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Last medically reviewed on August 31, 2020
Can I Use Vitamins for Weight Loss?
If weight loss was as easy as taking a supplement, we could just settle on the couch and watch Netflix while the supplement did all the work.
In reality, slimming down isn’t that simple. Learn what the experts have to say about vitamins and weight loss.
When you scan the supplement shelves at your local drugstore, you might see weight loss touted as a benefit of many products. For example, some people claim that vitamin B12, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and green tea supplements can help you lose weight.
The purported benefits range from “revving up your metabolism” and “flipping a switch in your body” to “signaling your cells to burn fat.”
However, scientists have found little evidence to bolster these weight loss claims.
Whether you take it in pill form or get a pricey injection, don’t expect a vitamin B12 supplement to boost your metabolism and burn away fat. There’s currently no evidence that it’ll promote weight loss.
Your body does need vitamin B12 to support the function of your nerves and blood cells and to produce DNA. To get your daily dose, the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) recommends including foods that contain vitamin B12 in your diet.
For example, eat fortified whole-grain cereal for breakfast, a tuna salad sandwich for lunch, and an egg frittata for dinner. Beef liver and clams are also rich sources of B12.
You may need more B12 if you drink heavily, have a history of anemia, are a strict vegetarian, have had bariatric surgery, or if you take certain medications like Metformin.
Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium and keep your bones strong. But experts aren’t convinced that it’ll help you lose weight.
A 2014 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that postmenopausal women with overweight who took vitamin D supplements and achieved healthy or “replete” levels of this nutrient lost more weight than women who didn’t reach these levels.
But more research is needed to test these results and learn how vitamin D supplements might affect other people with overweight.
Fatty fish, such as herring, mackerel, and tuna, also deliver modest doses of vitamin D. Your body produces it when you expose your skin to sunlight.
Consider taking regular walks around your neighborhood to get some sunlight and exercise too. But remember, too much sun exposure can raise your risk of sunburn and skin cancer. Limit your time in the sun, and be sure to apply sunscreen before going outside.
Some studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids support weight loss — but it’s too soon to draw conclusions.
Even so, omega-3 fatty acids are a great addition to your diet. According to the American Heart Association , they may protect your heart and blood vessels from damage and disease. Salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and tuna are rich sources of this nutrient.
Consider eating these fish a couple of times a week as part of your healthy eating plan. Try grilling, broiling, or baking, rather than frying them.
Will calcium supplements help you lose weight? Most evidence points to no. Some proponents claim that calcium increases the breakdown of fat in your cells. Others suggest that it may interfere with your body’s ability to absorb fat from the food you eat.
But according to the ODS , most clinical trials have found no link between calcium consumption and weight loss.
Your body does need calcium to support the health of your bones, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels.
To meet the ODS -recommended daily target, eat calcium-rich foods such as low fat dairy products, dark leafy greens, and tofu. These foods are low in fat but high in nutrients, making them a smart addition to your weight loss strategy.
As tempting as it may be to curl up with a good book and cup of green tea — or green tea supplements — a brisk walk or bike ride will do more to melt the fat from your middle.
Green tea contains antioxidants that might help protect your heart. But according to 2012 research published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the weight loss-promoting potential of green tea supplements seems to be small and statistically nonsignificant.
Shelling out money for vitamins or other supplements that claim to aid weight loss usually reduces the size of your wallet rather than your waistline.
Instead of buying these products, consider investing in a gym membership, a new set of hiking boots, or a set of gardening tools. Gardening is good exercise. You can burn calories while planting, weeding, and watering a plot full of nutrient-rich veggies.
When mealtime arrives, serve your homegrown bounty alongside lean protein sources and whole grains. Exercising more and eating foods that are low in calories but rich in nutrients are great ways to achieve your weight loss goals.
Last medically reviewed on August 31, 2020
How we reviewed this article:
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- Bauer BA. (2015). Are vitamin B-12 injections helpful for weight loss?
- Calcium: Fact sheet for health professionals. (2020).
- Fish and omega-3 fatty acids. (2017).
- Fish oil. (2017).
- Jurgens TM, et al. (2012). Green tea for weight loss and weight maintenance in overweight or obese adults. DOI:
- Mason C, et al. (2014). Vitamin D3 supplementation during weight loss: A double-blind randomized controlled trial. DOI:
- Vitamin B12: Fact sheet for consumers. (2020).
- Vitamin D: Fact sheet for consumers. (2020).
5 Vitamins and Minerals to Boost Your Metabolism and Promote Weight Loss
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Losing weight isn’t as easy as popping a few magical pills. However, there are a few vitamins and minerals you can take to ensure your body is functioning as efficiently as possible for weight loss.
A well-balanced diet can fulfill most of your nutrient needs. But if you’re on a limited diet, adding a few safe vitamin supplements could provide the extra boost you need to stay on track with your healthy weight loss regimen.
When it comes to weight loss, not all vitamins and minerals are created equal. Read on to find out which ones can help you shed excess weight and keep it off.
The B vitamins include:
- thiamine (B-1)
- riboflavin (B-2)
- niacin (B-3)
- pantothenic acid (B-5)
- pyridoxine (B-6)
- biotin (B-7)
- folate (B-9)
- cobalamin (B-12)
These vitamins are essential for a fully functioning metabolism. The main function of the B vitamins is to help your body metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and to use the stored energy in food.
Thiamine (B-1), for example, helps the body cells convert carbohydrates into energy. In other words, low levels of one or more of these vitamins means your metabolism won’t be functioning at its best. This makes losing weight even harder.
