Why Vitamins Are Important
Vitamins are organic molecules in food that support your health, with different vitamins serving different functions in the body. Some vitamins are produced naturally while others need to be replenished through your diet.
Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin D, E, A, and K. These molecules are best absorbed with small amounts of fat in your meals. Drizzling olive oil onto your food is an excellent way to help increase absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (while choosing a heart-healthy fat).
Water-soluble vitamins, including vitamin C, and all the B vitamins, are easily absorbed and easily flushed out of your body through natural waste removal purposes such as urine.
Your body can also produce certain vitamins, such as vitamin D. When sunlight touches your skin, it initiates a biochemical reaction to convert the vitamin into its active form. People who live in colder climates may not get enough sun exposure during the year and should take a vitamin D supplement.
Vitamins that your body relies on, but cannot create, are called essential vitamins. There are 13 essential vitamins, and several essential nutrients (including water).
Are Vitamins the Same As Minerals?
Vitamins are not the same as minerals. Vitamins are only made from organic materials, meaning anything that is currently alive or was once alive. Minerals come from inorganic materials, such as rock, soil, and water.
Vitamins and minerals are both necessary to ensure you remain healthy and to help your metabolism function efficiently, which can support weight loss efforts.
<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn about </strong><a href="/blog/macronutrients-vs-micronutrients#toc-what-is-a-micronutrient-">micronutrients for optimal health</a></p>
How Vitamins Affect Metabolism
Different vitamins, and some minerals, play a key role in your metabolism. A well-functioning metabolism is important for weight management as well as meeting weight loss goals.
There are no singular vitamins that will promote weight loss on their own, but they all play a pivotal role in your well-being. Optimizing your diet to include a variety of vitamins could help you get closer to achieving your health goals.
There are many factors that influence metabolism and can therefore impact weight loss results. Many of these factors are out of your control and can not be changed, for example:
- Medical conditions
When making changes to your lifestyle, it is important to focus your energy on the areas of your life you do have control over. This includes your level of physical activity, your nutrition choices, and limiting use of tobacco or alcohol.
<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn about </strong><a href="/blog/boost-metabolism">7 natural ways to speed up your metabolism</a></p>
Vitamins and Minerals That May Help With Weight Loss
B vitamins play a role in energy metabolism, which may affect your weight. There are eight B vitamins:
- Thiamin (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pantothenic acid (B5)
- Pyridoxine (B6)
- Biotin (B7)
- Folate (B9)
- Cobalamin (B12)
People with low levels of B12 are at risk of macrocytic anemia, a condition that can leave you feeling low in energy and cause numbness or tingling in your hands and feet.1It is important to eat B12-rich food sources or use a supplement to restore your levels.
Because vitamin B12 occurs mostly in animal products, it's important for people following a vegan diet to ensure they get enough B12. Good vegan sources of vitamin B12 include fortified food products like non-dairy beverages (such as almond milk), breakfast cereal, and plant-based meat substitutes. Natural food sources of B12 include nutritional yeast, nori (seaweed) and tempeh. B12 supplements in liquid or pill form are also readily available.
Getting plenty of all the B-vitamins can help support weight loss because you are more likely to make food and lifestyle choices that align with your weight loss goals when you feel energetic and well.
Food Sources of B Vitamins Include:
- Fish and seafood
- Pulses and legumes
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
- Animal products and by-products (meat, dairy products, eggs)
<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn about </strong><a href="/blog/best-vegetarian-protein-options">the best vegan & vegetarian protein options</a></p>
Magnesium is an essential mineral that is involved in several metabolic pathways in your body. Increasing your magnesium intake may not directly contribute to weight loss, but it can reduce insulin resistance, which has been linked to weight gain and obesity.2
Magnesium has several other health benefits as well. Magnesium reduces the frequency and intensity of migraines3, may lower blood pressure4, and it is actively being studied for its role in preventing Alzheimer's and degenerative neurological conditions.5Literature published in 2018 suggests that across the globe at any time, 12.5-20% of people are deficient in magnesium.6 Even while eating magnesium-rich foods, it can be difficult to get enough if absorption is poor due to Crohn’s disease or other digestive problems.
Food Sources of Magnesium Include:
- Whole grains
- Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale
- Nuts and Seeds
If you choose to take a magnesium supplement, make sure you follow the directions carefully. Too much magnesium can overstimulate your bowels and send you running to the bathroom.7
Vitamin D May Not Help With Weight Loss
Some people once thought vitamin D might play a role in energy metabolism and weight loss. However, a study review from 2019 concluded that vitamin D is not linked to weight loss.8Although it’s not shown to promote weight loss, vitamin D is still important for glucose metabolism, which is how cells get energy. Vitamin D has several other health benefits including supporting your immune system, bone health, and nervous system.
<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn about </strong><a href="/blog/glucose-metabolism">how glucose metabolism impacts weight loss</a></p>
Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?
