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Water-Soluble Vitamins: B-

Complex and Vitamin C

Fact Sheet No. 9.312 by L. graduate student. 11/2012 Too much Thiamin. No
Food and Nutrition Series|Health problems with
Bellows and R. Moore* overconsumption are
known for thiamin.
Quick Facts
What are Vitamins?
and their influence is felt in many
Vitamins are essential nutrients B-complex
parts of the body. They function as
found in foods. They perform vitamins and
coenzymes that help the body
specific and vital functions in a obtain energy from food. The B vitamin C are
variety of body systems, and are vitamins are also important for water-soluble
crucial for maintaining optimal normal appetite, good vision, and vitamins that are
health. healthy skin, nervous system, and not stored in
The two different types of red blood cell formation.
vitamins are fat-soluble vitamins the body and
Thiamin: Vitamin B1
and water-soluble vitamins. Fat- must be
What is Thiamin. Thiamin, or
soluble vitamins vitamins A, D, E vitamin B1, helps to release energy replaced each day.
and K dissolve in fat before they from foods, promotes normal
are absorbed in the bloodstream to appetite, and is important in These vitamins are
carry out their functions. Excesses maintaining proper nervous system easily destroyed
of these vitamins are stored in the function. or washed out
liver, and are not needed every day Food Sources for Thiamin. during food
in the diet. For more information on Sources include peas, pork, liver,
fat-soluble vitamins, see fact sheet storage and
and legumes. Most commonly,
9.315 Fat-Soluble Vitamins: A, D, E, preparation.
thiamin is found in whole grains and
and K. fortified grain products such as
In contrast, water-soluble The B-complex
cereal, and enriched products like
vitamins dissolve in water and are group is
bread, pasta, rice, and tortillas. The
not stored by the body. Since they process of enrichment adds back found in a
are eliminated in urine, we require nutrients that are lost when grains variety of
a continuous daily supply in our are processed. Among the nutrients foods: cereal
diet. The water-soluble vitamins added during the enrichment grains, meat,
include the vitamin B-complex process are thiamin (B1), niacin
group and vitamin C. poultry, eggs, fish,
(B3), riboflavin (B2), folate and iron.
Water-soluble vitamins are easily milk, legumes and
How much Thiamin. The
destroyed or washed out during food Recommended fresh vegetables.
storage or preparation. Proper Dietary Allowance (RDA) for thiamin
storage and preparation of food can is 1.2 mg/day for adult males and Citrus fruits are
minimize vitamin loss. To reduce 1.1 mg/day for adult females (Table good sources of
vitamin loss, always refrigerate fresh 1). These values are closely tied to vitamin C.
produce, keep milk and grains away calorie expenditure.
from strong light, and use cooking Thiamin Deficiency. Under- Using megadoses
water from vegetables to prepare consumption of thiamin is rare in of multivitamins
soups. the United States due to wide or supplements
availability of enriched grain is not
products. However, low calorie diets
What are Water-Soluble Vitamins? recommended.
as well as diets high in refined and
processed carbohydrates may place
B-complex Vitamins one at risk for thiamin deficiency.
Eight of the water-soluble Alcoholics are especially prone to
vitamins are known as the vitamin thiamin deficiency because excess
B-complex group: thiamin (vitamin alcohol consumption often replaces
B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin food or meals. Symptoms of thiamin
(vitamin B3), vitamin B6 deficiency include: mental
(pyridoxine), folate (folic acid), confusion, muscle weakness,
vitamin B12, biotin and wasting, water retention (edema),
pantothenic acid. The B vitamins impaired growth, and the disease
are widely distributed in foods, known as beriberi. Thiamin
deficiency is currently not a
problem in the United States.
L. Bellows, Colorado State University Extension food and

