Do vitamins provide energy? Which vitamins boost metabolism? And which are the best vitamins for weight loss in females?
There is a long list of vitamins and minerals, and you probably have just as many questions about what they are and what they do. This article will tell you everything you need to know about vitamins that help weight loss. We’ve dug deep to make sure the claims are supported by scientific literature.
We’ll begin with a few definitions.
What Are Vitamins?
Vitamins are a group of organic compounds required by the human body for normal bodily functions, including growth, metabolism, and nutrition.
The body cannot produce vitamins, so they must be ingested through foods (where they are naturally occuring) or through supplements. Vitamin D can be produced by the body, but the process requires exposure to sunlight.
What about the difference between vitamins and minerals? The two are often mentioned together, but what actually distinguishes them?
Vitamins are organic, meaning they derive from living matter, whereas minerals are inorganic. This means they are “created by non-living natural processes or human intervention.” (1)
Minerals include elements in their pure form – zinc, magnesium, selenium – as well as compounds, which are molecules composed of different substances. Compound minerals include things like choline and chloride.
Vitamins in the Diet
Vitamins play an important role in our body’s ability to metabolize fats and carbohydrates, as well as breaking down food and using it for energy.
Pretty much every type of food contains vitamins, so if you eat a balanced and healthy diet it is unlikely you’ll become deficient in any. Because of the way vitamins are removed from the body, it is not dangerous to exceed the daily allowances, meaning supplements are safe and sometimes encouraged.
(Note: Any vegans reading this should be aware that vitamin B12 is not naturally present in any foods compatible with vegan diets!)
You’ll see the term ‘body composition’ in this artice. This refers to the ratio of fat, bone, water, and muscle in your body.
Does Vitamin Deficiency Cause Weight Gain?
Deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals have been found in people who are overweight. We explore these in more detail later in the article.
Weight gain can be caused by a lot of things, including (but not limited to):
- Eating more calories than you burn through activity.
- Oversized food portions.
- Lack of exercise.
- Limited access to healthy foods.
- Frequently eating high-fat and high-sugar snacks.
- An underactive thyroid.
- Certain medicines.
- Poor sleep.
In short, it’s unlikely that a vitamin deficiency alone would cause noticeable weight gain, but having vitamins and minerals at the right levels contributes to bodily functions that lead to better weight management. Keeping on top of your vitamin intake may play a part in maintenance of your desired weight.
The thyroid is a good example of a body part whose function can lead to weight gain. It plays a large part in the body’s metabolism (2), meaning that interruptions can change your metabolic rate. Hypothyroidism is a condition where your thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones, and your metabolism slows as a result. This means fewer calories are required for your body to perform its basic functions.
All the unused calories are stored as fat, instead. This is a fine example of how weight loss can occur even though no additional food is being eaten.
Many vitamins are associated with healthy thyroid function, including vitamin D. A study – published in the journal Nature (15) – found that 72% of people with hypothyroidism were deficient in Vitamin-D, as opposed to 31% of people with healthy thyroid function.
What Are The Best Vitamins For Weight Loss?
Vitamins and minerals can contribute to weight loss via different mechanisms. The two mechanisms we will look at in this piece are the reduction of appetite, and increasing metabolic rate.
Reduction of appetite is fairly self explanatory: If you feel less hungry, you will eat less food and ingest fewer calories as a result.
Metabolic rate, as we have seen previously, determines the amount of calories required by your body to fulfil its basic survival needs. A higher rate, therefore, means that more calories are used up by metabolism, and fewer are stored as fat in the body.
The best Vitamins for Metabolism and Energy
These vitamins and minerals are associated with healthy body metabolism, which itself is associated with efficient use of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. By maintaining a healthy metabolism, you give your body the best chance to use the fats in your diet, rather than storing them in your tissue. This contributes to less weight gain.
1. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 – found in high quantities in pork, poultry, and fish – plays the role of coenzyme in over one hundred chemical reactions in the human body, associated with metabolism of glucose and lipids (fats). Its role as a coenzyme means that its presence is required for chemical reactions to take place.
Its role has been known for a long time. In 1959, the Journal of the American Oil Chemists Society concluded that “Vitamin B6 is one of the B vitamins which are required for the normal metabolism of the fats and essential fatty acids.” (3)
There are many subtly different forms of Vitamin B6, but the one we are interested in is Pyridoxal 5′-phosphate, known as PLP for short. This is the metabolically active form, which means it is used in metabolic reactions (those involved in metabolism).
Vitamin B6 is also involved in a process called glycogenolysis, in which the body’s energy stores (glycogen) are broken down into readily usable forms. In short, it contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism, giving your body the energy it needs.
