Spotlight: B vitamins 

No, I’m not talking about the ones that are stuffed into an overpriced plastic container in pill form that boast of having ALL the essential vitamins.

Nor the ones advertised as ‘ARE YOU UGLY AND DON’T HAVE NICE HAIR?’




I’m talking about the ones in SIMPLE food. Food that certainly doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg (no activated charcoal here)!

Back to basics

Vitamin B is one of the WATER soluble vitamins, this means that an excess is excreted in the urine (so generally, they aren’t toxic).

Water soluble vitamins are thus: NOT STORED, with the exception of B12- Coablamin.

The vitamin B complex is the broad term for the 8 major B vitamins, all of which are essential in the diet.

I’m not going to cover all 8 here because seriously;

no one cares.


So I’ll get right to it; (the important stuff).

The B Vitamins, in layman terms; have the principal role of making sure you extract energy from your macronutrients- fat, protein and carbs.

I know this image just makes you want to hate life (it sure made me think so). But have a look, these are the co enzymes of the B-vitamin complex. In each bubble you’ll most likely see a  TPP,FAD or NAD (these are the first 3 B vitamin co-enzymes derived from the vitamins I mentioned earlier – Vitamin B1,B2 and B3 respectively)
This just highlights the sheer IMPORTANCE of these little vitamins in our lives. Glycogen being converted intoglucose and then

pyruvate on the left via Glycolysis. Triglycerides and fatty acids entering the TCA as the 2 carbon CoA in the middle,

and Proteins transaminating to amino acids and entering the TCA on the right.

If you are deficient in a certain co-enzyme you can slow this whole reaction down – you’ll NEVER stop the TCA, that’s impossible and would mean you’d be dead.

B what

Vitamin B1,B2 and B3 are my chosen vitamins of choice, I could go all the way to B12, but we both know that’s not going to happen.

  • B1   = Thiamine

  • B2   = Riboflavin 

  • B3   = Niacin 

That’s a mouthful already right

Where can I found them & how much do I need?! 

Don’t buy overpriced pills, eat some bread instead!

I won’t give you an intense encyclopedia on the foods that contain the highest amounts of B1,B2,B3 etc… But I will give you a basic understanding of cheap and healthy food that will give you what you need.

  • B1   = Thiamine

Now, B1 is really easy to get your hands on. If you live in Australia (yay) or NZ, the food industry has actually FORTIFIED many staples of grain to be enriched with B1; Including bread, cereals and pasta.

Nuts and Soymilk are also a relatively good source of B1. One 85g lean Porkchop has over 90% of the RDI for thiamine (making it an excellent source) So unless you’re on some intense diet without carbohydrate you’ll probably be meeting this without thinking about it.

This was the only image I could find with a moderate amount of vegetables, I’d be happier if the salad made up 3/4 of the plate and the pork was a quarter of the size and not barbecued… but hey; beggars can’t be choosers.


Was just doing some research on the side, and found that drinking loads of tea >1L a day can hinder your ability to adequately absorb B1 by interacting with the tannin compounds (1). I know this won’t affect many of you but just thought i’d point it out.

Ah tannins, responsible for that so called ‘tannic’ flavour in your mouth after you have some tea – bitter and tart.
  • B2   = Riboflavin 

Another important vitamin in the metabolism of energy, remember FAD? If you don’t I don’t blame you, it’s boring AF. 

The highest concentrations of B2 are found in animal sources, especially liver (with over 150% RDI in an 85g fried serve).

Mmm, not that appetizing in truth is it? Though it does boast some EXCELLENT health benefits.

Not a fan? try some yogurt or eggs instead. If you simply can’t do that, fortified breads and cereals will also give you an adequate shot of Riboflavin goodness.

And for those… Gluten-free,Organic, Vegan, Frutarian, (whatever I’ve missed) try 2 and a half cups of mushrooms or 11 bananas, that should do the trick.