nutrition specialist and assistant professor; and R. Moore,

Colorado State University protein malnourishment, low whole grains, fortified
Extension. 3/02. Revised 11/12. calorie diets, and diets high in grains and cereals, refined carbohydrates. Pellagra is legumes, and citrus fruits.
the disease state that occurs as a Not all whole grain
Riboflavin: Vitamin B2
result of severe niacin deficiency. products are fortified with
What is Riboflavin. Riboflavin, or
Symptoms include cramps, folate. Check the nutrition
vitamin B2, helps to release energy
nausea, mental confusion, and label to see if folic acid
from foods, promotes good vision,
skin problems. has been added.
and healthy skin. It also helps to
Too much Niacin. Consuming How much Folate. The
convert the amino acid tryptophan
large doses of niacin supplements Recommended Dietary
(which makes up protein) into
may cause flushed skin, rashes, or Allowance (RDA) for
liver damage (Table 2). Over folate is 400 mcg/day for
Food Sources for Riboflavin.
consumption of niacin is not a adult males and females.
Sources include liver, eggs, dark
problem if it is obtained through Pregnancy will increase
green vegetables, legumes, whole
food. the RDA for folate to 600
and enriched grain products, and
Vitamin B6: Pyridoxine, mcg/day (Table 1).
milk. Ultraviolet light is known to
Pyridoxal, Folate Deficiency.
destroy riboflavin, which is why
Pyridoxamine Folate deficiency affects
most milk is packaged in opaque
What is Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6, cell growth and protein
containers instead of clear.
otherwise known as pyridoxine, production, which can
How much Riboflavin. The
pyridoxal or pyridoxamine, aids in lead to overall impaired
Recommended Dietary Allowance
protein metabolism and red blood growth. Deficiency
(RDA) for riboflavin is 1.3 mg/day for
cell formation. It is also involved in symptoms also include
adult males and 1.1 mg/day for
the bodys production of chemicals anemia and diarrhea. A
adult females (Table 1). Like thiamin,
such as insulin and hemoglobin. folate deficiency in
these values are closely tied to
Food Sources for Vitamin B6. women who are pregnant
energy expenditure.
Sources include pork, meats, or of child bearing age
Riboflavin Deficiency. Under
whole grains and cereals, may result in the delivery
consumption of riboflavin is rare in
legumes, and green, leafy of a baby with neural
the United States. However, it has
vegetables. tube defects such as
been known to occur with
How much Vitamin B6. The spina bifida.
alcoholism, malignancy,
Recommended Dietary Allowance ( Table 1).
hyperthyroidism, and in the elderly.
(RDA) for vitamin B6 is 1.3 mg/day Too much Folate. Over
Symptoms of deficiency include
for adult males and females through consumption of folate
cracks at the corners of the mouth,
age fifty (Table 1). For infants, offers no known benefits,
dermatitis on nose and lips, light
breast milk and most infant and may mask B12
sensitivity, cataracts, and a sore, red
formulas contain enough vitamin deficiency as well as
B6. interfere with some
Too much Riboflavin. No problems
Vitamin B6 Deficiency. Deficiency medications (Table 2).
with overconsumption are known for
symptoms include skin disorders, Vitamin B12:
dermatitis, cracks at corners of Cobalamin
Niacin: Vitamin B3,
mouth, anemia, kidney stones, and What is B12. Vitamin
Nicotinamide, Nicotinic Acid.
nausea. A vitamin B6 deficiency in B12, also known as
What is Niacin. Niacin, or vitamin
infants can cause mental confusion. cobalamin, aids in the
B3, is involved in energy production,
Too much Vitamin B6. Over building of genetic
normal enzyme function, digestion,
consumption is rare, but excess material, production of
promoting normal appetite, healthy
doses of vitamin B6 over time have normal red blood cells,
skin, and nerves.
been known to result in nerve and maintenance of the
Food Sources for Niacin. Sources
damage (Table 2). nervous system.
include liver, fish, poultry, meat,
Folate: Folic Acid, Folacin Food Sources for
peanuts, whole and enriched grain
What is Folate. Folate, also Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12
known as folic acid or folacin, aids can only be found only in
How much Niacin. The
in protein metabolism, promoting foods of animal origin
Recommended Dietary Allowance
red blood cell formation, and such as meats, liver,
(RDA) for niacin is 16 mg/day for
lowering the risk for neural tube kidney, fish, eggs, milk
adult males and 14 mg/day for adult
birth defects. Folate may also play a and milk products,
females (Table 1). These values are
role in controlling homocysteine oysters, shellfish. Some
closely tied to energy expenditure.
levels, thus reducing the risk for fortified foods may
Niacin Deficiency. Niacin
coronary heart disease. contain vitamin B12.
deficiency is not a problem in the
Food Sources for Folate. Sources How much Vitamin
United States. However, it is
of folate include liver, kidney, dark B12. The
known to occur with alcoholism,
green leafy vegetables, meats, fish,
Recommended Dietary Allowance meats, egg yolk, whole grains, and grapefruit juice or 1/3 cup
(RDA) for vitamin B12 is 2.4 legumes. Pantothenic Acid is also of chopped sweet red
mcg/day for adult males and made by intestinal bacteria. pepper each supply
females (Table 1). For those over How much Pantothenic Acid. The enough vitamin C for one
the age of fifty, the dietary Adequate Intake (AI) for day.
guidelines recommend consuming Pantothenic Acid is 5 mg/day for How much Vitamin C.
vitamin B12 in its crystalline form both adult males and females The
(fortified foods or multivitamin). (Table 1). Recommended Dietary
Vitamin B12 Deficiency. Vitamin Pantothenic Acid Deficiency. Allowance (RDA) for
B12 deficiency most commonly Pantothenic Acid deficiency is Vitamin C is 90 mg/day