Food sources: You can find B vitamins in a range of foods. Good sources include:
Cobalamin (B-12) isn’t found in any plant products, so it’s difficult for someone following a vegan diet to get enough.
Tip: In general, dietary supplements containing all eight B vitamins are known as B-complex vitamins. They can easily be found in stores or online.
Try it: Shop for vitamin B supplements.
Vitamin D is critical to a healthy immune system.
Your body can get all the vitamin D it needs courtesy of the sun. Yet most people today spend too much time indoors, or they live in climates where the sun doesn’t always shine.
Getting enough vitamin D from food is difficult, so supplements are often recommended. Adequate levels of vitamin D may also help prevent depression, according to some research. A positive attitude is also fundamental for an effective diet.
Researchers have noticed lower-than-normal levels of serum vitamin D in obese people. The exact role of vitamin D in weight loss is still unclear.
A 2011 study found that overweight and obese adults taking calcium and vitamin D supplements lost significantly more stomach fat than people not taking any supplements.
Food sources: While the sun is the best source of vitamin D, you can also get this vitamin from food, especially fortified foods.
Foods with vitamin D include:
Tip: You might want to consider taking a vitamin D supplement if you spend most of your days indoors. It’s still important to use sunscreen.
Try it: Shop for vitamin D supplements.
Iron plays a role in helping your body create energy from nutrients. Iron helps carry oxygen to all of the cells in your body, including your muscles. This, in turn, helps them burn fat.
Too little iron can lead to iron deficiency anemia, which is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the United States.
Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include:
Low iron levels also reduce your physical endurance and athletic performance.
Women who experience heavy menstrual periods and people who frequently donate blood are more prone to iron deficiency.
If you’re at higher risk for iron deficiency, talk to your doctor about an iron supplement.
Food sources: You can grow your body’s iron stores with the following foods:
Your body absorbs the type of iron found in meat better than the iron that comes from a plant-based source. Not a meat eater? You could be deficient in iron if you haven’t properly replaced meat with another source of iron.
Eating iron-rich foods along with a source of vitamin C, like strawberries or tomatoes, can help improve absorption.
Tip: Take iron supplements with food and add extra fiber to your diet, as iron supplements can be constipating.
Try it: Shop for iron supplements.
Magnesium is necessary for energy production in the body. This mineral acts as a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems. These systems are responsible for a wide range of reactions in the body, including:
- controlling blood glucose
- regulating blood pressure
- keeping bones strong
- keeping the nervous system functioning smoothly
Dietary surveys of people in the United States regularly show that magnesium intakes are too low. A magnesium supplement can ensure you’re getting enough of it.
Food sources: The best sources of magnesium include:
You may want to keep a handful of nuts on hand for quick energy boosts and so you don’t wear out as easily while you diet, especially if you’re working out a lot. Just don’t overeat them: nuts are high in calories.
Tip: Very high doses of magnesium from supplements or medications often result in diarrhea.
Try it: Shop for magnesium supplements.
It’s technically not a vitamin or mineral, but green tea extract is one of the few marketed supplements worth a second look. Green tea is thought to increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation, and to reduce fat production and absorption.
The extract of this popular beverage is known to contain powerful flavonoid antioxidants known as catechins. Green tea also contains a healthy dose of caffeine.
An analysis of six controlled clinical trials found that caffeine alone, or in combination with catechins, significantly increased energy expenditure when compared to placebo.
One study in 2012 found that green tea supplements reduced body weight in obese individuals by an average of nearly 2 pounds, as compared to placebo.
Tip: Green tea extract is considered safe, but clinicians advise people to take the extract with food to minimize any potential risks.
Try it: Shop for green tea extract.
The list of supplements that claim to increase metabolism of fat is quite long. There isn’t sufficient research to back up the claims for the majority of these supplements, though.
This isn’t an exhaustive list. However, at the moment, there’s no sufficient evidence to show that the following supplements help promote weight loss or increase lean body mass safely:
- bitter orange (synephrine)
- conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
- chromium picolinate
- garcinia cambogia
If you’re considering taking a vitamin or supplement to assist with weight loss, talk to your doctor. They can discuss each product’s potential benefits and risks.
This is especially true for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or who have underlying medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease.
Be sure to ask your doctor about possible 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’re constantly feeling under the weather or fatigued, see your doctor. This might be a symptom of a larger problem that vitamins can’t fix.
Vitamin and mineral supplements may help provide you with the energy necessary to manage stress, keep a positive mood, and reduce fatigue. All of these add up to a diet that’s more likely to be successful.
However, you’re not going to lose any weight without also modifying how much you exercise and how many calories you eat each day.
Experts agree that the basis for long-term weight loss is following an overall healthy eating pattern, reducing caloric intake, and participating in physical activity.
Most of your required vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients should come from food. Supplements can help fill in any gaps in your diet that come from limiting your calorie intake.
Make sure to read the label thoroughly to check its active ingredients and to understand the correct dosage. It’s possible to overdose on certain vitamins if you’re not careful. Keep in mind that taking extra or mega doses of a vitamin or mineral supplement won’t help you.
Also, note the expiration date prior to taking the supplement. Vitamins lose potency over time. You should discard any supplements that are past their expiration date.
Jacquelyn has been a writer and research analyst in the health and pharmaceutical space since she graduated with a degree in biology from Cornell University. A native of Long Island, New York, she moved to San Francisco after college, and then took a brief hiatus to travel the world. In 2015, Jacquelyn relocated from sunny California to sunnier Gainesville, Florida where she owns 7 acres and 58 fruit trees. She loves chocolate, pizza, hiking, yoga, soccer, and Brazilian capoeira.
Last medically reviewed on December 19, 2018