Can Vitamins Help You With Weight Loss? Dietitian Explains

Posted: October 15, 2022

Can vitamins help you with weight loss? If you have landed on this blog post, you are probably no stranger to the heavily marketed weight loss supplements, vitamin supplements, and gummies out there. But do vitamins work for weight loss and are they safe? Let’s do a deep dive into the research to find out.

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When it comes to weight loss, it’s common to look for a magic pill like dietary supplements. Even though there’s a lot of hype online that vitamins and supplements can help, the truth is, there are only a few proven ways to slim down. Unfortunately, taking vitamins to lose weight is not one of them.

And I am sure you know what I’m about to say: you need to eat a healthy, portion-controlled diet and exercise. 

Now, having said that, are there some vitamins that can help our body function optimally which may help you lose weight as a secondary outcome? Possible. 

But first, let's dive into a few important points.

Why is it so hard for me to lose weight?

This is one of those questions that many people ask and will often get frustrated enough to do whatever it takes to promote weight loss. 

As a Registered Dietitian who has worked with clients looking to lose weight, I often see many similarities. You work hard trying to lose weight and when you hit a weight loss plateau you either cut calories further, you start taking some sort of weight loss vitamins or supplements or you give up altogether. 

But there is good news. Weight loss is hard but it's not complicated. You may think you're having a hard time losing weight, when in reality, you are making progress but it hasn't shown up on your body, yet. People often think that they need to see progress every single week for it to count and that could not be further from the truth. The body gets used to the weight loss strategies and weight loss slows down which is very normal and healthy. 

How do you speed up weight loss? 

Food is a top factor to evaluate when trying to lose weight. We know that diets lacking in calories and nutrients can prevent the body from performing at optimal levels and it can stall weight loss. Time and time again, I have seen women cut calories so low that their body holds on to every calorie they eat because that is their body trying to defend itself. Cutting back on calories also leaves you lacking in essential nutrients the body needs to function as it should. 

What can you do to help your body lose weight? 

First, you need to focus on healthy eating. For long-term weight loss that lasts, you need to take it slow and steady. Deprivation and elimination of your favorite foods will not work. 

Focus on eating high-quality carbohydrates high in fiber, protein, healthy fats, and lots of plants. You also need to reduce stress, get enough sleep, and exercise. 

Now that we covered what you can do in terms of food and exercise, let's dive deep into the supplements. 

How do vitamins help with weight loss

There are some noted benefits of taking supplements. For example, if you’re on a strict diet, adding a vitamin and mineral supplement covers some nutritional gaps you might have.

Many women start experiencing hair loss when they are in a caloric deficit because they are not eating enough food and lacking some essential vitamins.

Taking a multivitamin when you know you may not be eating enough or getting the nutrients your body needs is generally safe and even encouraged. 

Can vitamins help you lose weight? 

No, there is no single vitamin you can take that will help you lose weight, however, vitamins can indirectly affect your weight. For example, iron can boost your energy levels which in turn helps you have the energy to show up to your work out which can lead to weight loss.  

As you can see, vitamins are secondary to weight loss and are not the cause of losing weight. 

If you have a deficiency in certain nutrients, then adding vitamins to your diet may help you reach your weight loss goals. 

Poor diets can prevent the body from functioning properly and optimally. It can also create nutrient deficiency which is where lacking certain vitamins can stall you from reaching your weight loss goals.

Every dietitian will tell you there is no magic weight loss pill and in order to lose weight, you must portion control and exercise.

Vitamins alone will not cause weight loss. The key to losing weight is changing your lifestyle to a healthy and balanced one. Vitamins will support weight loss, but will not cause it. 

List of vitamins and supplements commonly said to help with weight loss

Fiber

This is one of the most important nutrients for a healthy diet and maintaining your weight. Fiber supplements are unnecessary when you are consuming fruits, nuts, beans, whole grains, and vegetables which hold more nutrients than just fiber. Also, taking fiber supplements can cause intestinal discomfort like bloating, gas and diarrhea.

