B Complex Vitamins & Your Brain, Part 1 – Invite Health Podcast, Episode 102
Invite Health Podcast, Episode hosted by Jerry Hickey. Ph
B Complex Vitamins are extremely important for our brain. They allow our brain to use sugar for energy and also allow the creation and release of neurotransmitters. B Complex Vitamins also protect the genes in our brain. Lacking B Vitamins in the brain is connected with depression, shrinkage of the brain and memory loss with aging.
What Are B Complex Vitamins?
There are eight B complex vitamins:
- Vitamin B1, Thiamine
- Vitamin B2, Riboflavin
- Vitamin B3, Niacin
- Vitamin B5, Pantothenic Acid
- Vitamin B6, Pyridoxine
- Vitamin B7, Biotin
- Vitamin B9, Folate
- Vitamin B12, Cobalamin
B Complex Vitamins are involved with everything that occurs in your brain and your body – energy production, brain function, heart health, blood sugar control, washing your genes. Name it and there is a B Vitamin involved! However, after you eat or take a supplement, your brain snaps up a large percentage of your B Vitamins (also Vitamin C). This is because your brain requires a large pool of B Complex vitamins because of energy; your brain is by far the most metabolically active organ in your body, representing only 2% of your body weight but accounting for over 20% of your body’s total energy expenditure.
The importance of the B vitamins for brain function is illustrated by the fact that each vitamin is actively transported across the Blood Brain Barrier and Choroid Plexus (the part of the brain making spinal fluid) by dedicated transport mechanisms. Once in the brain, very specific uptake mechanisms dictate the distribution in the organs and cells of the brain.
The B vitamins all have high turnover rates, ranging from 8% to 100% per day and you have to obtain a good supply of B Vitamins daily. Their levels in your brain are tightly regulated by multiple homeostatic mechanisms. This guarantees that brain concentrations remain comparatively high. For example, the concentration of methyltetrahydrofolate (the active form of folate) in the brain is four times that seen in your blood plasma, whereas biotin and pantothenic acid exist in the brain at concentrations of up to 50 times that seen in plasma (plasma is the clear fluid in your blood).
Specific Functions in your brain
Vitamin B1, Thiamine, is necessary for the synthesis of fatty acids, and precursors to a range of neurotransmitters required for brain function. Thiamine is required for the brain to use and is needed to create neurons – the brains nerve cell. Researchers have known that permanent memories are stored when nerve cells in our brain reorganize and form connections with one another. But this process takes time whereas an individual neuron can hold some memory temporarily; think of card counting at a casino. Thiamine is also needed to create Glial cells, which provide support for the neurons. They may not do the big jobs in our brain, but without them, those big jobs would never get done.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) is crucial for making our body work; it creates rate limiting factors for most of the processes that take place in each of our trillions of cells. As an example, it is crucial for the recycling of niacin, folate and Vitamin B6, and for the synthesis of hemoglobin, nitric oxide synthases (which creates nitric oxide out of Arginine), P450 enzymes, for the metabolism of essential fatty acids in brain lipids, the absorption and utilization of iron, and the regulation of thyroid hormones. Riboflavin is needed for the glutathione cycle.
Niacin (Vitamin B3) plays a role in a vast array of processes and enzymes involved in every aspect of brain cell function. You require Niacin for energy production, but also for the conversion of folate to its tetrahydrofolate derivative.
Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) is likely the least known B complex vitamin by the public, yet it is the most important B complex vitamin. You cannot use carbohydrates, fats, or proteins from food to make energy without Vitamin B5 because our body transforms it into Coenzyme A. Coenzyme A (CoA)is involved with creating energy out of food and also every part of our metabolism requires it. It is transformed into acetyl-coenzyme A that plays a important role in maintaining healthy nerves, muscle and brain health, steroid hormones, Acetylcholine, energy, detoxification and ketones. CoA also contributes to the structure and function of brain cells via its involvement in the synthesis of cholesterol, amino acids, phospholipids, and fatty acids.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine, Pyridoxal, Pyridoxamine) is a necessary co-factor in the folate cycle and is needed for amino acid metabolism. This makes B6 a rate-limiting factor in the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), norepinephrine and the hormone melatonin. Even mild deficiency results in a drop of GABA and serotonin synthesis. A lack of B6 leads to a loss of hypothalamus-pituitary control of hormone excretion. Vitamin B6 also has a direct effect on the brain’s immune function and is needed for the brains glucose regulation. The level of pyridoxal-5′-phosphate is needed to prevent inflammation in the brain but its levels decrease in the brain with more severe inflammation and these inflammatory processes contribute to the development of numerous pathological states including dementia and cognitive decline.
The brain is particularly sensitive to the delivery and metabolism of glucose. Biotin, or Vitamin B7, plays a key role in glucose metabolism and homeostasis throughout the body making sugar available for the brain. With true biotin deficiency we develop a number of neurological symptoms that affect the brain and nervous system. Biotin is needed to bring BCAA into the energy cycle of the brain.
Questions about B Complex Vitamins? Leave a comment for Jerry Hickey, Ph below to join the discussion!
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