affects strict vegetarians (those who uncommon due to its wide for adult males and 75
eat no animal products), infants of availability in most foods. mg/day for adult females
vegan mothers, and the elderly. Too much Pantothenic Acid. No (Table 1). For those who
Symptoms of deficiency include problems with overconsumption are smoke cigarettes, the
anemia, fatigue, neurological known for Pantothenic Acid. Rarely, RDA for vitamin C
disorders, and degeneration of diarrhea and water retention will increases by 35 mg/day,
nerves resulting in numbness and occur with excessive amounts. in order to counteract the
tingling. In order to prevent vitamin oxidative effects of
B12 deficiency, a dietary Vitamin C: Ascorbic Acid, Ascorbate nicotine.
supplement should be taken. Some Vitamin C Deficiency.
people develop a B12 deficiency What is Vitamin C Although rare in the
because they cannot absorb the The body needs vitamin C, also United States, severe
vitamin through their stomach known as ascorbic acid or vitamin C deficiency may
lining. This can be treated through ascorbate, to remain in proper result in the disease
vitamin B12 injections. working condition. Vitamin C known as scurvy, causing
Too much Vitamin B12. No benefits the body by holding cells a loss of collagen
problems with overconsumption of together through collagen strength throughout the
vitamin B12 are known. synthesis; collagen is a connective body. Loss of collagen
Biotin tissue that holds muscles, bones, results in loose teeth,
What is Biotin. Biotin helps and other tissues together. Vitamin bleeding and swollen
release energy from C also aids in wound healing, bone gums, and improper
carbohydrates and aids in the and tooth formation, strengthening wound healing. More
metabolism of fats, proteins and blood vessel walls, improving commonly, vitamin C
carbohydrates from food. immune system function, increasing deficiency presents as a
Food Sources for Biotin. Sources absorption and utilization of iron, secondary deficiency in
of Biotin include liver, kidney, egg and acting as an antioxidant. alcoholics, the elderly,
yolk, milk, most fresh vegetables, Since our bodies cannot produce and in smokers.
yeast breads and cereals. Biotin is or store vitamin C, an adequate The following
also made by intestinal bacteria. daily intake of this nutrient is conditions have been
How much Biotin. The Adequate essential for optimum health. shown to increase vitamin
Intake (AI) for Biotin is 30 mcg/day Vitamin C works with vitamin E as C requirements (Table 1):
for adult males and females (Table an antioxidant, and plays a crucial Environmental
1). role in neutralizing free radicals stress, such as air
Biotin Deficiency. Biotin throughout the body. An and noise pollution
deficiency is uncommon under antioxidant can be a vitamin, Use of certain
normal circumstances, but mineral, or a carotenoid, present in drugs, such as oral
symptoms include fatigue, loss of foods, that slows the oxidation contraceptives
appetite, nausea, vomiting, process and acts to repair damage Tissue healing of
depression, muscle pains, heart to cells of the body. Studies wounds
abnormalities and anemia. suggest that vitamin C may reduce Growth (children
Too much Biotin. No problems the risk of certain cancers, heart
disease, and cataracts. Research from 0- 12 months,
with overconsumption are known for
continues to document the degree and pregnant
Pantothenic Acid of these effects. women)
What is Pantothenic Acid. Food Sources for Vitamin C. Fever and
Pantothenic Acid is involved in Consuming vitamin C-rich foods is
the best method to ensure an infection
energy production, and aids in the
formation of hormones and the adequate intake of this vitamin. Smoking.
metabolism of fats, proteins, and While many common plant foods Too Much Vitamin C.
carbohydrates from food. contain vitamin C, the best sources Despite being a water-
Food Sources for Pantothenic are citrus fruits. For example, one soluble vitamin that the
Acid. Sources include liver, kidney, orange, a kiwi fruit, 6 oz. of body excretes when in
excess, vitamin C overdoses have The B-complex vitamins can such as exposure to
been shown to cause kidney stones, be found in a variety of cigarette smoke,
gout, diarrhea, and rebound scurvy. enriched foods like cereal environmental
Can Vitamin C Prevent the grains and breads, as well as stress, growth, and
Common Cold? other foods such as meat, sickness.
The controversy over using mega poultry, eggs, fish milk, Over consumption
doses of vitamin C to prevent or legumes, and fresh of the watersoluble
cure the common cold and other vegetables. Vitamin C can be vitamins is
disorders has not been resolved. found in a many fruits and generally not a
Recent studies have shown that an vegetables. problem in the
increased intake of vitamin C over Overall, in the United States United States,
500 mg per day does not increase a deficiency is rare for B especially if the
bodys overall level of vitamin C. vitamins and vitamin C; with nutrients are
Therefore, intake over 500 mg per exceptions for alcoholics, obtained through
day may not result in any additional those on a low calorie diet, food.
benefits from vitamin C ( Table 2). and the elderly. Large amounts of
Special attention should be vitamin B-complex
paid to folate (folic acid) and vitamin C
Summary intake during pregnancy, in supplements and
Water-soluble vitamins order to avoid birth defects. multivitamins are
include the vitamin B-complex Vegans should be conscious not recommended.
and vitamin C, and are of vitamin B12 intake because Excesses of these
essential nutrients needed it is not present in plant foods. vitamins have no
daily by the body in very small Some conditions warrant an known benefit.
quantities. increase in vitamin C intake,
Table 1. Recommended Dietary Intake (RDA) and Adequate Intake (AI) for Water-Soluble Vitamins