  • B3   = Niacin 

Another one which is relatively easy to get into you without noticing. Nician can transaminate with Tryptophan (it’s an a-amino acid), so if you’re ever too low or too high in one or the other they’ll balance each other out (the body is amazing right?).

Fun fact, since Christmas has just passed us… If you’re anything like me; you would have stuffed your gob with turkey a few days past and fallen into the deepest sleep ever?

It’s widely (and wrongly) accepted that tryptophan induces sleep, and for some reason… people associate tryptophan levels to be particularly high in turkey.

A common misconception, it’s like the nutritious MYTHBUSTERS!
However studies have shown that tryptophan levels in the big bird are actually not significantly different to that of other poultry! (2)

“Paradoxically, what probably makes people sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner is…dessert,” he adds, “Eating carbohydrates increases brain serotonin in spite of the fact that there is no tryptophan in carbohydrates” Ballantyne, 2016

So it’s not the turkey – but the trifle, that takes you onto the fast shuttle to snoozeville, post Christmas lunch.

The more you know right?

Niacin is found in…. like the above, fortified breads and cereals (you’d probably now know why you feel so lethargic without carbs – Carbs contain alot of the B-vitamins).

It’s also found in meat sources such as chicken breast, tuna and liver.

Veg lovers don’t worry, mushrooms and peanut butter also have a good hit of the stuff, you just need 2 cups of cooked mushies or 2 tbs of Pb.

The NRV’s (Nutrient Reference values) from the Australian Dietary guide will give you a brief overview on how much of each B vitamin you need daily. Ugh does that mean I need to click the link?

So much effort.

It’s alright guys, I’ve condensed a table for you all.

Courtesy of the Australian and NZ NRV guide
*already you can run into some confusion with this table (Damnit! why does Nutrition have to be so complicated!).

Two different terms:

RDI: or Recommended Dietary intake, RDI is centered around an average adult. Of course this value changes depending on such a host of different factors that it’s moreso a average framework rather than a set-in-stone guideline.


AI: or Adequate Intake: AI measures the adequate intake for the health and well being of at least 50% of the population.

You’ll also notice the measures: ug and mg 


The latter is Miligrams the former is Micrograms! the difference between 1mg and 1 ug is 1000 units! You don’t want to be eating 100ox the recommended intake of the vitamin because…. well, for one it’s a waste. Secondly, (rarely) you could get a toxicity by ingesting that much.


Deficiencies : (now the interesting stuff!)

  • B1 deficiency can be nasty on the body to say the least. The deficiency itself can manifest as the condition known as ‘Beri-Beri‘.

And it can certainly be…. Beri Beri bad

I’m sorry, that was terrible.

There’s two forms of Beri beri that can be diagnosed;

Wet Beri beri or Dry Beri-beri.

The former causes weakening of the circulatory capillaries leading to odema (swelling of the tissues with fluid) due to the reduction of oncotic pressure at the venous end.  Patients may have increased heart rate, confusion and labored breathing (as milder symptoms).

Odema in the left arm, note the significant change in size. This is purely due to a build-up of fluid. 
Dry beri-beri is associated with nerve parenthesis (losing the sense of touch or pain), Emancipation and difficulty walking, talking or breathing.

Similar in appearance to those campaign adverts you see on television regarding malnourished  children right?
Because this particular vitamin is most abundant in carbohydrate rich sources, first world countries do not often see persons afflicted with Beri-Beri.

In the first world it’s  much more common to see conditions such as Wernikie’s Encephalopathy or WKS; in persons who are chronic alcoholics. Chronic Alcohol abuse can actually diminish the body’s stores of B1 and over time and can cause symptoms shadowing that of Beri-beri.


  • B2 deficiency can manifest itself as Arabinflavinosis;

A scary dermal condition which can effect your eyes, skin and practically anything on the outside of your organs – reports of anemia have also been documented in these individuals.

B2 deficiency is often observed in the poorer provenices of  south east Asia or Africa – where corn, rice or potatoes are the main carbohydrate source of the population.

