A study conducted through Kings College, London, and published online August 21 in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism found that supplementing B complex vitamins in patients with symptoms of alcohol-related polyneuropathy, disorder involving dysfunction of the peripheral nerves, effectively reduced their symptoms.
The study was a multi-center, double blind, placebo-controlled trial including 325 patients with symptoms of alcoholic polyneuropathy. Subjects received one of three treatments: (1) a vitamin B complex of vitamins B1, B2, B6 and B12; (2) a similar vitamin B complex with the addition of folic acid; and (3) placebo. Patients took their assigned formula three times daily during a 12-week trail. At the end of the intervention, patients treated with either of the vitamin B complex formulas showed significant improvement in vibration perception threshold, pain intensity, sensory function and reflex responses as compared to placebo. The addition of folic acid did not appear to increase the effectiveness of the treatment.
The Vitamin B complex is a set of 12 related water-soluble bio-chemicals. Eight are considered vitamins, by virtue of needing to be included in the diet, while four are not because the body can synthesize them. Since they are water-soluble, most are not stored by the body and must be replenished on a daily basis. The eight vitamins have names and corresponding numbers: Vitamins B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid), and B12 (cobalamin). (Numbers that have been skipped were found to be duplicate substances or non-vitamins.) The four unnumbered components of the B complex that can be synthesized by the body are choline, inositol, PABA, and lipoic acid.
The B vitamins have a wide range of functions. First, B vitamins are vital to the body in converting nutrients into energy. They are necessary for maintenance of the myelin sheath, the covering of nerve cells, the breakdown of which is the cause of devastating neurological symptoms. Three B vitamins, folic acid, pyridoxine, and cobalamin, work together to keep homocysteine levels low; high homocysteine levels are associated with heart disease. B vitamins also help maintain healthy skin, hair, and nails, develop healthy red blood cells, support immune function, regulate cell growth, aid in production of hormones, and prevent certain birth defects (e.g. neural tube defects). B vitamins may have a role in preventing some cancers.