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    You Ask, I Answer: B Vitamin Confusion

    51V3ZT72W8L._SS500_I need your help sorting out B vitamins.

    I thought they were all water soluble, but I recently heard that the body stores B12 for decades?  Is this true?

    What are all the B vitamins?  I keep seeing conflicting information on how many there are.  For example, is panthothenic acid a B vitamin?  What about choline?

    — Rebecca Plender
    (Location Withheld)

    There are eight B vitamins.  They are:

    • B1 (AKA Thiamin)
    • B2 (AKA Riboflavin)
    • B3 (AKA Niacin)
    • B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
    • B6 (AKA Pyridoxine, although that term is mainly used in scientific literature)
    • B7 (AKA Biotin)
    • B9 (AKA Folate)
    • B12 (AKA Colabamin; again, that term is mainly only used in scientific literature)

    Riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and folic acid should sound familiar, since these are three nutrients found in enriched grains.

    Remember — when whole wheat flour is processed and milled into white flour, B vitamins are lost.  Per the Enrichment Act of 1942, these B vitamins need to be added back in their originally existing quantities to all refined grain products in the United States.

    Folic acid (the synthetic version of folate) began to be fortified in refined grains in the United States in 1998.  Unlike enrichment, fortified means a nutrient is added back in higher values than what was originally present in a given food.

    All B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning it is particularly crucial to get the required amounts on a daily basis since our bodies do not have storage pools.  There are two exceptions: vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.

    In the case of vitamin B6, a small amount is stored in muscle cells, but that has more to do with carbohydrate metabolism, which is well beyond the scope of this post.  For all intents and purposes, lump it together with most of the other B vitamins.

    In the case of B12, it is still water-soluble (it does not need to be consumed with dietary fat in order to be absorbed, and excesses are excreted in urine), but a significant amount is stored in the liver.  This is why, often times, B12 deficiencies come to light years after a diet is critically low in the vitamin.

    To clarify your question, vitamin B12 is not stored “for decades”.  Assuming someone’s diet is completely deficient in B12, it is believed the body’s stores would be used up in four or five years.


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