Woman on exercise bike looking stressed

Why you need B vitamins when you’re stressed

Feeling overwhelmed? You might be missing out on essential nutrients, but upping your vitamin B levels could help rebalance your emotional health.

There are eight essential B vitamins: thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), vitamin B6, biotin (vitamin B7), folic acid (folate) and vitamin B12.

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They each have their own role in helping your body to run smoothly but together they’re important for your nervous system, cell metabolism, making red blood cells and converting your food into energy.1

B vitamins = natural mood boosters

An increasing amount of evidence shows how vitamin B benefits our bodies when it comes to tackling stress – they can help boost your brain chemistry and balance out neurotransmitters for optimum brain function.2 Research by Swinburne University, Australia, in 2014 revealed that chronic stress depletes levels of vitamin B6 in the body.3 But the study also showed a 20% reduction in work-related stress in those consuming higher levels of B vitamins. A previous study published in the British Medical Journal in 2004 found that folate can help improve mood,4 while a review by Swansea University5 in 2013 confirmed that high doses of B vitamins may be effective in improving mood states.

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How do B vitamins help zap stress?

Each of the B vits plays a key role in helping your body manage stress symptoms1-8. Let’s find out how.

Vitamin B1 – thiamine

• stabilise your mood
• keep your nervous system healthy
• boost memory and concentration

Vitamin B1-rich foods include nuts and seeds, fish, soybeans and yeast extract.

Vitamin B2 – riboflavin

• calm the nervous system
• regulate mood and energy
• metabolise fats and carbohydrates

You can find B2 in eggs, salmon, milk, yoghurt, mushrooms and spinach.

Vitamin B3 – niacin

• stabilise your mood; low B3 levels can lead to stress, irritability, low mood and depression
• nerve health
• control blood sugar levels and digestion

Find it in fish, meat, seeds, peanuts and green peas.

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Vitamin B6 – pyridoxine

• make neurotransmitters, such as mood-boosting serotonin
• support your immune system during times of anxiety
• support adrenal function

Find it in bananas, chickpeas, wheat germ and lentils.

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Vitamin B9 – folate or folic acid

• support proper brain function
• improve mood
• prevent birth defects during pregnancy, such as spina bifida

Find it in broccoli, spinach, chickpeas, lentils and beans.

Vitamin B12 – cyanocobalamin

• brain function and development
• melatonin and serotonin production, essential for mood and sleep
• make DNA

Find it in eggs, milk, cheese, milk products, fish, shellfish. B12 is also added to some soy and rice milk products.

Do you need more B vitamins?

Unlike many other vitamins and minerals, we don’t store B vits in our bodies – they’re water-soluble, so they’re flushed out within hours if they’re not used.

We should get all the B vitamins we need from our diet, but you may want to take a consider topping up your daily levels at stressful times.

Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
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  1. . White DJ, et al. Effects of Four-Week Supplementation with a Multi-Vitamin/Mineral Preparation on Mood and Blood Biomarkers. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26529011
  2. . Calvaresi E, Bryant J. B Vitamins, Cognition, and Aging: A Review. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/psychsocgerontology/article/56/6/P327/610645
  3. . Stough C, et al. Reducing occupational stress with a B-vitamin focussed intervention. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290459/
  4. . Reynolds EH. Folic acid, ageing, depression, and dementia. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1123448/
  5. . Long SJ, Benton D. Effects of vitamin and mineral supplementation on stress, mild psychiatric symptoms, and mood in nonclinical samples: a meta-analysis. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23362497
  6. . Kennedy DO, et al. Effects of high-dose B vitamin complex with vitamin C and minerals on subjective mood and performance in healthy males. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20454891
  7. . Reynolds EH. Benefits and risks of folic acid to the nervous system. Available from: http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/72/5/567
  8. . NHS Choices. B vitamins and folic acid. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-b/
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