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5 popular reasons for taking B vitamins

By Shaun Holt

As with all vitamins, ideally we should get them from a healthy balanced diet. However that can be difficult these days even with the best of intentions. If a person’s diet is lacking in B vitamins, or if they are simply unsure if they are consuming enough, then a good multivitamin will top up B vitamin levels or a specific B vitamin product can be taken.

B vitamins for stress

Many people take B vitamins to reduce stress and a promising study found that increasing your vitamin B intake could reduce work-related stress. In this trial participants were given a course of high dose vitamin B supplements or a placebo. The participants who took the vitamin B experienced an almost 20% improvement in stress levels. They also reported significantly lower personal strain and a reduction in confusion and depressed/dejected mood. This is important as occupational stress is increasing in Western societies.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) for PMS

Pyridoxine has been studied as a supplement to help with the common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which around half of women suffer from. A systematic review which included 9 trials and nearly 1,000 women, found that doses of vitamin B6 up to 100mg/day were likely to be of benefit in treating PMS and premenstrual depression. This is higher than the usual recommended daily dose of 1-2mg/day, but lower than the dose of around 200mg/day, above which side effects of nerve pain or even seizures may occur.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) for reducing cholesterol

Niacin has been shown to have favourable effects on cholesterol metabolism, including reducing total cholesterol, triglycerides and very low-density lipoprotein and increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C). More recently a review of 11 studies and nearly 10,000 participants, found that niacin use was associated with a significant reduction in major coronary heart disease events.

B vitamins for leg cramps in pregnancy

Nearly 50% of pregnant women will experience painful leg cramps and they often occur during the final stages of pregnancy, at night. No one is sure what causes these contractions of the calf muscles, but dehydration and fatigue have been suggested as culprits. Taking vitamins B1 and B6 has shown to decrease the chances of leg cramps, with a study showing nearly three-quarters of pregnant women who had previously suffered from them, experienced no leg pain when they took a vitamin B supplement.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) for migraines

Vitamin B2 ‘revs up’ your mitochondria so they produce more energy. It is thought this extra energy can relieve migraine pain or even stop it from happening. A study compared riboflavin (400mg) and placebo in 55 patients with migraines in a randomised trial of 3 months and found that riboflavin was superior to placebo in reducing attack frequency and the number of headaches. The proportion of patients who improved by at least 50% was 15% for placebo and 59% for riboflavin. There were few side effects and excellent tolerability.