We’re all familiar with the term B vitamins. But what do they do, and why do energy drinks contain them? The technical answers are really long and boring. The short, slightly less boring answers follow.
Vitamin B is actually a family of eight vitamins known as B vitamins or vitamin B complex. The reason energy drinks contain them is that they play a key role in energy metabolism. They are water-soluble which means any that are not absorbed by your body are passed out of your system with no toxic buildup. This allows energy drinks to contain amounts well beyond the recommended daily allowance without being harmful. In fact, people receiving vitamin B therapy from their doctors get a lot more vitamins than any amount present in an energy drink.
Niacin (Vitamin B3)
The first laboratory isolation of vitamin B3 occurred during research studies of tobacco in the 1930s, hence niacin is also known as “nicotinic acid.” Niacin is important in energy production. It plays a key role in converting fats, proteins, carbohydrates and starches into usable energy. It also helps remove toxic chemicals from the body, and has been shown to increase the level of HDL (good cholesterol) in the blood. Because niacin opens capillaries and increases blood flow near the skin, elevated doses can cause skin flushing in some people. This is characterized by a red and itchy face and neck that lasts a few minutes. (A form of niacin called niacinamide causes little or no flushing.) Food sources of Niacin include: meat and dairy products, leafy vegetables, broccoli, tomatoes, avocados, nuts and whole grains.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Vitamin B6 was first researched in the 1930s. Its original name was “antidermatitis factor” because skin inflammation seemed to increase when foods with vitamin B6 were absent from the diet. It is difficult to find a molecule in our bodies that doesn’t rely on vitamin B6 for its production. It plays a key role in the production of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. It is used in the creation of DNA. It’s involved in over 100 crucial chemical reactions in our bodies. It helps form nearly all new cells in our bodies.
Here is a brief list of the other things vitamin B6 does:
1. Helps our nervous system function properly.
2. Required for the production of hemoglobin, the compound in red blood cells that transports oxygen and carbon dioxide.
3. Increases the amount of oxygen carried in our blood.
4. Helps maintain a healthy immune system.
5. Aids in the processing of carbohydrates for energy. Food sources of vitamin B6 include fortified cereals, beans, meat, poultry, fish, and some fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Two Nobel Prizes have been awarded for research involving the study of vitamin B12. Like other B-complex vitamins, vitamin B12 is involved in a variety of important functions. Perhaps its most important function is the development of red blood cells. Another is the development of nerve cells. B12 also participates in the production of amino acids, and the processing of carbohydrates into energy.
Pernicious anemia, a condition caused by vitamin B12 deficiency affects many people over 50 years of age. The condition is not a result of lack of intake of B12, but rather the lack of intrinsic factor, a protein in the stomach required to extract B12 from food. To overcome this problem, doctors recommend that people over 50 years of age take supplemental B12 because it does not require intrinsic factor to be absorbed. Food sources for vitamin B12 include meat, fish, poultry, eggs and milk products.
Folic Acid, or Folate (Vitamin B9) Folate gets its name from the Latin word “folium” for leaf. A researcher in the 1930s discovered that anemia of pregnancy could be corrected by a yeast extract. The active ingredient in this process was later identified as folate, and was extracted from spinach leaves in 1941. Folic acid, or folate, helps produce and maintain new cells in our bodies. It’s also needed to make DNA and RNA, the building blocks of cells. It works with vitamins B12 and vitamin C to break down proteins and form hemoglobin. It’s very important in pregnancy and preventing birth defects. Folic acid deficiency has been linked with irritability, mental fatigue, forgetfulness, confusion, depression, muscular weakness and insomnia. Food sources of folate include leafy green vegetables, fruits, dried beans and peas.
Now do you see why energy drinks contain a variety of B-complex vitamins? They help produce energy and serve in several nervous system functions. So, find some energy drinks to sell in your club. Your members will thank you.