Exploring B-Vitamins: Forms, Functions, Choices for Brain Health, and More

Ever wondered which B-vitamins you need for energy, metabolism, and brain support?  You're not alone.  With so many types and their vital roles in our bodies, it can be tricky to figure out the best ones to include in your routine. 

B-vitamins are a group of eight distinct nutrients, each with unique functions, often referred to collectively as B-complex.  Many foods contain multiple B-vitamins, making it possible to obtain them through diet alone.  Unfortunately, in the USA, many people experience low levels of B vitamins, leading to inadequacies.1  

Because B-vitamins are water-soluble and excreted through urine, it is important to replenish them daily.2​​  If you struggle to get enough B-vitamins from food, supplements can be a helpful alternative. 

But which B-vitamins should you focus on for your specific needs, and what foods contain them?  Ahead we’ll be discussing the 8 different forms, their functions, and good choices to focus on for lasting brain health. 

B-Vitamins Role in the Brain 

The brain is the most energy-demanding organ, making up just 2% of body weight but using over 20% of the body's energy.  B-vitamins are crucial for both energy production and brain chemical creation.  They are actively transported to the brain through the blood brain barrier, where their levels are typically higher than in the blood, highlighting their importance for brain function.3 

B-Vitamins have also been found to be effective at supporting cognitive function in the following areas: 

Maintaining and producing proper energy levels: B-vitamins help in producing red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout the body, including the brain, promoting alertness and vitality.4 

Help to regulate mood: They support the production of chemical brain cell messengers, helping to regulate mood and prevent mood disorders.5

Maintaining healthy blood flow: Adequate levels help reduce the risk of blood vessel damage and promote healthy blood flow to the brain.  This is important for delivering oxygen and nutrients to brain cells.6 

Support neuroplasticity: They play a critical role in maintaining the structural integrity of nerve cells, facilitating neurotransmitter synthesis, and regulating gene expression in the brain. These functions support neuroplasticity, the brains ability to adapt and change.7

Support new brain cells: This is done through neurogenesis, the process of forming new brain cells, enhancing brain repair and growth.3

Reduce Inflammation in the brain: Some have anti-inflammatory properties, mitigating neuroinflammation and thereby safeguarding neuronal integrity and function.3 

Helping prevent homocysteine buildup: Homocysteine buildup in the brain, is a compound associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease.3 

Reduce the risk of cognitive decline: Some have been shown to lower the risk of dementia and slow the progression of cognitive decline, offering protective effects against neurodegenerative diseases.7 

Choosing the Best B-Vitamins for Your Needs: Forms and Functions 

If you're searching for a B-vitamin supplement, you may be overwhelmed by the numerous types and forms available.  Choosing the right one can be confusing, but the good news is that each form of B-vitamin has specific uses.  We're here to help you understand the differences and find the best option for you. 

B1 (Thiamine): Found in most foods, with whole grains, fish, and yeast being particularly rich sources, it is mainly used for energy production and supporting nerve function.  Thiamine also helps with diabetes and heart health.  Fortunately, most people are not deficient in B1, but those with chronic alcohol problems may be more at risk.8

B2 (Riboflavin):  Naturally found in eggs, dairy products, green vegetables, meat, mushrooms, and almonds, it plays a key role in energy metabolism and helps keep skin and eyes healthy.  Riboflavin deficiency is usually less common as it is present in many foods.9 

B3 (Niacin): Found in both animal and plant-based foods, with the highest amounts in animal products like poultry and fish, it supports energy production, helps repair brain cells, significantly reduces DNA damage, neuroinflammation, and cell death.  Additionally, niacin has been found to be beneficial for mood disorders such as depression and may offer protection against age-related cognitive decline, including Alzheimer's disease.10  

B5 (Pantothenic acid): Found in a wide range of both plant- and animal-based foods, with the richest sources including chicken, organ meats, whole grains, and certain vegetables.  Deficiency is rare, but this vitamin is particularly useful for managing cholesterol levels, especially in people with hyperlipidemia.11 

B6 (Pyridoxine): Found in beef, poultry, starchy vegetables, and non-citrus fruits, it plays a key role in maintaining normal levels of homocysteine, synthesizing neurotransmitters, and regulating the production of GABA, serotonin, and melatonin.  Deficiencies in vitamin B6 are rare and are often linked to other underlying health issues.  Although important for brain health, vitamin B6 is not as extensively studied as some other vitamins.12 

B7 (Biotin): Found in high amounts in organ meats, eggs, fish, meat, seeds, nuts, and vegetables like sweet potatoes.  Deficiency is uncommon, and while biotin supplements are often recommended for hair, skin, and nail health, evidence supporting these claims is limited.13  Biotin also plays a crucial role in glucose metabolism and is sometimes suggested for people with diabetes.3 

B9 (Folate): Abundant in foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, and beans, it plays a key role in red blood cell production, DNA synthesis and repair, and supports cell division and growth.  Deficiency is more common compared to other B vitamins and is especially important for pregnant woman.14 

B12 (Cobalamin): Found in foods like poultry, fish, and dairy products, and is important for producing red blood cells, energy production, maintaining the blood brain barrier, lowering homocysteine levels, and helping slow down brain degeneration.2, 15  Unfortunately, as you age or if you have conditions like Crohn’s disease and gastritis, B12 deficiency becomes more common, affecting nearly half of the population. 

