By Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
Many people often know the names of vitamins and minerals but don’t know what they do in the body or which foods contain them. Over the coming weeks we are going to look at some of the key vitamins and minerals in a little more depth, which foods contain them and why they are needed for general health and fertility
B vitamins are a group of water-soluble vitamins which are excreted and not stored in the body and so they need to be continuously replaced. They are essential for energy production, the nervous system, resilience to stress, hormonal balance, support liver detoxification and embryo development…. and more!
Which B vitamins are important in relation to fertility?
There are eight B vitamins — collectively called B complex vitamins. They are thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12).
In relation to fertility the vitamins B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folate) and B12 (cobalamin) are important.
Vitamin B6 is crucial in maintaining hormone balance and in the formation of prostaglandins, red blood cells and chemical transmitters. It is also involved in the formation of proteins and helps to maintain the correct homocysteine levels in the blood.
Vitamin B9 (folate) is needed for the formation of DNA and is involved in cell division. It is important for the developing embryo and has been linked to reducing the risk of neural tube damage in the foetus. It is recommended that women planning to conceive take 400mcg of folic acid per day (ideally in the form of Methylfolate).
Vitamin B12 is important in cell replication, metabolism and maintaining homocysteine levels in the blood.
In studies it has been discovered that individuals with higher serum levels of both folate and Vitamin B12 may be more likely to conceive and give birth. Implantation may be more successful in women with higher serum B12. Fertilisation rates in Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) may be higher and losses of successfully implanted embryos may be lower. Please see reference to study at the end of this article in further reading section if you wish to read more.
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate. Folic acid has to go through a number of biochemical conversions before our body can use it and before it can support a process called methylation. Some people have a genetic mutation which can mean that they don’t do those conversions very well – check the label on your supplement and go for folic acid as Methylfolate where possible.
Which foods provide us with these important B vitamins?
Chicken ,turkey, oats, wheatgerm, bananas, white fish, eggs, wholegrains.
Vitamin B9 (folate)
Green leafy vegetables, bananas, peas, oranges, brown rice, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, broccoli, brussel sprouts.
Milk, meat, cheese, fish, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals.
Did you know?
You can top up your vitamin B6 by sprinkling some nuts and seeds onto your yoghurt and fruit or over a salad. When it comes to folate – think foliage! So add those green leafy veg such as watercress, spinach and kale into a soup or salad, and for Vitamin B12 – start your day off with a boiled or poached egg and you have all the vitamin B12 that you need for the day!
Gaskins AJ, Chiu Y-H, Williams PL, et al. Association between serum folate and vitamin B-12 and outcomes of assisted reproductive technologies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2015;102(4):943-950. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.112185.
Serapinas, Boreikaite, Bartkeviciute, Bandzeviciene R3, Silkunas M2, BartkevicieneThe importance of folate, vitamins B6 and B12 for the lowering of homocysteine concentrations for patients with recurrent pregnancy loss and MTHFR mutations. Reprod Toxicol. 2017 Sep;72:159-163. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2017.07.001. Epub 2017 Jul 6