Green Tea Supplements

Green tea supplements and green tea extract are, in my opinion, the biggest scams of weight loss. There are no statistical studies that encourage green tea supplements. A study conducted back in 2012 proved that the number of pounds lost from green tea was not “clinically important”. It is important to note that green tea does have many health benefits but weight loss is not one of them.

Vitamin D + Calcium

Vitamin D deficiency is a global issue with more than 1 billion people being deficient in the vitamin. Many suffer from low vitamin D levels due to lack of exposure to the sun. Vitamin D is essential for a healthy immune system.

You can get vitamin D in a variety of ways, including:

  • Sun exposure on your skin. People with darker skin  may not get enough vitamin D through sunlight. Also your geographical location can make it hard for you to get  adequate vitamin D exposure through sunlight.
  • Through the food you eat. This includes fortified foods, spinach, legumes, salmon, cod liver oil.
  • Through vitamin D supplementation 

Even though more research needs to be done, one study published in 2011 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed when taking vitamin D and calcium in combination, individuals lost a little more stomach fat, specifically visceral belly fat (VAT). VAT is a type of fat that is deep within the abdomen surrounding organs and increases risk of cardiovascular problems. However, the experimental group did not lose extra pounds compared to the control group. 

Other studies have shown that calcium can suppress hunger but, overall, there is no evidence that vitamin D supplements and calcium promotes weight loss and reduces body fat. 

Food sources of vitamin D include tuna, salmon, egg yolks, sardines, fortified milk, orange juice, and dairy products. 

B Vitamins

The B vitamins are essential for a healthy functioning metabolism as they help your body metabolize carbohydrates, proteins and fats. They are also important for energy production as they release energy from carbohydrates and transport oxygen and nutrients around the body. What does this mean for you? If you are low in any of the B vitamins, your metabolism won't function at its best which makes weight loss harder. 

The B vitamins include:

  • Thiamine (B1)
  • Riboflavin (B2)
  • Niacin (B3)
  • Pantothenic acid (B5)
  • Pyridoxine (B6)
  • Biotin (B7)
  • Folate (B9)
  • Cobalamin (B12)

Food sources: You can find B vitamins in a wide range of foods including: beans, lentils, potatoes, bananas, and whole grains. 

If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, you may need vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) as this vitamin is only found in animal products. Your body needs vitamin B12 to make healthy red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.  If you decided to take a vitamin B supplement, you can usually find them as B-complex vitamins which contains all eight B vitamins.

Iron

Iron is very important when it comes to energy levels. If you've ever had iron deficiency, or anemia, you know what I'm talking about. Iron carries oxygen to all of the cells in your body. One study found that waist circumference, body weight and BMI was significantly reduced in patients after treatment of iron deficiency anemia compared to pre-treatment period. What's even more interesting is HDL (good cholesterol) was increased and triglyceride was decreased significantly in after treatment compared to pre-treatment period.

Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia includes: fatigue, weakness, and low energy levels. Having low iron levels makes you feel sluggish and tired. Make sure to get your iron levels checked if you're constantly feeling fatigued. 

When you eating more iron-rich foods like spinach, legumes, and meat make sure to add a source of vitamin c. Some sources of vitamin c includes berries, tomatoes or a squeeze of lemon juice. This helps improve iron absorption in the body. 

Magnesium

So many people are talking about magnesium supplements these days and with good reason. Magnesium is a mineral that is highly important to energy and the function of our muscles and nerves. However, there is no research that links taking magnesium supplements to weight loss. But interestingly, magnesium does help you get a good night's sleep which research shows a lack of good sleep can lead to weight gain. It is safe to take a magnesium supplement at night to help you sleep better but you can find plenty of magnesium in foods like green leafy vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

Tips for Weight Loss

When it comes to a healthy weight loss and having good health overall, I recommend focusing on physical activity and eating a balanced diet full of dietary fibers, fatty acids, protein and plants. This helps to reduce blood sugar levels which is a great way to also reduce insulin resistance. By making sure you are not constantly spiking blood sugar levels from having a poor diet, your hormones stay balanced and happy which helps your body function at its best. 

