The Birds and the B's: B Vitamins and Sexual Health

Published on September 05, 2016 by Dr. NavNirat Nibber

Okay everyone gather around, it's time we have the talk…

You know the benefits of B vitamins, a.k.a. the transmission fluid of our bodies, the 8-10 essential B vitamins as well as some “B vitamin-like” molecules, participate in numerous reactions throughout the body and are integral to the metabolism of the macronutrients (proteins, carbs and fats.) Other tasks more specific to certain members of the B-complex group of vitamins include support for the brain and central nervous system, the growth and development of red blood cells, the maintenance of healthy skin and muscle tone, immune function and hormone activity. We are also discovering more and more about how some B vitamins may be able to improve sexual and reproductive health. 

Niacin, B12 and Folic Acid for Erectile Dysfunction

Niacin or vitamin B3 is involved in a number of physiologic processes of the cardiovascular system. Niacin is also effective at inhibiting the release of low-density lipoproteins (or LDL [bad] cholesterol) into the blood from the liver, making it a treatment of choice for hyperlipidemia. A study in 2011 found that men with moderate to severe erectile dysfunction found improvements by supplementing with 1500mg/day of niacin.

It is also interesting to note that there appears to be a link between homocysteinemia, a key risk factor for heart disease, and erectile dysfunction in diabetic men. What does that have to do with B vitamins you may wonder? Well vitamin B12 and folic acid are important in the methylation of homocysteine, thus theoretically supplementation would be beneficial.

Libidos and B6

Women supplementing with oral contraceptive pills (OCP’s) have been shown to have reduced levels of B vitamins, particularly pyridoxine or vitamin B6. A deficiency in vitamin B6 results in altered metabolism of the amino acid tryptophan which can cause symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and a loss of libido. Therefore individuals on OCP’s or recently off of them may see benefits in supplementing with vitamin B6. 

Use in Fertility

The B vitamin like molecule inositol is often included in B complex vitamins. It is shown to improve receptor sensitivity for many hormones and neurotransmitters in the body making it widely applicable for a number of health conditions. It is commonly used to mitigate the causes and symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Thus, it has been linked with improving a major cause of infertility amongst women, however new research is being done to understand how it may impact male infertility. A study published in 2015 saw that males with idiopathic (from an unknown cause) infertility,  increased sperm parameters and rebalanced levels of reproductive hormones such as LH, FSH, and inhibin B after three months of supplementation with the myo-form of inositol. Further, another study found that men’s fertility parameters improved when even their female partners supplemented with myo-inositol suppositories. Sperm motility improved and it did correlate positively with pregnancy. 

Meanwhile, the importance of folic acid and B12 during pregnancy has been established as both are required for proper fetal development. We are also seeing supplementation with these two in improving the success rates in assisted reproductive technologies, a very exciting prospect for prospective parents.

The benefits of different B vitamins on sexual health demonstrate why it’s always important to protect yourself with a good B-complex. AOR’s Advanced B Complex ULTRA has all of the active forms of B vitamins as well as myo-inositol and PQQ for added benefits in a time release tablet.

References:
Calogero AE, Gullo G, La Vignera S, Condorelli RA, Vaiarelli A. Myoinositol improves sperm parameters and serum reproductive hormones in patients with idiopathic infertility: a prospective double-blind randomized placebo-controlled study.Andrology. 2015 May;3(3):491-5. doi: 10.1111/andr.12025. Epub 2015 Apr 9.
Demir T, Cömlekci A, Demir O, Gülcü A, Caliskan S, Argun L, Secil M, Yesil S, Esen A. A possible new risk factor in diabetic patients with erectile dysfunction: homocysteinemia. J Diabetes Complications. 2008 Nov-Dec;22(6):395-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jdiacomp.2007.04.001. Epub 2008 Apr 16.

Gaskins AJ, Chiu YH, Williams PL, Ford JB, Toth TL, Hauser R, Chavarro JE. Association between serum folate and vitamin B-12 and outcomes of assisted reproductive technologies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Oct;102(4):943-50. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.112185. Epub 2015 Sep 9.

Montanino OM, Poverini R, Lisi R, Carra MC, Lisi F.Treating Woman with Myo-Inositol Vaginal Suppositories Improves Partner's Sperm Motility and Fertility.Int J Endocrinol. 2016;2016:7621942. doi: 10.1155/2016/7621942. Epub 2016 Jun 14.

Ng CF, Lee CP, Ho AL, Lee VW.Effect of niacin on erectile function in men suffering erectile dysfunction and dyslipidemia.J Sex Med. 2011 Oct;8(10):2883-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02414.x. Epub 2011 Aug 2.

Bermond P.Therapy of side effects of oral contraceptive agents with vitamin B6.Acta Vitaminol Enzymol. 1982;4(1-2):45-54.