antioxidant activity. (3) 
  • B3 (niacin) plays a role in DNA repair, cellular signaling, and metabolism. (4)
  • B5 (pantothenic acid) helps produce hormones and converts food to energy. (5)
  • B6 (pyridoxine) helps metabolize amino acids and produces neurotransmitters and red blood cells. (6)
  • B7 (biotin) regulates gene expression and is required for metabolism of fat and carbohydrates. (7)
  • B9 (folic acid, or for superior absorption,(8) 5-MTHF) is vital for cell growth, amino acid metabolism, production of red and white blood cells, healthy cell division, and proper fetal growth and development to reduce the risk of birth defects. (9-12)
  • Inositol is not a B vitamin, but it is often added to higher quality B-complex supplements. Inositol is essential for calcium and insulin signal transduction.(13,14)

Vitamin B deficiency

Age related disorders

Adults with a low B-vitamin status are at increased risk for developing age-related disorders, particularly cognitive and cardiovascular disease. (1) Maintaining healthy B vitamin levels helps protect against problems ranging from cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative disorders to UV-induced skin damage and vision loss.

    • A deficiency in B vitamins is common for multiple reasons: (15)
    • They are not stored by the body
    • B vitamins are water-soluble and are quickly washed out of the body
    • They are impacted by low dietary intake
    • Poor absorption associated with age
    • Taking certain medications
    • Alcohol
    • Following certain diets

    These factors make daily supplementation with a B-complex essential for ageing individuals. 

    B vitamins and macular degeneration 

    B vitamins play a crucial role in protecting our vision, specifically against age-related macular degeneration (AMD). (16) Deficiencies in folate and vitamin B12 significantly increase the risk of developing AMD. 

    However, supplementing with folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 has been shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration by 34%. 

    Daily supplementation of readily available B vitamin doses offers a simple yet powerful way to safeguard our eyesight. Discover the remarkable impact of B vitamins in preventing macular degeneration and preserving visual health. (17)

    UV induced skin damage

    Vitamin B3 and skin protection

    Nicotinamide, a form of vitamin B3, offers vital protection against sun damage. It prevents the loss of ATP, the cellular energy needed for repairing DNA damaged by UV rays. 

    Moreover, nicotinamide directly repairs DNA, reduces harmful DNA photoproducts, and safeguards against UV-induced immune suppression.

    This comprehensive action significantly lowers the risk of skin cancer. Discover the remarkable role of nicotinamide in sun protection and DNA repair for healthier, resilient skin.(19-23)

    Boosting NAD+ gives skin benefits 

    Vitamin B3 exists in several forms that can convert into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) in the body. (24,25) NAD+ is a cofactor for life-sustaining reactions in the body and has garnered a reputation worldwide for its potential longevity benefits. (26)  

    B vitamins are thought to have anti-depressant effects and play a range of biochemical roles that may help reduce psychological distress.

    Vitamin B1 and its brain-boosting potential 

    Vision loss linked to b vitamin deficiency

    Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, was the first B vitamin discovered. (1)

    Its vital role in energy production, especially in the brain, highlights its significance. (27) Decades of research have linked vitamin B1 deficiency, known as beriberi, to various neurological issues. (28) 

    Interestingly, thiamine deficiency and Alzheimer's disease share similarities in memory deficits. (29) A fat-soluble form of vitamin B1 called benfotiamine shows promise for brain health. 

    In a 2018 study on an Alzheimer's mouse model, showed promising findings, illuminating the remarkable impact of vitamin B1 and its derivative, benfotiamine, in addressing neurological challenges. (30) 


    Vitamin B and sleep promotion

    B complex helping fight insomnia

    Although B vitamins are commonly added to caffeine supplements or drinks for a physical energy boost, they do not interfere with sleep. 

    In fact, research suggests they may even help support healthy sleep. In a recently published clinical trial, 60 people with diagnosed insomnia filled out a questionnaire that quantified their degree of insomnia. 

    They were separated into two groups to receive either a placebo or a supplement containing melatonin, vitamins B6, B12, folate, and a form of magnesium. 

    Both groups took their pills one hour before going to bed, for three months. (31)

    When the participants took the questionnaire again at the end of the study, the placebo group had a slight increase in the degree of insomnia, while those who received the blend supplement reported a nearly 30% reduction in their insomnia scores. 

