Vitamin B

The B vitamins are actually a group of eight separate vitamins that have been grouped together and called vitamin B-complex. Here is a list of the individual vitamins that form vitamin B-complex:

B1

(thiamine)

B2

(riboflavin)

B3

(niacin)

B6

(pyridoxine)

B9

(folic acid)

B12 (cyanocobalamin)

• Pantothenic acid

• Pantothenic acid

The B vitamins are important for maintaining a healthy central nervous system and producing the genetic material DNA. The B vitamins also help in the movement and general function of your digestive tract. Numerous studies were conducted during the late 1980s examining the role of the B vitamins and proper hormone balance, especially progesterone levels. Most of these studies focused upon premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms. The studies resulted in mixed results with some concluding that the B vitamins raised progesterone levels and helped PMS symptoms, whereas other studies found no effect. Even so, some health care providers today believe that vitamin B6 may raise progesterone levels in women with irregular or absent menstrual periods and thereby increase their fertility. B6 may also play a role in men's hormonal functioning. Additionally, vitamin B12 has been found to improve some men's low sperm counts.

Of all the members of the B-complex vitamins, folic acid receives most of the attention when it comes to pregnancy. That's because folic acid has been shown to reduce the risk of spina bifida and other neural tube birth defects in your baby. However, for folic acid to be most effective, you must be taking it before you become pregnant and continue during pregnancy. Because of this, the U.S. Public Health Service suggests that all women of child-bearing age take 400 mcg of folic acid each day. Folic acid is almost always included in your prenatal vitamins and is typically in 1 mg (1,000 mcg) dosage.

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