Vitamin Labels | What Do They Mean?
November 06, 2019 Dr Chris Ryder By Dr Chris Ryder Follow

Vitamin Labels | What Do They Mean?

Ever heard of alpha-linolenic acid? How about pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)? Glad you're not having to read those aloud?

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Scientific Names

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is an omega-3 fatty acid present predominantly in plant oils such as olive and rapeseed. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a long chain omega-3 fatty acid present in oily fish and algae.

Fortunately, alpha-linolenic acid and docosahexaenoic acid are more often abbreviated to ALA and DHA respectively, which is a good start, but in fact you may know them both by a single name that we're all much more familiar with: omega-3 fatty acids. This is what food manufacturers are more likely to use on their packaging.

It's obvious why they prefer to use ‘omega-3 fatty acids’ rather than those intimidating scientific names. But what about other food components?

Vitamin B: Scientific Names

You might know that there are many types of B vitamins, but did you know that most of them have more than one name and you may see these on food labels? Here's a quick guide to the alternatives:

  • Vitamin B1 = thiamine
  • Vitamin B2 = niacin
  • Vitamin B3 = riboflavin
  • Vitamin B5 = pantothenic acid
  • Vitamin B7 = biotin
  • Vitamin B9 = folate or folic acid
  • Vitamin B12 = cobalamin

You might be wondering where all the other numbers are for the B vitamins. Well, B6 doesn’t have any alternative names – it's just plain Vitamin B6 – and Vitamins B4, B8, B10 and B11 … don't exist!

Did you already know these alternative names for vitamins? Are there any other alternative names that you have found confusing? Do you think these could all be made clearer to consumers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

This article has been adapted by the author for FoodUnfolded. The original article can be found here.

November 06, 2019 Dr Chris Ryder By Dr Chris Ryder Follow