Chelosis at the corners of the mouth, common in Arabinflavinosis. We’ve all experienced this atleast once right? Credit: vitaminstore

Fun fact: want a party in your toilet?

 No… Not the type you were thinking; 

An excess consumption of B2 produces fluorescent urine!   (I’m not saying to go do it for the lols by the way 

literally…. credit wikipedia

  • B3 (and to a lesser extent tryptophan) deficiency is witnessed as Pallagra. 

Pellagra can manifest itself as a particularly severe deficiency. Usually characterized by the three D’s: Dementia, Diarrhea and, (left untreated) Dermatitis. 

I call it ‘Sandman disease’ because patients can develop sandpaper like skin, the consistency of which eventually turns a grey-blue- black colour.

Since NAD (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) and it’s phosphorolated version NADP are the cofactors of Nicain – a deficiency in Nician would lead to the eventual decline of all NAD available to the body. NAD is an EXTREMELY important co-enzyme in the body’s metabolism (remember that really ugly diagram)? NAD was practically everywhere.

So what’s it like to have Pallagra? 

Credit: Itg, 2016
Imagine yourself with a inflamed beefy tongue that hurts when you talk, large angry scabs appearing everywhere on your body. Your constantly tired- but unable to sleep, hence you’re going to naturally be pissed all the time. You’re also now very sensitive to sunlight and you’re losing your hair. And to top it all off, you’re losing the ability to perform simple co-ordinated movements and eventually forget who you are and what you’re doing.

Doesn’t sound that great does it? 

Final thoughts

I think the main thing I wanted to emphasize in this post was the importance of having a balanced diet. Like I mentioned; it’s very uncommon to see these conditions in first world countries such as the US, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and parts of Asia. But they still exist to remind us of the importance of meeting those RDI values.

——- Anna Freeman, student Dietitian ——


1. BALLANTYNE, C.Does Turkey Make You Sleepy?

In-text: (Ballantyne, 2016)

allantyne, C. (2016). Does Turkey Make You Sleepy?. Scientific American. Retrieved 1 January 2016, from


Thiamine (Vitamin B1): MedlinePlus Supplements

Chemicals in coffee and tea called tannins can react with thiamine, converting it to a form that is difficult for the body to take in. This could lead to thiamine deficiency.

In-text: (, 2016),. (2016). Thiamine (Vitamin B1): MedlinePlus Supplements. Retrieved 1 January 2016, from


Nutrient Reference Values | Nutrient Reference Values

In-text: (, 2015),. (2015). Nutrient Reference Values | Nutrient Reference Values. Retrieved 1 January 2016, from


Illustrated Lecture Notes on Tropical Medicine – Pellagra

In-text: (, 2016),. (2016). Illustrated Lecture Notes on Tropical Medicine – Pellagra. Retrieved 6 January 2016, from


ariboflavinosis, (, 2016).,. (2016). ariboflavinosis. Retrieved 6 January 2016, from


Low fat? It’s actually making you fat

So I was at Uni the other day and just casually talking to one of my closest friends about diets over coffee. How we keep in shape and such, when we stumbled along the topic of nutritional contents of foods.

Now talking about this stuff with people is my passion, absolutely love it. And I’m always surprised at how little the majority knows about nutritional contents of food when they’ve been bombarded by millions of health messages each day.

Well here’s the comparison, she asked why she had stayed at this persistant weight when we both go to the gym, probably 5-7 days a week. We do high intensity cardiac workouts for around an hour before heading home.

So excersise wasn’t the issue here. I turned instead to her diet,

She eats well but has a knack for going for ‘low fat’, high protein foods.

See  things such as; tuna, rice crackers, low fat yoghurt and emphasises minimal carbs.

Compared to myself; 

I eat a whole range of carbs (possibly 5+ serves daily), proteins (only fish and legume based), a few serves of diary and an emphasis on vegetables.

The crucial difference?

  • She has BMI of 25
  • I have one of 20

Sure, she’s still considered ‘healthy’ for her weight and height. She is still regarded on the outer parameters of ‘healthy’.

