B-vitamins, renowned for their energy-boosting properties, may not be breaking news. But what you may not know is that these vitamins exist in various forms, both natural and synthetic. And the kinds you take as supplements can make a huge difference to their availability and activity in your body.
The synthetic B-group vitamins used in the majority of nutritional supplements suit the manufacturers. They are cheap, convenient to make into tablets or capsules, and remain stable for years. Unfortunately, they don’t suit your body, which doesn’t recognise them as the natural kinds found in foods. Your liver must convert these man-made substances into their active forms before they can do you any good – a process that varies between individuals and becomes less easy the older we get.
For instance, the only form of vitamin B6 that your cells can utilise is called pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P5P). But many B6 supplements contain the synthetic pyridoxine hydrochloride. Although this form of the vitamin is rapidly absorbed, your liver then has to start the hard job of converting it to P5P. It’s the same with B2, B12 and folate. The synthetic versions in most supplements are useless unless you are able to convert them into the natural molecules your body cells need.
These active forms of B vitamins act as coenzymes in chemical reactions within your cells. That is to say, they function together with enzymes that your body produces, to enable vital processes to be carried out that keep you alive and healthy. Because B vitamins are water-soluble, they cannot be stored in the body and are quickly flushed out in the urine. For this reason, a good daily intake of these nutrients is absolutely essential.
Now, a new generation of vitamin B supplements is available in the UK. Natural Factors ‘biocoenzymated formulas’ contain the active, coenzyme forms of vitamins B6, B2, B12 and folate. These bioactive molecules are combined with a supporting complex of nutrients from more than 40 vegetables, fruits, herbs, blue-green algae and seaweeds. In each case, the result is a synergistic, food-state, phytochemical formula that delivers the most metabolically active B vitamins to your cells, quickly and effectively.
Taking ‘biocoenzymated’ vitamin B6 could halve your risk of colon cancer
The three Natural Factors biocoenzymated formulas currently available are pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P5P, vitamin B6), riboflavin-5-phosphate (R5P, vitamin B2) and Methylfolate Plus Methylcobalamin (folate combined with B12). These key B vitamins, which may well be lacking in your diet, could help to stave off cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, diabetes and cancer and give an instant boost to your health.
P5P alone has been linked with numerous health benefits, but studies have shown that many people are deficient in this essential vitamin.1 Over-reliance on processed foods, being elderly, smoking, taking prescription medications or having liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes can all make P5P deficiency more likely.
Low levels of P5P have been linked with increases in homocysteine and C-reactive protein, two blood markers that could predict heart attack risk more accurately than LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol.2
Not having enough of this active P5P form of vitamin B6 can also result in chronic inflammation in the body, a condition that lies at the root of many degenerative diseases.3 For instance, there seems to be a close relationship between P5P and colon cancer. One study found that an increase of 100-pmol/ml in the blood – the difference between a deficiency and an adequate level – slashed the risk of this deadly disease by an amazing 50 per cent.4 P5P could even give your brain a boost. In a study of elderly people with high homocysteine levels, it was found to significantly improve cognitive function.5
When it comes to vitamin B2, the active R5P form is vital for combatting oxidative stress, the damage caused by free radicals, which contribute to ageing and disease. R5P is not only an antioxidant in its own right, it’s also needed for the body to produce glutathione, its ‘master antioxidant’, and for the production of antioxidant enzymes, such as superoxide dismutase.6
Studies have shown that R5P helps prevent a wide range of health problems and diseases, such as migraines, anaemia, cataracts, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer.7 In a major European study, women with the highest blood levels of R5P had a 45 per cent lower risk of breast cancer than those with the lowest levels.8
These natural forms of B12 and folate could help stave off cognitive decline
The third product in the Natural Factors biocoenzymated formulas range is Methylfolate Plus Methylcobalamin, a combination of natural forms of folate and vitamin B12. Unlike the synthetic versions contained in most supplements, these are ‘ready to go’ and don’t need an uncertain and often inefficient conversion process in your liver.
Like P5P, Methylfolate Plus Methylcobalamin could help reduce your chances of cardiovascular disease, since vitamins B6, B12 and folate work in harmony to reduce levels of homocysteine, a known risk factor for atherosclerosis.9 In a clinical trial, supplementing with the natural form of folate, called 5-MTHF, significantly reduced high homocysteine levels after just two months.10
Some of the most important research findings on folate and vitamin B12 relate to their ability to delay cognitive decline and to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. A recent review of clinical trials concluded that supplementation with folate, together with vitamin B12 and/or B6 not only helps put the brakes on cognitive decline in elderly patients but also slows down changes in the brain that accompany full-blown Alzheimer’s.11
Diabetics could also benefit from these cutting-edge supplements. In one clinical trial, a combination of P5P, methylfolate and methylcobalamin reduced symptoms of peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage associated with high blood sugar levels) by an impressive 35 per cent after 12 weeks of supplementation.12
What to take for best results
These Natural Factors biocoenzymated formulas are one-a-day supplements that are easy to take. Simply swallow one vegetarian capsule of P5P and one of R5P with a glass of water and take one chewable tablet of Methylfolate Plus Methylcobalamin.
People who are taking prescription medication or undergoing treatment for any health condition are advised to talk to their doctor before using