Would you like to learn more about the effect and use of vitamin B complexes? Then you have come to the right place. We have compiled detailed background information for you on the topic of vitamin B complexes.
In our vitamin B complex test 2022 we explain what you should consider before buying a vitamin B complex. We also compare different products and answer frequently asked questions on the topic. In this way, we want to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best vitamin B complex for you.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 Summary
- 3 The Best Vitamin B Complex in the United Kingdom: Our Picks
- 4 Buying and evaluation criteria for vitamin B complexes
- 5 Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a vitamin B complex
- 5.1 What is a vitamin B complex and how does it work?
- 5.2 When and for whom is it useful to take vitamin B complexes?
- 5.3 Can taking vitamin B complexes cause side effects?
- 5.4 How much does a vitamin B complex cost?
- 5.5 What types of vitamin B complexes are there?
- 5.6 How to dose vitamin B complexes?
- 5.7 How can I recognise a vitamin B deficiency?
- 5.8 What are the alternatives to vitamin B complexes?
- A vitamin B complex is a food supplement that contains the eight water-soluble vitamins of the B group.
- Vitamin B complexes are available in different dosage forms such as capsules, tablets or drops. The respective variants come with different advantages and disadvantages.
- Normally, the body absorbs enough vitamin B through food. However, for some people, such as athletes, vegans or pregnant women, the additional intake of a vitamin B complex makes sense.
The Best Vitamin B Complex in the United Kingdom: Our Picks
Buying and evaluation criteria for vitamin B complexes
When buying vitamin B complexes, you should pay attention to various aspects, such as:
By making the right choice for you, you can save money and also ensure that you don't add anything to your body that it doesn't need. Therefore, always look for high quality and, if necessary, ask to see the manufacturer's certificates.
An important criterion for your purchase decision is the dosage form of the vitamin B complex. Capsules and tablets are the most common, but there are also vitamin B complexes in liquid form.
For example, if you have problems swallowing, vitamin B drops are better than tablets or capsules.
You can read more about the other advantages and disadvantages of the different forms of administration in our guide.
If you are interested in a vitamin B complex, you should definitely take a look at the ingredients.
Besides the water-soluble vitamins of the B group, some preparations contain other vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. calcium, magnesium or zinc).
Before you buy such a product, you must be aware of which vitamins and minerals your body needs and in what quantities.
If you are prone to allergies or have a food intolerance, you should make sure that the vitamin B complex is free from allergens such as gluten or lactose.
If you eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, you should also look for the corresponding information on the packaging, because the shells of vitamin B capsules are often made from animal gelatine.
Natural or synthetic vitamins
Vitamin B complexes contain either natural or synthetically produced vitamins. Since synthetic production is much cheaper, the clear majority of food supplements on offer are artificial vitamins.
The list of ingredients provides only limited information about the origin of the B vitamins. Indications for natural vitamins can be lists of corresponding foods or the addition "extract".
In synthetic production, the vitamins are produced in the laboratory. Not infrequently, controversial genetic engineering methods are used here. However, there is no labelling obligation for this procedure.
You can be sure that vitamin B complexes with an organic or non-GMO label do not contain any genetically engineered vitamins and/or carriers.
Quantity and dosage
When buying vitamin B complexes, bear in mind that the quantity and dosage vary depending on the manufacturer and product.
To better compare the prices of vitamin B capsules and tablets with different quantities, you can divide the respective purchase price by the number of capsules or tablets. This gives you the unit price.
You can find out how much of each vitamin of the B group is contained in the list of ingredients. The individual ingredients are given in milligrams (mg) or micrograms (µg).
The higher the dosage of a tablet or capsule, the less often you need to take it. However, you should not exceed the recommended daily dose.
Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a vitamin B complex
In order to inform you comprehensively about the effectiveness of vitamin B complexes and to give you an understanding of the current state of science, we have summarised all the important information in the following sections.
What is a vitamin B complex and how does it work?
The vitamins of the B group include:
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (niacin)
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
- Vitamin B7 (biotin)
- Vitamin B9 (folic acid)
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
The numbering is not continuous, as the vitamin character of some of the original substances of the complex has not been confirmed.
The B vitamins are essential for carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism as well as for energy production. However, the extent to which the individual vitamins play a role in the treatment of diseases is disputed. (1)
In the following paragraphs, we will explain to you the complaints and diseases for which vitamin B can possibly have a positive effect.
Effect on nerve damage
B vitamins, especially vitamin B 12, play an important role in the nervous system. A case report from 2010 shows that vitamin B12 supplements can reverse dysfunctions of the central and peripheral nervous system (2).
Furthermore, a study with rats - published in the same year - found that methylcobalamin (vitamin B12) promotes nerve regeneration. (3)
Effects on skin problems
Topical vitamin B (12) can help with chronic inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, according to the results of several scientific studies (4, 5).
In addition, according to a study from 1997, vitamin B5 can have a positive effect on ance (6). A scientific study from 2015, on the other hand, found that an excess of vitamin B12 in the skin can promote the development of anke (7).
