The B-vitamins comprise a group of eight water soluble vitamins that perform essential, closely inter-related roles in cellular functioning, acting as co-enzymes in a vast array of catabolic and anabolic enzymatic reactions. Their collective effects are particularly prevalent to numerous aspects of brain function, including energy production, DNA/RNA synthesis/repair, genomic and non-genomic methylation, and the synthesis of numerous neurochemicals and signaling molecules. However, human epidemiological and controlled trial investigations, and the resultant scientific commentary, have focused almost exclusively on the small sub-set of vitamins (B9/B12/B6) that are the most prominent (but not the exclusive) B-vitamins involved in homocysteine metabolism. Scant regard has been paid to the other B vitamins. This review describes the closely inter-related functions of the eight B-vitamins and marshals evidence suggesting that adequate levels of all members of this group of micronutrients are essential for optimal physiological and neurological functioning. Furthermore, evidence from human research clearly shows both that a significant proportion of the populations of developed countries suffer from deficiencies or insufficiencies in one or more of this group of vitamins, and that, in the absence of an optimal diet, administration of the entire B-vitamin group, rather than a small sub-set, at doses greatly in excess of the current governmental recommendations, would be a rational approach for preserving brain health.
Keywords: biotin; brain; coenzyme; folate; homocysteine; niacin; pantothenic acid; riboflavin; thiamin; vitamin.