Portion control is a huge factor when it comes to weight loss. The easiest way to start with portion control, if you do not know where to start, is to aim for half your plate to be filled with veggies, one quarter of your plate a high-fiber carbohydrate and a quarter of your plate protein. Healthy fats do not require their own place on a plate as they are usually part of the oil you used or within the protein you are eating. 

When you use this method, you eat fewer calories without needing to cut out entire food groups. This is very important as it helps you prevent vitamin deficiency. 

Exercise

Any form of exercise you enjoy to participate in counts! If you are completely new to exercise and feel overwhelmed, try taking just a 10 minute walk three times per week and gradually increase it over time. 

Consistency 

The biggest weight loss mistake people do is they want to change all habits at once. It is so hard to stay consistent with your goals when too many things are changing. Take it slow. Pick one area of your day that you can easily improve and do that for a few weeks, then add something else in.

For example, if you constantly eat out for lunch because you don't prep your meals ahead of time, your goal can look like prepping a lunch box for yourself two times per week. From there you can adjust and add extra days as you start getting in to a routine. Taking it slow and building habits with time is key!

How can I lose weight fast?

If you are looking to lose weight and keep the weight off, then you need to remember that slow progress is better. Losing weight too fast because you are overly depriving yourself and cutting calories too low will eventually work against you and it is hard to maintain. The best way to lose weight is to do it sustainably and slowly over time.  

What vitamins are best for weight loss?

Unfortunately, there is no best vitamin for losing weight. Vitamins for weight loss do not exist but supplements and vitamins may help aid your metabolism or energy levels which then helps your body lose weight effectively. However, weight loss is not a direct result of vitamin supplementation. 

When to talk to your doctor

If you’re considering taking a vitamin or supplement talk to your doctor first. They can do a thorough exam and help you decide whether or not you need a specific vitamin or mineral supplement. 

This is especially true for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or who have underlying medical conditions, like high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes.  

Be sure to ask your doctor about possible drug interactions with any medications you might be taking. If you experience any side effects after taking a supplement, stop taking it and contact your doctor.

Finally, if you’re trying to boost your energy because you constantly feel tired and fatigued, see your doctor as this may be an indication of something else that may be going on. 

Bottom line

Most vitamins are  water-soluble vitamins which means that anything in excess the body gets rid of it by excreting it in the urine and will rarely accumulate to toxic levels. However, you need to be careful when you take fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin a, vitamin e, vitamin d and vitamin K since fat-soluble vitamins can accumulate in the body and can lead to toxicity. Make sure to speak to your doctor before taking any supplements. 

Increasing your vitamin intake by using supplements will not necessarily improve your overall health if your diet is lacking. And it will certainly not help you lose weight. There may be some nutrients that may make it more likely to help you stick to your healthy eating and weight loss goals by uplifting your mood and energizing you, but there is no data to suggest that this does lead to weight loss. However, if you are deficient in some vitamin, then there may be some health benefits. 

My advice is to focus on the food you're eating, move every single day and get a good night's sleep and you'll be seeing progress in no time. And a friendly reminder to love your body in whatever season you are in.  

Common Questions About Which Vitamins Help You With Weight Loss

How can I lose weight fast?

Fast weight loss is not only unhealthy but it can backfire. Losing weight fast usually means you are overly reducing your calories and cutting out food groups. This method is not only unsustainable but it can also lead to nutrient deficiencies.

What supplements or vitamins should I take if I'm trying to lose weight? 

Check with your doctor first to make sure you are not vitamin deficient. If you are not, then there is no need to supplement. If you are deficient in a certain vitamin then taking supplementation will help your body function better which can lead to a smoother weight loss journey.

Do I need to visit a doctor to know which vitamins to take?

Yes. Visit your doctor and get blood work done to check which vitamins you need to be taking before supplementing.

Can B12 help with weight loss?

Vitamin B12 is water-soluble which means it gets excreted out of the body when it is taken in excess. Therefore, if you’re already getting enough vitamin B12 in your diet and don’t have a nutrient deficiency, it’s unclear whether increasing your intake of vitamin B12 help with weight loss. However, some research shows that B-12 can increase energy and endurance during exercise which can consequently help with weight loss but there is not enough evidence to make this claim.

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