The Relationship Between B Vitamins & Energy Production

  • Nature's Source

The B vitamins are a large group of water-soluble vitamins. These nutrients play many roles in your health, from brain function to red blood cell production.1 But one of their most important jobs is to support energy production in your cells.2

The eight B-vitamins include:

  • B1 (thiamin)
  • B2 (riboflavin)
  • B3 (niacin)
  • B5 (pantothenic acid)
  • B6 (pyridoxine)
  • B7 (biotin)
  • B9 (folate)
  • B12 (cobalamin)

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While each has an individual role in energy production, they all work together to keep things working optimally. In this article, we will share the details on how these vitamins help power all the functions in your body.

How is Energy Made in Your Body?

To understand how the B vitamins support energy production, it's helpful to understand the process of energy production in the body.

When you eat food, it's broken down into smaller molecules during digestion so they can be absorbed. The smaller subunits from carbohydrates, fat, and protein are used to make or store energy in your cells.

Carbohydrates are your body's preferred fuel because they are easily turned into energy. Still, the body can use protein and fat for energy if carbohydrates are scarce in your diet (as seen in ketogenic diets).

Carbohydrates are broken down to sugar, or glucose, which enters your bloodstream and can be taken up by cells for immediate energy or stored for later.3

But we don't just store nutrients. Instead, they are turned into a specialized energy storage molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

Energy from your food goes through a series of complex metabolic pathways where it's converted into ATP inside your cell. ATP is what powers cellular processes like breathing, thinking, and moving.

Where do B vitamins come in? Without B vitamins, the chemical reactions to make or use ATP can't occur.4

How do B Vitamins Help with Energy Production?

The conversion of food into energy requires a series of enzymatic reactions. Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts for processes in your body. The B vitamins act as coenzymes or enzyme helper molecules to support your metabolic processes. They are needed for the energy-producing enzymes to do their job. 1

In other words, B vitamins help your body convert food into energy, and they are needed for enzymes that store or release energy in your body to work correctly.

Some examples of the role of B vitamins include:

  • Thiamine, vitamin B1, helps the body use glucose as energy by supporting ATP synthesis.5
  • Niacin, vitamin B3, is involved in ATP synthesis and the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.6
  • Pyridoxine, or vitamin B6, is needed for amino-acid synthesis. It also helps release stored glucose from the liver and muscles in a process called glycogenolysis.7 Pyridoxal phosphate is the active form of vitamin B6 and is a coenzyme for synthesis of amino acids, neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine), sphingolipids, aminolevulinic acid.8
  • Cobalamin or vitamin B12 is needed for fat and protein breakdown, energy metabolism, and red blood cell production.9

B Vitamins and Energy Go Hand-in-Hand

B vitamins are a vital piece of energy production and metabolism. Their job is to support the enzymes that help you process the food you eat into energy units your body can use.

You can find the B vitamins in many foods, but different needs may warrant a complex that includes many B vitamins or a single vitamin option. Your health care practitioner can help you decide if supplementation is a good idea for you.

Caitlin Beale, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian and freelance health writer. She has a master's degree in nutrition and over ten years of experience as a registered dietitian.

+The views expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not reflect the opinions or views of Pure Encapsulations®.

  1. Kennedy, David O. “B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy—A Review.” Nutrients 8, no. 2 (January 28, 2016): 68. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8020068.
  2. Depeint, Flore, W. Robert Bruce, Nandita Shangari, Rhea Mehta, and Peter J. O’Brien. “Mitochondrial Function and Toxicity: Role of the B Vitamin Family on Mitochondrial Energy Metabolism.” Chemico-Biological Interactions 163, no. 1–2 (October 27, 2006): 94–112. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cbi.2006.04.014.
  3. Alberts, Bruce, Alexander Johnson, Julian Lewis, Martin Raff, Keith Roberts, and Peter Walter. “How Cells Obtain Energy from Food.” Molecular Biology of the Cell. 4th Edition, 2002. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26882/.
  4. “Human Metabolism, Energy, Nutrients | Learn Science at Scitable.” Accessed November 15, 2021. https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/nutrient-utilization-in-humans-metabolism-pathways-14234029/.
  5. Lonsdale, Derrick. “A Review of the Biochemistry, Metabolism and Clinical Benefits of Thiamin(e) and Its Derivatives.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 3, no. 1 (March 2006): 49–59. https://doi.org/10.1093/ecam/nek009.
  6. Meyer-Ficca, Mirella, and James B Kirkland. “Niacin12.” Advances in Nutrition 7, no. 3 (May 9, 2016): 556–58. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.115.011239.
  7. Parra, Marcelina, Seth Stahl, and Hanjo Hellmann. “Vitamin B6 and Its Role in Cell Metabolism and Physiology.” Cells 7, no. 7 (July 22, 2018): 84. https://doi.org/10.3390/cells7070084.
  8. National Center for Biotechnology Information (2021). PubChem Compound Summary for CID 1051, Pyridoxal phosphate. Retrieved December 6, 2021 from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Pyridoxal-phosphate.
  9. Kräutler, Bernhard. “Biochemistry of B12-Cofactors in Human Metabolism.” Sub-Cellular Biochemistry 56 (2012): 323–46. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-2199-9_17.