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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!

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

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