Reading Labels - B Vitamins

~ October 1997 No.19 ~

After you have read all the articles, done all the talking and made up your mind, the next step is to take the plunge and actually buy a nutraceutic product. As if the length of the shelf that holds such products in your drug or health food store is not intimidating enough, there is the product label. Legislation on labeling exists in most countries, but it seems that the rules were made to help the bureaucrats not the consumer.

The most important part of the label is usually the list of ingredients. In the case of vitamin pills the list may contain names that are well known, but not necessarily. Then there are always things in brackets. And finally the units of weight or concentration. It all can be very confusing unless you know what you are reading and what it means.

Unfortunately over the years many common vitamins have had different names. Some of the names are historical, some are related to the chemical properties of the vitamins and some are just names given by the discoverer of the vitamin. Below is a list of the fat soluble vitamins and some of the names that you might find on a vitamin pill bottle label. Vitamins are generally divided into two broad categories, water soluble vitamins and fat soluble vitamins, based on how well they dissolve in fat. This is a very important division because it is often related to how the particular vitamin is absorbed into to the body from the intestines.

Table 1: Vitamins B1
Other names :vitamin B1, antiberiberi factor
Forms found in vitamin supplements :thiamine hydrochloride or thiamine mononitrate.
Forms found in the body :thiamine purophosphate, thiamine orthophosphate
Units of concentration :µg or I.U. (International Units); 1 I.U. = 3 µg thiamine HCl
Toxicity :toxicity can occur who intakes exceed 125 mg / kg body weight


Riboflavin
Other names :Vitamin B2
Forms found in vitamin supplements :Riboflavin
Forms found in the body :riboflavin mononucleotide, riboflavin dinucleotide
Units of concentration :µg or mg
Toxicity :overdoses in man rare; excessive intake may cause itching, paresthesia


Table 3: Niacin
Other names :nicotinic acid, nicotinamide
Forms found in vitamin supplements :niacinamide
Forms found in the body :niacinamide, NAD, NADP
Units of concentration :mg (milligram)
Toxicity :can be toxic at high levels (1-4 g/kg body weight); causes burning, itching skin; decreased serum cholesterol; fatty liver; vasodilation of peripheral vessels; increased pulse rate; increased respiratory rate


  1. Reference

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July 20 2015