Vitamin B: where is it found?

Are you more forgetful these days? Memory lapses and a tingling sensation or numbness in your hands and feet may be signs of vitamin B12 deficiency, a condition which commonly affects vegetarians, the elderly and those on nutrition-poor diets. Vitamin B12 is one of eight water-soluble vitamins in the vitamin B complex group.

It is found almost exclusively in animal products such as eggs, fish, meat, and dairy products. If you are on a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, you should make sure you have more vitamin B12 fortified foods to maintain a healthy nervous system and healthy red blood cells. You may also want to consider taking a vitamin B12 supplement. "The body needs vitamin B12 to form red blood cells, maintain healthy neurological function and support DNA synthesis," say pharmacists from Retail Pharmacy​ at Changi General Hospital, a member of the SingHealth group.​​

Vitamin B supplements: Who needs them?


Although the liver can store excess vitamin B12 for years, it can get depleted as well. Individuals who may benefit from a vitamin B12 supplement include:

  1. Older adults who have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from food
  2. People with pernicious anaemia
  3. Those with reduced levels of stomach acidity
  4. Those with intestinal disorders
  5. Individuals with peripheral neuropathies

All about Vitamin B

B vitamins are important for cell metabolism, energy production and formation of red blood cells. They work together to maintain healthy skin, hair and eyes, as well as healthy nerves, heart and muscles.

Here are the main functions of the vitamin B:

Vitamin BMain health benefits
Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • Helps conversion of carbohydrates
  • Essential for the heart function
  • Maintains healthy nervous system
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
  • Essential for cellular growth
  • Supports red blood cell production
  • Maintenance of vision, mucous membranes, skin, hair and nails
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
  • Converts calories from carbohydrates, proteins and fats into energy
  • Promotes a healthy digestive system
  • Maintains healthy skin and nerves
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
  • Supports intermediary metabolism of fatty acids
  • Aids in the synthesis of steroid hormones
  • Aids in the release of energy from carbohydrates
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
  • Supports intermediary metabolism of fatty acids
  • Aids in the synthesis of steroid hormones
  • Aids in the release of energy from carbohydrates
Vitamin B6(pyridoxine)
  • Required for amino acid metabolism
  • Converts carbohydrates and fats into energy
  • Aids in the production of red blood cells
  • Aids in the proper function of nerves
Vitamin B7(biotin)
  • Required for amino acid metabolism
  • Converts carbohydrate and fats into energy
  • Essential for DNA synthesis and cell replication
Vitamin B9 (folate or folic acid)
  • Crucial for proper brain function
  • Aids in the production of the body’s genetic material, especially when cells and tissues are growing rapidly, such as in infancy, adolescence and pregnancy
  • Required for red blood cell maturation
Vitamin B12
  • Involves in the cellular metabolism of carbohydrates, fat and protein
  • Production of red blood cell in the bone marrow
  • Needed for formation of myelin (nerve sheaths), proper function of the nervous system
  • Aids in the synthesis of DNA

Best food sources of vitamin B

Get all eight B vitamins ​from a variety of foods:

  1. Whole grains (brown rice, barley, millet)
  2. Meat (red meat, poultry, fish)
  3. Eggs and dairy products (milk, cheese)
  4. Legumes (beans, lentils)
  5. ​Seeds and nuts (sunflower seeds, almonds)
  6. Dark, leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach, kai lan)
  7. Fruits (citrus fruits, avocados, bananas)

Signs of vitamin B deficiency

The most common signs of vitamin B deficiency, specific to individual B vitamins, are given below:

Vitamin B6 deficiency:

  1. Anaemia
  2. Skin disorders such as seborrheic dermatitis
  3. Inflammation of the mouth (oral ulcers)
  4. Soreness and cracks at the corners of the mouth, chapped lips
  5. Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
  6. Irritability, confusion and depression

Vitamin B9 deficiency (folate or folic acid):

  1. Anaemia
  2. Increased risk of birth defect (in pregnancy)
  3. Mood changes (irritability, forgetfulness)
  4. Sore mouth and diarrhoea

Vitamin B12 deficiency

  1. Anaemia
  2. Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
  3. Memory lapses
  4. Mood changes (mental confusion, agitation)
  5. Unsteadiness and poor muscle coordination

While a vitamin B supplement may be beneficial in certain cases, it’s always best to seek dietary sources first and to discuss any supplements you want to take with your healthcare professional.

Ref: N18​​