Now the literature, if you’re familiar with the Atkins diet for instance will tell you about all these trials of people substituting low fat and carb for high protein , emphasising weight loss.

And you’re probably moreso familiar with the seemingly endless meatheads that seem to amass on the bench press machines at the gym like barnacles attached to a ship hull.

Another obvious highlight is, it seems they are never far from those ghastly fluroscently coloured liquids known as ‘protein shakes’.

Do you notice a crucial difference here though?

On the whole;

  • MEN want to GAIN WEIGHT
  • WOMEN want to LOSE it
  • And BOTH genders are integrating  high protein into  these diets hoping that it will achieve their goals.

More often than not, which of the sexes is it that we see with the visible results?

  • MEN.

Fair and simple, muscle mass weighs more than fat. We all know that.

I bet you didn’t know that you only need 15-25% of your dietry energy intake  to be sourced from protein.

15%-25% that’s actually tiny. And that 25% is only relative to those of us doing insane amounts of excersise and a high need for protein for muscle repair. Most of us should be aiming for  the15% mark.

Women in fact need LESS protein then men. to work out how much protein you need daily

If you’re a female;

  • .75(amount of protein in grams) multiplied by (your weight in kilograms)

So for instance;

I am 62 kgs

  • . 75 * 62kg

= 42.5g

I only need 43GRAMS of protein a day.

Do you know how much 43grams is worth weight wise?

  • Half a bar of soap
  • The size of a standard chocolate bar
  • 5 mushrooms.

And do you know the best part?

When you eat an excess, (that’s anything over 43g for me)


This is because your body has this thing called the amino acid pool, contrary to belief, exess proteins are NOT stored as muscle, they’re broken down like any macronutrient and released to provide energy.

And your body can only absorb so much. It’s like sugar, you only need 120g of glucose daily to maintain brain function. You can get that from 2 slices of bread.

Which beings me to my next point, how about low fat?

Hah.If you believe low fat what’s going to change your life around, check again.  I BET MY LIFE THAT YOU CAN GO PICKUP ANY LOW FAT (not including artificially sweetened) MANUFACTURED FOOD….SUCH AS NATURAL YOGHURT.

  4. GASP

IF you did it correctly the sugar content should be significantly higher in the ‘low fat’ example.

Another consideration,

‘Low fat’ has only been a recent integration into our lives. 70 years ago, there was NO such thing as fat free milk or reduced fat margarine. And you’d think that being absolutely bombarded by the incursion of these items into our society would atleast FORCE people to lose weight.

So why hasn’t it?

It’s really simple,


Why is fat given such a bad Rep??? It’s ESSENTIAL for life! Ever heard of vitamin D?

Yeah you need FAT to break that down so you can absorb it properly!

Vitamin A?

As a kid you were probably bombarded by your parents telling you;

Eat your carrots Sarah! So you can see in the dark!

Guess what, you need FAT  to absorb those beta caritinoids to make you get those benefits!

EVERY SINGLE CELL that makes up who you are has a membrane, a covering of sorts; to keep things protected inside.


Now sugar, what can you POSSIBLY achieve with sugar.


Nothing else. No nutrients, no vitamins, no breakdown of anything.

And what happens if you eat too much energy?

It gets stored, AS FAT.

So why don’t I just eat heaps of sugar Anna? Because logically that will just turn into fat anyway, and my body can absorb all those things right?


A lot of dietry sourced fat, such as omega-3, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids CANT be synthesised through ‘sugary fats’ as I call them.

Classic example, marshmallows.

 Commonly labelled ‘low fat‘, whilst that may be true, look at the sugar content.

I guarentee. YOU WILL DIE QUICKER eating a diet of marshmallows, then  a diet based purely of avocados.

So keep it in mind next time you’re browsing through your local supermarket.

Do I want to live a low life?

Look no further than Low fat. 

——- Anna Freeman, student Dietitian ——