B vitamins have an important role in changing carbohydrates, protein and fat to energy. Vitamin B6 also works together with the mineral iron to stabilise levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that, if raised, can increase the risk of heart disease. Vitamin B6 is assisted by vitamin B12 and folate.
Vitamin B12 is also important for healthy blood and nerves. Together, folate and vitamin B12 contribute to the making and functioning of our genetic material (DNA), so they impact every cell in the body.
Most B vitamins have a number and a name. We have used the most common term for each, but you may see either, or both, on food packaging.
B vitamins need to be eaten daily as they are not stored in the body, but used as required. Any B vitamins that we don’t need are flushed out through our urine, so it is difficult to consume too much of them. Deficiencies of most B vitamins are rare in New Zealand, as adequate amounts are available in everyday foods, and supplements are rarely necessary. The exceptions to this are folate and vitamin B12 (as detailed below).
To learn more about the specific recommendations, search for the specific B vitamin on the Nutrient Reference Value website.
* Not all brands of breakfast cereals and yeast extracts are fortified with B vitamins. Check the ingredients list of the brand you choose.
**Some bread in New Zealand with the exception of organic and non-yeast leavened bread are fortified with folic acid. Check the ingredient list to determine if it is present in your bread of choice (Ministry of Health, 2021).
Ministry of Health (2021) Folate/Folic acid. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
National Health and Medical Research Council (Australia) and Ministry of Health (New Zealand) (2018) Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand: B12.
Last reviewed: 21/06/2022
Last modified: August 16, 2023