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Most B vitamins, with the exception of B12, are not stored in the body; so they must be acquired daily from the diet in order to maintain optimal health. They are found in rich supply in whole, unprocessed foods and lacking in foods that have been refined and processed. A typical Western diet, low in wholefoods and high in refined alternatives is commonly low in these important nutrients.

Do I need to take B vitamin supplements?

While you do not necessarily need to take B vitamin supplements, they can help support your vitamin B levels. Many people struggle to consume optimal daily amounts of B vitamins, and that’s where a high-quality multivitamin and mineral can help to bridge the gap. A bit like a health insurance policy, a multivitamin and mineral can be something to fall back on when your diet hasn’t quite hit the mark.

You don’t need to look very far to find a multivitamin and mineral; they’re everywhere from discount stores to supermarkets to high street chemists. However, if you’re looking for something that’s actually going to benefit your health, it’s worth looking a bit further, especially if you want to optimise your intake of B vitamins. B vitamins come in a variety of different forms, some of which are easily absorbed and utilised in the body and some of which are not. It’s true that if you choose the cheaper, ineffective forms, you will likely just get expensive urine. With the more expensive, bioavailable forms, you will get better health benefits. 

Folate (folic acid)

Folate (folic acid) is an important B vitamin that’s often lacking from the diet. It is found in high amounts in dark leafy green vegetables but is very vulnerable to damage from external factors such as heat, oxygen and light, and a considerable amount is lost during storage, processing and food preparation.  Folic acid helps the body to produce genetic material (RNA & DNA), and is especially important when cells and tissues are growing rapidly, such as in infancy, adolescence and pregnancy. Pregnant women especially need higher amounts of this nutrient to lower the risk of neural tube birth defects including cleft palate, spina bifida and brain damage. It is recommended that all women who could get pregnant take 400μg folic acid before they’re pregnant and especially during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when the baby’s spine is developing.

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate rarely found in nature but used predominantly in supplements and in fortification of processed foods due to its low cost. It’s important to know however that before this form of folate can be used by the body, it must be converted into the biologically active form of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF). Some people struggle to make this conversion and so are at increased risk of deficiency without knowing it. It is therefore best to supplement directly with the active form of folic acid – 5-MTHF to make sure that everyone can access the benefits of optimizing intake of folic acid. For a multivitamin & mineral formula to be effective, it must supply folic acid in this body ready form – 5-MTHF. 

Vitamin B12

The same is true for vitamin B12, a nutrient which is particularly important for the central nervous system and yet commonly deficient with many people not consuming enough vitamin B12 through their diet. Vegetarians and especially vegans must be vigilant about their B12 status, as B12 is nearly entirely found in animal-sourced foods such as eggs, dairy, meat, poultry and fish. B12 is often supplied in the form of cyanocobalamin in cheaper supplements, however, many people will struggle to convert this into its active form. Methylcobalamin is body ready and much more effective.

Vitamin B6

Another B vitamin that is affected by food preparation as food that is frozen, canned, cooked, or processed usually leads to a lower level of vitamin B6. It works closely with the other B vitamins and nutrients such as magnesium and has many important functions in the body including energy production, nervous system support, hormone production and sleep regulation.

Vitamin B6 can be found in different forms, and pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P-5-P) is the active form of which the other forms must be converted to before it can be utilised by the body. When P-5-P is taken it doesn’t have to go through the conversion process in the liver so is the most effective form.

Supplying these body ready forms, instead of cheaper ineffective forms means that your health will actually benefit from your daily multivitamin & mineral. Look for a product that contains 5-MTHF, pyridoxal-5-phosphate & methylcobalamin; body ready B vitamins that will give your health a daily boost.

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