B vitamins are nutrients that play essential roles in your body. There are eight water-soluble B vitamins plus choline, which is a vitamin-like compound that’s often grouped with B vitamins due to its similar effects on the body.
The eight B vitamins are:
- B1 (thiamine)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B5 (pantothenic acid)
- B6 (pyridoxine)
- B7 (biotin)
- B9 (folate)
- B12 (cobalamin)
The role of vitamins in stroke prevention has been studied for decades. Folate and cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12) are important regulators of the metabolism of homocysteine. Studies have shown that low levels of these factors are associated with elevation of homocysteine in the blood. Hyperhomocysteinemia has been associated with premature atherosclerosis with an increased risk of cardiovascular events. On the basis of epidemiological studies, clinicians and scientists expected that homocysteine-lowering therapy (HLT) with appropriate doses of folic acid, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12 supplementation would reduce the incident risk of cardiovascular diseases (including stroke).
In addition to their role in metabolism and in maintaining healthy skin and hair, B vitamins have been linked to a lower incidence of stroke, a condition in which a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain, or a blood vessel bursts in the brain. A review of randomized clinical trials that lasted six months or longer revealed that vitamin B supplements lowered risk of stroke by 7 percent for a large group of more than 50,000 participants. The study was authored by Xu Yuming and colleagues from Zhengzhou, China, and published in the September 2013 issue of the clinical journal Neurology.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the lesser-known factors that can contribute to stroke risk.
Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient found in several types of food. Nutritional deficiency has long been known to cause health problems, particularly in children and pregnant women. It turns out that not getting enough vitamin B12 can contribute to stroke among people of all ages, and it can lead to an increased risk of stroke among children and pregnant women as well.
The link between vitamin B12 deficiency and stroke involves a multi-step process.
Nutritional deficiencies of folic acid, B vitamins, and especially vitamin B12, cause an increase of a chemical called homocysteine. Excessive homocysteine creates two problems; one of these problems is inflammation of the blood vessels and the other problem is a process called oxidative stress.
Inflammation is a major contributor to stroke. Inflammation is the buildup of white blood cells that are intended to fight infection. But the unnecessary inflammation that is associated with vitamin B12 deficiency results in damage to the blood vessels and excess deposits inside the blood vessels. This buildup can ultimately lead to interruption of normal blood flow in the brain — which is a stroke.
Therefore, vitamin B12 deficiency can be the culprit in a cascade of stroke-inducing physiological events.
B complex supplements contain a combination of B vitamins. Some contain all eight, while others provide just a few. Plus, some contain vitamin-B-like nutrients, such as choline and inositol, a type of carbohydrate that was once considered a B vitamin
Although many foods contain B vitamins, a variety of factors, including age, diet, genetic variations, and certain health conditions can increase your need for B vitamins or negatively affect how you absorb B vitamins.
Many populations, including vegans, those with certain genetic mutations, older adults, people with certain medical conditions, pregnant and breastfeeding women, people on certain medications, and people with substance use disorder, may need a B complex supplement.
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