By Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
Did you know?
B vitamins are a class of water-soluble vitamins that must constantly be supplied because they are eliminated from the body in the urine and cannot be stored. They are crucial for many things, including energy production, the neurological system, stress resistance, hormonal balance, liver detoxification and embryo development.
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. Here is why:
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 (more on homocysteine to come in a separate article).
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 Methyl folate) – some people may need more depending on their circumstances.
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 the reference to study at the end of this article in the 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 choose ‘folic acid as Methylfolate ‘ where possible.
Which foods provide us with these important B vitamins?
Chicken , turkey, oats, wheat germ, bananas, white fish, eggs, whole grains.
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.
Why not try……
A good way to 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
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