B vitamins are essential vitamins, meaning that your body needs them but cannot make them. You must get them through foods in your diet and/or supplements. Fortunately, most B vitamins are easily obtained from foods and people should be able to get adequate intakes through their diets — although there are exceptions, as noted below. The B Vitamins include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, B-6, biotin, folate, and B-12.
Foods that are good sources of each of the B vitamins and the amounts they contain are listed in the ConsumerTips section of the B Vitamins Supplements Review.
You may be surprised to see how much folate you are getting from foods fortified with folic acid (such as breakfast cereals), because folic acid provides much more folate than currently reflected on labels (e.g., 400 mcg of folic acid provides the equivalent of 680 mcg of natural folate). This is a concern because there are risks associated with getting too much folate from folic acid. Learn more about this in the Folate section of the review.)
People who may need to supplement their diet include:
- Older men and women and those taking medications to reduce stomach acid, who may be low in B-12 due to reduced absorption
- Pregnant woman, who should get folate in the form of folic acid from a supplement to help prevent birth defects
- People with certain genetic variants who may also benefit from special forms of folate
- Individuals who have high cholesterol and are instructed by a health professional to take high-dose of niacin to help lower it
For more about getting the right amount of B vitamins from your diet or supplements, as well as our tests of products, see the B Vitamins Supplements Review >>
Also see answers to these questions:
What is Metafolin (5-methylfolate)? I see it in some supplements instead of folic acid. Is it better than folic acid? >>
The maker of my multivitamin says it doesn't include folic acid because too much from supplements can be harmful. Is that true? >>
I thought the B vitamins were all water soluble and did not build up in the body, so you would not build up toxic levels. Am I wrong? >>
I was told I have a MTHFR gene mutation. What do I need to know about taking B vitamins? >>
Can prenatal vitamins have too much folic acid? Mine has 800 mcg, but isn't that more than what's recommended? Is this dangerous to me or my baby? >>