Effect on depression
According to a randomised controlled trial, vitamin B12 can improve depressive symptoms (8). In addition, further studies showed a positive effect of B vitamins in connection with depression after a stroke or depression in old age (9, 10).
This can improve treatment outcomes for depression. (11) .
However, these statements are contradicted by the results of a meta-analysis from 2019, which provides evidence for the effect of vitamin B complexes on stress, but not on depressive symptoms or anxiety. (12)
Effect on brain atrophy
According to a randomised controlled trial from 2010, B vitamins can slow down accelerated brain atrophy in older people with mild cognitive impairment (13).
The results of a comparative study published in 2008 suggest that too low a vitamin B12 level promotes brain atrophy. It is recommended that the relationship be investigated in further studies. (14)
When and for whom is it useful to take vitamin B complexes?
The table below gives you information on who should take a vitamin B complex:
|Group of people||Explanation|
|Vegans||Vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal foods. Vegans are therefore more prone to vitamin B deficiency.|
|Pregnant women||Pregnant women have an increased need for nutrients and are often unable to cover this need sufficiently through their diet.|
|Elderly persons||In old age, appetite often decreases, which means that fewer vitamins enter the body through food.|
|People on a diet||An unbalanced diet or special diets can lead to a vitamin B deficiency.|
|Athletes||Athletes consume above-average amounts of energy and therefore also have a higher need for vitamins.|
If you want to use a vitamin B complex to treat ailments or diseases, you should always consult your doctor beforehand.
In addition to vitamin B supplements for humans, there are vitamin B complexes for pets (dogs, cats, rodents and birds). The vitamin drops are mixed with the food and are particularly suitable for stressed animals or poor eaters.
Can taking vitamin B complexes cause side effects?
Even though there are hardly any known side effects with most B vitamins, in individual cases there may be mild accompanying symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches or skin reactions. If a vitamin B complex contains allergens, allergic reactions can be triggered.
Acne is suspected as a possible side effect of vitamin B12 overdose (see study under "Effect on skin problems"). In addition, a study from 2017 provides evidence that long-term vitamin B6 and B12 overdose could increase the risk of lung cancer in men (15). However, more studies are needed on this.
How much does a vitamin B complex cost?
We provide an overview of the price range of different types of products:
|dosage form||price range|
|capsules and tablets||approx. 5 - 100 €/100 g|
|drops||approx. 10 - 80 €/100 ml|
The number of capsules or tablets per pack varies from product to product. In online shops such as Amazon, the prices are therefore often additionally stated per piece or per 100 grams.
In the case of vitamin B complexes in the form of drops, most online shops indicate the price per 100 or per 50 millilitres for a better comparison.
What types of vitamin B complexes are there?
In the following paragraphs we will explain the advantages and disadvantages of each type.
When looking for a vitamin B complex, you will most likely come across a wide range of vitamin B capsules.
The capsules contain a pre-defined amount of the active ingredient. The dosage can vary from product to product. Low-dose capsules need to be taken more often than high-dose capsules.
Their coating protects the active ingredient from external influences and makes it easier to swallow the capsule. Some capsules can also be opened - so you can dissolve the contents in water. Consult your doctor about this.
Some capsule shells are made of animal gelatine and are therefore not suitable for vegans and vegetarians. However, there are also alternatives made from purely vegetable cellulose. Look for the corresponding information when buying.
Tablets are the best-known form of medicine. Some vitamin B complex tablets can be easily crushed at the fracture points, which makes precise portioning possible.
Some tablets are coated with a film that protects them from light. This coating also makes the tablets easier to take.
Since vitamin B tablets do not contain gelatine, vegetarians and vegans can take them without concern. However, controversial release agents such as magnesium stearate are often used.
The range of vitamin B complexes in liquid form is relatively small. Vitamin B drops are particularly suitable for children, older people and people who have problems swallowing. They are individually dosed and simply diluted with water.
Vitamin B complexes in the form of drops usually contain fewer undesirable additives than vitamin B tablets and are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
In contrast to tablets and capsules, vitamin B drops have a short shelf life. To retain their full effect, the drops should be stored in a dark place and used within the best-before date.
How to dose vitamin B complexes?
Unless otherwise agreed with your doctor, follow the manufacturer's dosage recommendations.
Please note that food supplements are not a substitute for a healthy and varied diet. Normally, the daily requirement of B vitamins can be covered without additional supplements.
We provide you with an overview of the daily intake recommended by the German Nutrition Society (DGE). (DGE) recommended daily intake of B vitamins for adults (16)
|vitamin B1 (thiamine)||1.1 - 1.3 mg (age-dependent)||1 mg|
|vitamin B2 (riboflavin)||1.3 - 1.4 mg (age-dependent)||1.0 - 1.1 mg (age-dependent)|
|vitamin B3 (niacin)||14 - 16 mg (age-dependent)||11 - 13 mg (age-dependent)|
|vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)||6 mg||6 mg|
|Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)||1.6 mg||1.4 mg|
|Vitamin B7 (biotin)||30 - 60 µg (age-dependent)||30 - 60 µg (age-dependent)|
|Vitamin B9 (folic acid)||300 µg||300 µg|
|Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)||4 µg||4 µg|
Different recommendations apply to infants, children, adolescents, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.