    The authors of the study suggest that their results support the hypothesis that elevated homocysteine levels may be causally related to age-related macular degeneration. 

    Depression and anxiety relief

    Taking a B-complex is shown to relief depression and anxiety symptoms.

    For 60 days a group was taking a B-complex supplement and it was shown to improve depression and anxiety symptoms, compared to placebo. (32)

    The active form of folate, 5-MTHF, is especially beneficial against depression. It's been shown to boost the response rate of antidepressant drugs, and it can also help those drugs work more quickly. 

    In one study, only 7.04% of subjects taking an antidepressant drug experienced major improvement on a standard depression score. But that number jumped to 18.5% in patients taking 5-MTHF in addition to the drug. (33)

    Even more impressive, those with the most severe depression improved by just 16.3% when taking the drug by itself. But that number jumped to 40% when they added 5-MTHF. (33)

    In addition, it took 150 days for the severely depressed patients taking just the antidepressant drug to experience improvement. But adding in 5-MTHF cut the time almost in half, with the patients seeing improvements in just 85 days. (33)

    Protection from surgery-induced delirium 

    An exciting new discovery

    Evidence is showing that B vitamins may diminish a serious side effect of major surgery. (34)

    In a recent clinical trial, 138 patients with vitamin B12 deficiency undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery were assigned into a control or an experimental group to receive a B-complex solution as part of the surgical procedure. (35)

    One of the most frightening potential problems after such major surgeries is postoperative delirium, which is a state characterized by altered consciousness and orientation, and diminished memory, perception, and behavior. (35)

    Following surgery, 42% of the patients in the control group experienced postoperative delirium, but only 26% of those in the B-complex group did. (35)

    Enhance healthy DNA methylation

    What is DNA methylation?

    DNA methylation controls the activation of our genes. Without proper DNA methylation, beneficial genes are deactivated while harmful genes can be over-expressed. 

    Healthy methylation allows gene expression to support youthful cellular functions. 

    DNA methylation influences how your genes are expressed. (36) Accurate estimates of biological age can be assessed through measurements of DNA methylation patterns in the blood. (37)

    This can be done using epigenetic clocks, a technology developed by UCLA researchers to measure DNA methylation patterns that provides an epigenetic or biological age estimate.

    “Epigenetics” refers to external modifications that occur in gene expression as a result of what we do to our bodies, as opposed to the genetic code we are born with. 

    Ingesting overcooked food or inhaling cigarette smoke can lead to deleterious epigenetic changes to DNA. Healthy lifestyles can stimulate beneficial gene expression changes.

    Deficits in certain B vitamins can also adversely impact healthy DNA methylation:

    Vitamin B6 and Parkinson’s disease

    Parkinson’s disease is a disorder characterized by the loss of dopaminergic neurons in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra, and by the presence of Lewy bodies. (37,38)

    Studies have tested the effect of dietary intake of vitamin B6 on Parkinson’s disease. The main reason for this interest is largely the association between Parkinson’s and elevated homocysteine. (39)

    Vitamin B6 is important to properly metabolize homocysteine and prevent its dangerous buildup in the body. (42) One meta-analysis suggests that a higher dietary intake of vitamin B6 may be associated with a 35% reduced risk of getting Parkinson’s disease, compared to those with low intake. (39)

    The benefits of folate

    Folate (5-MTHF) and vitamins B6 (P5P) and B12 (methylcobalmin) are important to properly metabolize homocysteine and prevent its dangerous buildup. 

    Aging adults can attain these benefits through regular use of a high-quality multivitamin or a comprehensive B-vitamin complex.

    Folate can reverse epigenetic aging in women 

    A common gene variant occurs in approximately 40% of people. 

    It affects the activity of the enzyme needed to convert vitamin B9 (folate) into its active form, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF). (40)

    One adverse impact of this methylation deficit is elevated homocysteine blood levels that contribute to atherosclerosis. Vitamins B6 and B12 work together with the 5-MTHF form of folate in the methylation cycle. 