There are many vitamins and other types of supplements marketed as weight loss wonders, but none of them are proven to actually deliver weight loss results.9Common examples of so-called weight loss supplements include:
- St. John’s wort
- Conjugated linoleic acid
- Hydroxycitric acid
Although this news is probably not what you wanted to hear, it is important to be an informed consumer. The next time you see these products at the store you can walk by without feeling tempted to buy them!
<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn about </strong><a href="/blog/powder-supplements">how to choose a powder supplement (from a doctor)</a></p>
Are Vitamins Better From Food or Supplements?
Food is the natural way to absorb essential vitamins and minerals. However, getting micronutrients from food is not necessarily better than taking supplements. There are some circumstances where the food available may not be enough to satisfy your nutritional requirements, and in that case you’d need to rely on supplements.
Instead of painting it as black and white, try to think of vitamin supplements as a tool to support your health and weight loss goals. Many people living in developed nations are privileged to have access to vitamin and mineral supplements that make it easier to stay healthy.
Do Vitamin Supplements Have Any Negative Side Effects?
There may be side effects depending on the vitamin or mineral you are supplementing. The first thing you need to consider before adding a supplement to your diet is if you are taking any prescription medication. Certain medications will not be as effective when combined with vitamins.
If you regularly take medication, contact your physician before taking supplements to learn of any contraindications.
It is a good practice to have a blood test taken before starting a vitamin supplement. Knowing your baseline levels can help you choose a dose that is safe for your body.
Repeating the blood test a few months later will tell you if you need to adjust the dose. This data is critical for your health, because certain vitamins levels can cause toxicity at high levels.
<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn about </strong><a href="/blog/medications-weight-gain">medications that can cause weight gain</a></p>
How to Choose a Good Vitamin Supplement
It can feel overwhelming to choose a vitamin or mineral supplement. There are so many options, and they all seem to make claims offering slightly different benefits.
The best way to ensure you are picking the right brand and formula is to ask a pharmacist. They know all the products, and they will tell you which ones are worth buying premium and which ones are fine to buy from no-name brands.
Are Liquid Vitamins Better Than Pills?
Both versions are fine to take. Liquid supplements tend to be absorbed more quickly, but they are also more expensive.
To achieve any health benefits from supplements, there is an expectation to be consistent with your intake. It’s wise to choose a product you find easy to take. So if you hate swallowing pills, opt for the liquid.
Vitamins and Weight Loss: Key Takeaways
Vitamins and minerals are actively involved in your overall health and metabolic function. To set yourself up for success with your weight loss goals, it is important to make sure that your diet includes sufficient levels of B-vitamins and magnesium.
Vitamins and supplements marketed to support weight loss have not been proven to work (green tea extract is still in the maybe column). Instead of buying vitamins for weight loss, focus on the areas of your health you can control that have been shown to support a healthy weight: exercise, food choices, stress levels, and sleep hygiene.
If you struggle to get sufficient vitamins and minerals through your diet, consult your doctor or pharmacist for vitamin supplement recommendations.
<p class="pro-tip">Can Vitamin C Affect Your CGM Readings?</p>
Get more information about weight loss, glucose monitors, and living a healthier life
Topics discussed in this article:
- Vitamin B12 Deficiency Anemia. (n.d.). Johns Hopkins Medicine, Conditions and Diseases. Retrieved June 8, 2022, from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/vitamin-b12-deficiency-anemia
- ELDerawi, W. A., Naser, I. A., Taleb, M. H., & Abutair, A. S. (2018). The Effects of Oral Magnesium Supplementation on Glycemic Response among Type 2 Diabetes Patients. Nutrients, 11(1), 44. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11010044
- Dolati, S., Rikhtegar, R., Mehdizadeh, A., & Yousefi, M. (2020). The Role of Magnesium in Pathophysiology and Migraine Treatment. Biological trace element research, 196(2), 375–383. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12011-019-01931-z
- Houston M. (2011). The role of magnesium in hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Journal of clinical hypertension (Greenwich, Conn.), 13(11), 843–847. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-7176.2011.00538.x
- Kirkland, A. E., Sarlo, G. L., & Holton, K. F. (2018). The Role of Magnesium in Neurological Disorders. Nutrients, 10(6), 730. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10060730
- DiNicolantonio, J. J., O'Keefe, J. H., & Wilson, W. (2018). Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis. Open heart, 5(1), e000668. https://doi.org/10.1136/openhrt-2017-000668
- Rao, S., & Brenner, D. M. (2021). Efficacy and Safety of Over-the-Counter Therapies for Chronic Constipation: An Updated Systematic Review. The American journal of gastroenterology, 116(6), 1156–1181. https://doi.org/10.14309/ajg.0000000000001222
- Bassatne, A., Chakhtoura, M., Saad, R., & Fuleihan, G. E. (2019). Vitamin D supplementation in obesity and during weight loss: A review of randomized controlled trials. Metabolism: clinical and experimental, 92, 193–205. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.metabol.2018.12.010
- Saper, R. B., Eisenberg, D. M., & Phillips, R. S. (2004). Common dietary supplements for weight loss. American family physician, 70(9), 1731–1738. Retrieved June 8, 2022, from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15554492/