How can I recognise a vitamin B deficiency?
The main symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency include changes in blood and bone marrow cells (17). In addition, the following symptoms can be indications of a vitamin B deficiency (18)
- Tiredness and exhaustion
- decreased performance
- Concentration disorders
- cognitive impairment
- Spinal cord damage
Keep in mind, however, that the symptoms mentioned do not occur in all people. Furthermore, these symptoms can also indicate other physical complaints. They are therefore not necessarily due to a vitamin B deficiency.
If you suspect you have a vitamin B deficiency, you should contact your family doctor. He or she can diagnose a deficiency through a blood or urine test.
What are the alternatives to vitamin B complexes?
The following list shows you examples of foods that contain a particularly high amount of B vitamins:
- Vitamin B1: pork, wholemeal products, lentils, peas
- Vitamin B2: dairy products, fish, eggs, broccoli
- Vitamin B3: poultry, beef, mushrooms, potatoes
- Vitamin B5: liver, herring, milk, avocado
- Vitamin B6: poultry, beef, salmon, nuts
- Vitamin B7: soybeans, oatmeal, yeast, egg yolk
- Vitamin B9: spinach, chard, lamb's lettuce, tomatoes
- Vitamin B12: Pork, oysters, trout, cheese
Image source: rawpixel / 123rf
Hofmann-Aßmus, M (2011). Unerlässlich für den Stoffwechsel. Pharmazeutische Zeitung - Die Zeitschrift der deutschen Apotheker, Ausgabe 40/2011.
Ahmed, A. & Kothari, M. J. (2010). Recovery of Neurologic Dysfunction With Early Intervention of Vitamin B12. J Clin Neuromuscul Dis. 2010 Jun;11(4):198-202.
Okada, K et al. (2010). Methylcobalamin Increases Erk1/2 and Akt Activities Through the Methylation Cycle and Promotes Nerve Regeneration in a Rat Sciatic Nerve Injury Model. Exp Neurol. 2010 Apr;222(2):191-203
Stücker, M. et al. (2004). Topical Vitamin B12--a New Therapeutic Approach in Atopic Dermatitis-Evaluation of Efficacy and Tolerability in a Randomized Placebo-Controlled Multicentre Clinical Trial. Br J Dermatol. 2004 May;150(5):977-83.
Januchowski, R. (2009). Evaluation of Topical Vitamin B(12) for the Treatment of Childhood Eczema. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Apr;15(4):387-9.
Lit-Hung Leung, M. D. (1997). A Stone that Kills two Birds: How Pantothenic Acid Unveils the Mysteries of Acne Vulgaris and Obesity. Journal of Orthromolecular Medicine Vol. 2, 12 Nummer 2, 1997.
Kang, D. (2015). Vitamin B12 Modulates the Transcriptome of the Skin Microbiota in Acne Pathogenesis. Sci Transl Med. 2015 Jun 24;7(293):293ra103
Syed, E. U., Wasay M. & Awan, S. (2013). Vitamin B12 Supplementation in Treating Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Open Neurol J. 2013; 7: 44–48.
Almeida, O. P. (2010). B-vitamins Reduce the Long-Term Risk of Depression After Stroke: The VITATOPS-DEP Trial. Ann Neurol. 2010 Oct;68(4):503-10.
Moore, K. et al. (2019). B-vitamins in Relation to Depression in Older Adults Over 60 Years of Age: The Trinity Ulster Department of Agriculture (TUDA) Cohort Study. Volume 20, Issue 5, May 2019, Pages 551-557.e1.
Coppen, A. & Bolander-Gouaille, C. (2005). Treatment of Depression: Time to Consider Folic Acid and Vitamin B12. J Psychopharmacol. 2005 Jan;19(1):59-65.
Young, L. M. et al. (2019). A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of B Vitamin Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms, Anxiety, and Stress: Effects on Healthy and 'At-Risk' Individuals. Nutrients
. 2019 Sep 16;11(9):2232.
Smith, A. D. et al. (2010). Homocysteine-Lowering by B Vitamins Slows the Rate of Accelerated Brain Atrophy in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Randomized Controlled Trial. PLoS One. 2010; 5(9): e12244.
Vogiatzoglou, A. et al. (2008).Vitamin B12 Status and Rate of Brain Volume Loss in Community-Dwelling Elderly. Neurology. 2008 Sep 9;71(11):826-32.
Brasky, T. M., White, E. & Chen, C. (2017). Supplemental, One-Carbon Metabolism–Related Vitamin B Use in Relation to Lung Cancer Risk in the Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) Cohort. J Clin Oncol. 2017 Oct 20; 35(30): 3440–3448.
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e.V. (2020). Referenzwerte für die Nährstoffzufuhr.
Herrmann, W. & Obeid, R. (2008). Ursachen und frühzeitige Diagnostik von Vitamin-B12-Mangel. Deutsches Ärzteblatt Jg. 105, Heft 40, 3. Oktober 2008.
Deutsches Ärzteblatt (2017). Vitaminmangel: Jeder Vierte im Alter mit Vitamin B12 unterversorgt