The Choices for Brain Health 

If you're looking for B vitamins specifically good for reducing the risk of brain decline and supporting brain longevity, B3, B9,  and B12 are great choices.  When it comes to folate (B9), it's important to note that getting it through your diet is preferable.  While supplements are available, some studies have found adverse reactions associated with folate supplementation.16 

B12 however was reported to be safe, and can provide your brain with many of the benefits mentioned before.  B12 is a preferred B-vitamin for brain health due to its ability to effectively manage homocysteine levels.  Elevated homocysteine induces cell death through DNA and oxidative damage and is associated with amyloid β protein and tau tangles in the brain—key biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease.  B12 helps reduce brain cell death and keeps brain cells functioning optimally by also aiding in energy production.17 

Vitamin B3 has powerful antioxidant properties that help eliminate damaging free radicals in neurons.  When converted to an active form called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), it plays a central role in metabolism throughout the body, including the brain.18  Studies suggest that NAD may be crucial for neuroprotection by maintaining the integrity of the blood-brain barrier and slowing down the degeneration of neuronal axons, which are essential for communication and exchange between neurons.19 

Our brain health supplement, RELEVATE, is formulated with the hydroxocobalamin form of vitamin B12, known for its long-lasting presence in the bloodstream, ensuring sustained benefits for brain health.  Nicotinamide, the form of vitamin B3 in RELEVATE, absorbs easily into your brain and body, changes into NAD quickly in just two steps (faster than the usual niacin form, which takes three steps), and won't make your skin flush like niacin can.   RELEVATE contains 17 nutrients that work together to help in protecting and strengthening the brain, all diet achievable doses.  Taken daily, you can help safekeep your brain function and memories for the years to come.  Learn more about RELEVATE by visiting here.  

The Takeaways: 

As you can tell, B-vitamins are crucial for many functions in the brain and body, and some are more commonly deficient than others.  This knowledge can help you make better choices when it comes to the foods you focus on.  To ensure you don't leave any gaps, supplementing can be a convenient option. 


​1. Micronutrient Inadequacies in the US Population: an Overview | Linus Pauling Institute | Oregon State University. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/micronutrient-inadequacies/overview. 

​2. Hanna, M., Jaqua, E., Nguyen, V. & Clay, J. B Vitamins: Functions and Uses in Medicine. Perm J 26, 89 (2022). 

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​5. Syed, E. U., Wasay, M. & Awan, S. Vitamin B12 Supplementation in Treating Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Open Neurol J 7, 44 (2013). 

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​8. Thiamin - Health Professional Fact Sheet. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Thiamin-HealthProfessional/. 

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​10. Gasperi, V., Sibilano, M., Savini, I. & Catani, M. V. Niacin in the Central Nervous System: An Update of Biological Aspects and Clinical Applications. Int J Mol Sci 20, (2019). 

​11. Pantothenic Acid - Health Professional Fact Sheet. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/PantothenicAcid-HealthProfessional/. 

​12. Abosamak, N. R. & Gupta, V. Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine). Vitamins in the Prevention of Human Diseases 75–89 (2023) doi:10.1515/9783110214499. 

​13. Biotin - Health Professional Fact Sheet. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Biotin-HealthProfessional/. 

​14. Merrell, B. J. & McMurry, J. P. Folic Acid. Encyclopedia of Toxicology, Fourth Edition: Volume 1-9 4, V4-751-V4-754 (2023). 

​15. Soh, Y., Lee, D. H. & Won, C. W. Association between Vitamin B12 levels and cognitive function in the elderly Korean population. Medicine (United States) 99, E21371 (2020). 

​16. Morris, M. C., Schneider, J. A. & Tangney, C. C. Thoughts on B-vitamins and dementia. J Alzheimers Dis 9, 429 (2006). 

​17. Ueno, A. et al. Influences of Vitamin B12 Supplementation on Cognition and Homocysteine in Patients with Vitamin B12 Deficiency and Cognitive Impairment. Nutrients 14, 1494 (2022). 

​18. Niacin - Health Professional Fact Sheet. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Niacin-HealthProfessional/. 

​19. Maiese, K., Chong, Z. Z., Hou, J. & Shang, C. The vitamin nicotinamide: translating nutrition into clinical care. Molecules 14, 3446–3485 (2009). 

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