    Sufficient levels of these vitamins support the healthy transfer of methyl groups between the molecules, and steps involved in the methylation cycle. When adequate levels of these vitamins are not present, the methylation cycle is impaired. (36)

    Epigenetic clocks allow scientists to accurately predict future health spans and lifespans. (41,42) 

    A study published in 2018 tested the effect of folate plus vitamin B12 supplementation in measuring changes in epigenetic age in older subjects (65-75). Each subject had different variants of MTHFR genes. 

    Participants supplemented with 400 mcg of folic acid and 500 mcg of vitamin B12 daily. (42) After two years, women with a particular MTHFR gene variant showed beneficially reduced epigenetic age.

    Those with deleterious MTHFR variants should supplement with higher dosages of the 5-MHTF form of folate, which is more effective than folic acid.  They should also consider using the methylated form of vitamin B12, called methylcobalamin

    Decreasing macular degeneration risk

    A study was done to evaluate the impact of B vitamins on age-related macular degeneration. 

    A combination of folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 was used in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial in women over age 40 who were at high risk for cardiovascular disease. The study period lasted an average of 7.3 years. (42)

    Compared to the placebo group, the B-vitamin combination decreased the risk of macular degeneration by 34% and decreased the risk of severe macular degeneration by 41%. (43) 