Life Stage Group Thiamin B1 Riboflavin B2 Niacin B31 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Biotin Pantothenic Acid Vitamin C
(mg/d) (mg/d) (mg/d) (mg/d) (mcg/d) (mcg/d) (mcg/d) (mg/d) ( mg )

0 - 0.2* 0.3* 2* 0.1* 65* 0.4* 5* 1.7* 40*

6mo - 0.3* 0.4* 4* 0.3* 80* 0.5* 6* 1.8* 50*

1 - 0.5 0.5 6 0.5 150 0.9 8* 2* 15

4 - 0.6 0.6 8 0.6 200 1.2 12* 3* 25

9 - 0.9 0.9 12 1.0 300 1.8 20* 4* 45

14 - 1.2 1.3 16 1.3 400 2.4 25* 5* 75
19 - 1.2 1.3 16 1.3 400 2.4 30* 5* 90
31 - 1.2 1.3 16 1.3 400 2.4 30* 5* 90
51 - 1.2 1.3 16 1.7 400 2.4 30* 5* 90
>70y 1.2 1.3 16 1.7 400 2.4 30* 5* 90

9 -13y 0.9 0.9 12 1.0 300 1.8 20* 4* 45

14 - 1.0 1.0 14 1.2 400 2.4 25* 5* 65
19 - 1.1 1.1 14 1.3 400 2.4 30* 5* 75
31 - 1.1 1.1 14 1.3 400 2.4 30* 5* 75
51 - 1.1 1.1 14 1.5 400 2.4 30* 5* 75
>70y 1.1 1.1 14 1.5 400 2.4 30* 5* 75

14 - 1.4 1.4 18 1.9 600 2.6 30* 6* 80

19 - 1.4 1.4 18 1.9 600 2.6 30* 6* 85
31 - 1.4 1.4 18 1.9 600 2.6 30* 6* 85

14 - 1.4 1.6 17 2.0 500 2.8 35* 7* 115

19 - 1.4 1.6 17 2.0 500 2.8 35* 7* 120
31 - 1.4 1.6 17 2.0 500 2.8 35* 7* 120
Table 1 is a summarization of the new standards for nutrient recommendations of
water-soluble vitamins: The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI). These recommendations meet the average daily
nutritional needs of all healthy people. To ensure the needs of all in the
population, the DRI usually exceeds the requirements for most people. They do not
cover requirements for illness and special health disorders.

RDA and AI values from the 1998 and 2000 DRI reports.
NE=Niacin Equivalents. 1mg of Niacin=60mg of tryptophan; 0-6mo=preformed niacin (not

At 6 months of age, infants may be introducedto solid foods while remaining
on formula or breast milk. There may be some overlap in specific nutrient

(mg=milligrams, mcg=micrograms)

*AI value
Table 2. Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for Water-Soluble Vitamins

Life Stage Group Thiamin Riboflavin Niacin Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Biotin Pantothenic Vitamin C
(mg/d) (mg/d) (mcg/d) Acid ( mg/d )
Infants1 (0 - ND ND ND ND ND ND ND ND ND
mo )
Children ND ND ND ND ND

1 - 10 30 300 400
4 - 15 40 400 650
Males and ND ND ND ND ND
9 - 20 60 600 1200
14 - 30 80 800 1800
19 -> 35 100 1000 2000
Pregnancy and ND ND ND ND ND
14 - 30 80 800 1800
19 - 35 100 1000 2000
Table 2 is a summarization of the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for water-
soluble vitamins: The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI). The UL is defined as the highest level
of daily nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects
to almost all individuals in the general population. The UL represents total daily intake
from food, water, and supplements.

UL values from 1998 and 2000 DRI reports.

At 6 months of age, infants may be introducedto solid foods while remaining
on formula or breast milk. There may be some overlap in specific nutrient

(mg=milligrams, mcg=micrograms)

ND=Not determinable due to lack of data of adverse effects in this age group.
Source of intake should be from food only.
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