It is also an essential component in the biosynthesis of sphingolipids (4), which in layman’s terms means the construction of a substance built with fats. Fats stored in the body are used for energy or for other purposes including the construction of cell walls and other structures: Either of these uses reduces the amount of fat stored in your tissue.
2. Vitamin B12
This is another big player: It is involved in the metabolism of every cell in the human body.
As with B6, B12 is involved in the metabolism of fatty acids, and contributes to essential biochemical reactions involved in the metabolism of fats. By helping the body to convert fats into energy, it again contributes to fewer fats being stored in your tissue. B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning your body gets rid of excess B6 and B12 along with other water-bound waste products (5).
B12 is found in highest quantities in animal liver and kidneys.
3. Vitamin D
Your body produces this vitamin after exposure to sunlight, and it is thought that 10% of American adults are deficient (6).
Vitamin D is found in foods – such as fish, beef liver, and cheese – but not in the quantities required in the human diet. It’s not always easy to spend more time in the sun, so vitamin D is often taken as a supplement.
We mentioned the link between Vitamin D and hypothyroidism earlier. A 2004 study also found that concentrations of vitamin D “fall with increasing adiposity” (7), suggesting a link between low vitamin D levels and adiposity, or, higher body fat.
It is unknown whether this relationship is caused by the amount of vitamin D in the body, or through factors associated with higher body fat, such as lower exposure to sunlight. Either way, vitamin D supplements are a reliable way to boost your body’s levels.
Unlike B vitamins, which are water-soluble, D vitamins are fat-soluble. This means leftovers are stored in the body.
This mineral – found most in broccoli, green beans, and other veg – “has been shown to attenuate weight gain” (8). Chromium picolinate, the form of chromium used by the body, is associated with this reduction in rate of weight gain.
Chromium provides support for healthy glucose metabolism. It helps the body to metabolize carbohydrates, and helps also to metabolize fats (9).
Chromium also affects the amount of energy we get from food. The exact mechanism is not understood, but it is thought to involve “regulation of eating behavior, mood, and food cravings” (10).
This mineral – high quantities of which are found in eggs, liver, and peanuts – supports natural lipid metabolism and normal homocysteine metabolism.
Lipid transport and metabolism involves your body breaking down fats, and storing them in the right places while they are waiting to be used. A more efficient metabolism means that less fat is stored in the body, contributing to weight loss efforts (11).
This mineral – found in large quantities in meat and shellfish – supports normal carbohydrate metabolism, normal macronutrient metabolism, and the normal metabolism of fatty acids.
One study found that “zinc nutritional status in obese individuals is altered” (12), suggesting a similar link between deficiency and higher weight (as we saw earlier with vitamin D).
This mineral – found most in green, leafy veg, is involved in the production of energy.
An associated effect is reduction of fatigue, which may give you a boost to do more physical activity. As we know this is one of many factors involved in the type of healthy lifestyle associated with weight loss.
This mineral – which is found in high quantities in Brazil nuts – plays a role in thyroid function, helping it to create the hormones required for effective metabolism (13).
A healthy thyroid plays a role in weight management by releasing hormones that affect the use of fat, carbohydrates, and proteins in the body. Selenium can therefore be associated with normal metabolic function in the body.
This mineral – abundant in fish – is involved in the production of thyroxine in the body. This hormone is used by your body to regulate metabolism and the rate at which fat is burned. Thyroxine is made in the thyroid (14), meaning idoine is another mineral associated with healthy thyroid function.
The Best Vitamins for Appetite
We mentioned the impact on appetite of chromium, although the primary purpose of that mineral is metabolic, so it was included in the previous section.
This mineral – found in table salt (sodium chloride) – is associated with reductions in bloat, and with proper digestion.
Ensuring you have enough chloride in your diet means that your appetite will be more natural, and you will be more likely to eat the correct amount of food. Bloat simulates feelings of fullness, but it is not good for the body.
Vitamin deficiencies are a common theme when it comes to obesity and poor body composition, so making sure you are not missing any essential vitamins or minerals from your diet is important. Supplements are a way to top up levels of compounds you may not be getting enough of in your diet.
Many vitamins and minerals contribute to your body’s natural metabolism, ensuring that your metabolic rate is optimal. This is important in making sure fats you ingest are used as energy or for internal processes, rather than stored in your tissues.
Remember on their own vitamin supplements won’t cause you to magically lose weight, they are just another piece in the puzzle when it comes to optimizing your training and lifestyle plan.
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- Ranoel G. The Difference Between Organic and Inorganic Materials. Link.
- Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG), (2006). Link.
- Sakuragi T. The Function of Vitamin B6 in Fat Metabolism (1959). Link.
- Combs GF. The Vitamins (2007). Link.
- Solan M. The Best Foods for Vitamins and Minerals (2016). Link.
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