    Read more blog posts


    1. Mikkelsen K, Apostolopoulos V. B Vitamins and Ageing. Subcell Biochem. 2018;90:451-70.
    2. Sae-Lee C, Corsi S, Barrow TM, et al. Dietary Intervention Modifies DNA Methylation Age Assessed by the Epigenetic Clock. Mol Nutr Food Res.a 2018 Dec;62(23):e1800092.
    3. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/nbk482360. Accessed November 15, 2018.
    4. Thakur K, Tomar SK, Singh AK, et al. Riboflavin and health: A review of recent human research. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Nov 22;57(17):3650-60.
    5. Meyer-Ficca M, Kirkland JB. Niacin. Adv Nutr. 2016 May;7(3):556-8.
    6. Available at: https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/pantothenic_acid. Accessed November 15, 2018. 
    7. Available at: https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/pyridoxine. Accessed November 15, 2018. 
    8. Zempleni J, Wijeratne SS, Hassan YI. Biotin. Biofactors. 2009 Jan-Feb;35(1):36-46. 
    9. Scaglione F, Panzavolta G. Folate, folic acid and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate are not the same thing. Xenobiotica. 2014 May;44(5):480-8. 
    10. Stanger O. Physiology of folic acid in health and disease. Curr Drug Metab. 2002 Apr;3(2):211-23. 
    11. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK114318. Accessed November 15, 2018. 
    12. Quinlivan EP, McPartlin J, McNulty H, et al. Importance of both folic acid and vitamin B12 in reduction of risk of vascular disease. Lancet. 2002 Jan 19;359(9302):227-8. 
    13. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/nbk114302. Accessed November 17, 2018. 
    14. Mitchell CA, Gurung R, Kong AM, et al. Inositol polyphosphate 5-phosphatases: lipid phosphatases with flair. IUBMB Life. 2002 Jan;53(1):25-36. 
    15. Porter K, Hoey L, Hughes CF, et al. Causes, Consequences and Public Health Implications of Low B-Vitamin Status in Ageing. Nutrients. 2016 Nov 16;8(11).
    16.  Gopinath B, Flood VM, Rochtchina E, et al. Homocysteine, folate, vitamin B-12, and 10-y incidence of age-related macular degeneration. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jul;98(1):129-35.
    17. Christen WG, Glynn RJ, Chew EY, et al. Folic acid, pyridoxine, and cyanocobalamin combination treatment and age-related macular degeneration in women: the Women's Antioxidant and Folic Acid Cardiovascular Study. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Feb 23;169(4):335-41.
    18. Nohr D, Biesalski HK. Vitamin B12. Reference Module in Food Science: Elsevier; 2016. 
    19. Tamarina NA, Kuznetsov A, Rhodes CJ, et al. Inositol (1,4,5)-trisphosphate dynamics and intracellular calcium oscillations in pancreatic beta-cells. Diabetes. 2005 Nov;54(11):3073-81.
    20. Park J, Halliday GM, Surjana D, et al. Nicotinamide prevents ultraviolet radiation-induced cellular energy loss. Photochem Photobiol. 2010 Jul-Aug;86(4):942-8.
    21. Surjana D, Halliday GM, Damian DL. Nicotinamide enhances repair of ultraviolet radiation-induced DNA damage in human keratinocytes and ex vivo skin. Carcinogenesis. 2013 May;34(5): 1144-9.
    22. Yiasemides E, Sivapirabu G, Halliday GM, et al. Oral nicotinamide protects against ultraviolet radiation-induced immunosuppression in humans. Carcinogenesis. 2009 Jan;30(1):101-5.
    23. Nazarali S, Kuzel P. Vitamin B Derivative (Nicotinamide)Appears to Reduce Skin Cancer Risk. Skin Therapy Lett. 2017 Sep;22(5):1-4.
    24. Denu JM. Vitamins and Aging: Pathways to NAD+ Synthesis. Cell. 2007 2007/05/04/;129(3):453-4. 
    25. Yaku K, Okabe K, Nakagawa T. NAD metabolism: Implications in aging and longevity. Ageing Research Reviews. 2018 Nov;47:1-17. 
    26. Nazarali S, Kuzel P. Vitamin B Derivative (Nicotinamide)Appears to Reduce Skin Cancer Risk. Skin Therapy Lett. 2017 Sep;22(5):1-4. 
    27. Fattal-Valevski A. thiamine (vitamin B1). Gibson GE, Hirsch JA, Fonzetti P, et al. Vitamin B1 (thiamine) and dementia. Ann N Y Acad Sci.2016 Mar;1367(1):21-30.
    28. KOPELMAN MD. Frontal Dysfunction and Memory Deficits in the Alcoholic Korsakoff Syndrome and Alzheimer-Type Dementia. Brain. 1991;114A(1):117-37.
    29. Yadav UCS, Kalariya NM, Srivastava SK, et al. Protective role of benfotiamine, a fat-soluble vitamin B1 analogue, in lipopolysaccharide-induced cytotoxic signals in murine macrophages. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 2010;48(10):1423-34. 
    30. Yang Y, Sauve AA. NAD + metabolism: Bioenergetics, signaling and manipulation for therapy. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Proteins and Proteomics. 2016 Dec;1864(12):1787-800. 
    31. Djokic G, Vojvodic P, Korcok D, et al. The Effects of Magnesium – Melatonin - Vit B Complex Supplementation in Treatment of Insomnia. Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences. 2019 Sep 30;7(18):3101-5. 
    32. Demirdas E, Atilgan K. Addition of Vitamin B Complex to Prime Solution in Cobalamin-Deficient Patients to Prevent Postoperative Delirium. Heart Surg Forum. 2019 Feb 25;22(2):E082-E7. 
    33. Levin P. Postoperative Delirium. In: Atlee JL, ed. Complications in Anesthesia. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders; 2007:888-9.
    34. Kok DEG, Dhonukshe-Rutten RAM, Lute C, et al. The effects of long-term methylation in elderly subjects. Clinical Epigenetics. 2015 2015/11/14;7(1):121.
    35. Jylhävä J, Pedersen NL, Hägg S. Biological Age Predictors. EBioMedicine. 2017 Jul;21:29-36. 
    36.  Kalia LV, Lang AE. Parkinson’s disease. The Lancet. 2015 Aug 29;386(9996):896-912. 
    37. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470193/. Accessed September 10, 2020. 
    38. Shen L. Associations between B Vitamins and Parkinson’s Disease. Nutrients. 2015 Aug 27;7(9):7197-208. 
    39. Selhub J. Homocysteine metabolism. Annu Rev Nutr. 1999; 19:217-46. 
    40. Moll S, Varga EA. Homocysteine and MTHFR Mutations. Circulation. 2015 Jul 7;132(1):e6-9. 
    41. Lu AT, Quach A, Wilson JG, et al. DNA methylation GrimAge strongly predicts lifespan and healthspan. Aging. 2019;11(2):303-27.
    42. Kjeldby IK, Fosnes GS, Ligaarden SC, et al. Vitamin B6 deficiency and diseases in elderly people--a study in nursing homes. BMC Geriatr. 2013 Feb 8;13:13. 
    43. Clarke R, Grimley Evans J, Schneede J, et al. Vitamin B12 and folate deficiency in later life. Age Ageing. 2004 Jan;33(1):34-41.