Vitamin B Complex and Blood Pressure

The B Complex vitamins play an important part in maintaining optimum health in the human body.  There are a number different subtypes of Vitamin B and today I am going to see which of the 8 have a role in helping to control blood pressure.

It seems that the B group vitamins are aptly named ‘Complex‘ because, unlike merely dealing with a single vitamin, we have 8 different subtypes to sort out here.  Some have a direct role in helping to regulate blood pressure, whilst others come at it indirectly by supporting healthy cholesterol and good metabolism. And, to add more spice to the pot, a combination of some of the B vitamins works even more effectively than taking them on their own.

So let’s take a look at unraveling this “complex” situation.


The B Complex roll call

As mentioned there are 8 subclasses of Vitamin B, so here’s a quick overview of them all and how they help the body function properly.

Vitamin B list

chart courtesy Wikipedia

Vitamin B Complex Benefits

  • THIAMIN (B1) – Essential for normal function of muscles, nervous system and energy release from carbs.
  • RIBOFLAVIN (B2) – Essential for proper energy metabolism, healthy eyes and skin and production of red blood cells.
  • NIACIN (B3) – Helps control blood pressure due to improved circulation and cholesterol regulation, stimulates energy production from foods, maintains normal digestive processes and supports mental function.  Deficiency of B3 can lead to certain skin diseases such as Pellagra
  • PANTOTHENIC ACID (B5) – Maintains healthy digestive tract by supporting other vitamin processes, and plays a role in the breakdown of fats and carbs to provide energy.  Helps normal function of the adrenal glands which promotes healthy metabolism.
  • PYRIDOXINE  (B6) – Supports proper functioning of many enzymes, balancing of blood sugar levels and production of red blood cells.  Also promotes breakdown of proteins and production of anti-bodies.  Helps protect cardiovascular system.
  • BIOTIN (B7) – Beneficial for the metabolism of carbs and fats.  Assists with use of glucose in the body and aids in maintenance of healthy hair and skin.
  • FOLIC ACID (B9) – Important for reproductive health and proliferation of red blood cells.  Helps proper bowel function and prevention of stroke and heart disease
  • COBALAMIN (B12) – Is active in the metabolism of every cell in the body.  It plays a key role in the normal functioning of the brain, the nervous system, and in the formation of blood.

So it soon becomes clear how important the B Complex vitamins are in the optimal functioning of the human body.




Does Niacin affect blood pressure?

When considering the roles of each Vitamin B above, Niacin or Vitamin B3 stands out most obviously as the one which should directly be able to lower BP.  The effects of Niacin are as a vaso-dilator, or blood vessel opener which then allows the blood to flow more freely around the body, consequently putting less pressure on the arteries and other blood vessels and lowering blood pressure.

It also promotes the production of good cholesterol (HDL) whilst lowering the bad cholesterol (LDL) which is associated with a reduced risk of the development of cardiovascular disease.

So it may be the one to start with if you are deciding to try supplementation … but there are a couple of cautions to be aware of:

  1. Niacin tends to cause a rather unpleasant flushing effect, especially of the face and neck which eventually goes away but can be quite uncomfortable, as the areas affected feel warm and skin turns pink. It is not harmful but taking it on an empty stomach will intensity the flushing effect, so this is definitely best avoided.
    My advice is to start with a low dose (100mg) and gradually increase according to tolerance.  Or you can purchase flush-free Niacin to avoid the unpleasant flushing altogether.
  2. If planning on using Niacin in conjunction with other prescription medications professional advice from your physician should always be sought first.  For instance, taking Niacin with cholesterol lowering drugs (statins) can have adverse effects on the to liver.

An interesting study I came across flagged the use of Vitamin B2, or RIBOFLAVIN as a means of lowering blood pressure in 10% of the population who are struggling with hypertension.  However, this “one in ten” statistic which the study cites are those people who have a specific genetic cause of the high blood pressure – the so-called MTHFR 677TT genotype.

In America about 25% of people who are Hispanic and 10-15% of people who are Caucasian have been found to have 2 of this genotype which stops the body from manufacturing the enzyme needed to break down homocysteine. This puts them at an increased rate of certain health issues, including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

So this is significant since the findings of the research demonstrated that, as the leader of the study Dr Helen Mc Nulty stated:

quote

Anyone who has thus developed hypertension where it can be related to having this genotype will find this study very encouraging and worth further investigation.


Mixing them up!

In the YouTube video below we have the example of how taking  three B vitamins together can lead to a reduction of blood pressure.  The B vitamins involved are B6 – pyridoxine, B9 – folate and B12 – Cobalamin.  Of interest here is the fact that the protocol which the narrator has devised depends very much upon the correct combination of the vitamins, as you will see.

A point of caution to the message in this video is that taking some combinations of B vitamins to lower BP may not deliver the desired results if they lead to an imbalance overall in the levels of the B Vitamins in the body.

Further investigation led me to some important information about older people who may be suffering from low blood pressure.  In this case they were  able to elevate their BP to safer levels by taking Vitamin B12 supplementation.

So, here we have an example where a significant increase in B12 could very well end up raising blood pressure too much in some individuals. And the presenter in the video appears to have run across a similar situation when he combined B9 and B12, but was missing the B6.




The implementation of B complex vitamins supplementation to help lower blood pressures is indeed trickier than I had first anticipated.  It appears that some of the B vitamin complex can have a positive effect on blood pressure, but care has to be taken in how your combine them and to ensure that no individual vitamin B deficiency results from the combination of the others.

One of the best ways to avoid a vitamin B deficiency is to eat a healthy, unprocessed diet – preferably organic – which includes milk, yeast, liver, whole-grain cereals, nuts, eggs, yogurt, fruits, meats and plenty of leafy vegetables.

And, since the B vitamins are water soluble and need to be replenished daily, I don’t see any harm in taking a good quality B Complex vitamin daily as well.

That in itself should help manage the BP readings.  But if not, well then I might just be tempted to try and boost the specific B vitamins I mentioned earlier in the article, just knowing that some experimentation could be required to gain the desired results.

2 Comments

  1. Trudy Nord

    Wanted to leave a comment in reference to niacin. I have a sensitivity to taking niacin by itself. A 50 mg dose caused me to stop breathing resulting in my father-in-law having to perform CPR on me. The only way I can take this is in a lower dose, niacinamide @ 20 mg., combined in a multiple and not as a stand alone form. 100 mg seems like a really high dose, but I am no doctor. Just saying from personal experience. It was scary to say the least. Niacin can be dangerous to some people if not taken properly.

    Reply
    1. Nick (Post author)

      From the literature I looked at a typical daily dosage for Niacin ranges from 250mg (starter dose) up to as much as 500mg daily. Having felt the unpleasant effects of Niacin flushing myself is why my recommendation of 100mg was lower. This pales in comparison to your very scary experience, of course. You do raise a really good point, Trudy – namely that for some of us these dosage amounts can be just too strong. This may be due to a sensitivity or an intolerance towards the substance, medical condition, interaction with other medications/supplements or some other factor. Regardless it is a very important consideration to be aware of, and so your comment on this matter is much appreciated.

      Reply

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