Hydrosoluble vitamins

Handb Clin Neurol. 2014;120:891-914. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-7020-4087-0.00059-0.


The hydrosoluble vitamins are a group of organic substances that are required by humans in small amounts to prevent disorders of metabolism. Significant progress has been made in our understanding of the biochemical, physiologic and nutritional aspects of the water-soluble vitamins. Deficiency of these particular vitamins, most commonly due to inadequate nutrition, can result in disorders of the nervous system. Many of these disorders have been successfully prevented in developed countries; however, they are still common in developing countries. Of the hydrosoluble vitamins, the nervous system depends the most on vitamins B and C (ascorbic acid) for proper functioning. The B group vitamins include thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin or niacinamide (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine or pyridoxal (vitamin B6) and cobalamin (vitamin B12). Clinical findings depend upon the deficiency of the underlying vitamin; generally, deficiency symptoms are seen from a combination rather than an isolated vitamin deficiency. True hereditary metabolic disorders and serious deficiency-associated diseases are rare and in general limited to particular geographic regions and high-risk groups. Their recognition is truly important as that determines the appropriate therapeutic management. The general availability of vitamins to practically everyone and several national health programs have saved many lives and prevented complications. However, there has been some apprehension for several decades about how harmless generous dosages of these vitamins are. Overt overdosages can cause vitamin toxicity affecting various body systems including the nervous system. Systemically, vitamin toxicity is associated with nonspecific symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and skin rash which are common with any acute or chronic vitamin overdose. At a national level, recommended daily allowances for vitamins become policy statements. Nutrition policy has far reaching implications in the food industry, in agriculture, and in food provision programs. Overall, water-soluble vitamins are complex molecular structures and even today, many areas of vitamin biochemistry still need to be explored. Many readers might be of the opinion that the classic forms of nutritional deficiency diseases have faded into the background of interesting history. This has caused their diverse symptoms to be neglected by most modern physicians since vitamin enrichment of many foods automatically erases them from their consideration in differential diagnosis. Vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiencies are discussed in other chapters.

Keywords: Korsakoff psychosis; Wernicke’s encephalopathy; beriberi pellagra; encephalopathy; niacin or niacinamide; pantothenic acid; polyneuropathy; pyridoxine or pyridoxal; riboflavin; thiamin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Avitaminosis* / complications
  • Avitaminosis* / genetics
  • Avitaminosis* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Neuroimaging
  • Vitamins* / classification


  • Vitamins