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Experts agree that eating wholesome, healthy meals, reducing calories, and increasing physical activity are the best ways to lose weight and keep it off long-term. Still, many people turn to vitamins and supplements for weight loss. In fact, around 15% of people have tried weight loss pills and weight loss supplements at some point in their lives (NIH-a, 2022).
The question is: Do vitamins help with weight loss? And if so, what are the best vitamins for weight loss?
Here’s what to know about losing weight with supplements and the best research-backed vitamins to boost metabolism.
Do weight loss vitamins work?
The multi-billion dollar weight loss industry offers products ranging from diet pills and supplements to weight loss shakes and protein bars, all promising weight loss. However, these weight loss pills and products may not be as effective as advertised (NIH-a, 2022).
This is partly because supplements and vitamins for weight loss aren’t as heavily regulated as you might imagine. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees dietary supplements for weight loss and sometimes takes harmful weight loss products off the market. But they don’t formally approve vitamins and supplements for specific uses, including weight loss (FDA, 2022). So if you see a vitamin or supplement advertised as being able to help you burn fat or reduce body weight, you should take these claims with a grain of salt.
All that said, certain vitamins may act as metabolism boosters, help reduce body fat, improve your overall health, and potentially help you decrease your body weight. These vitamins work best when combined with other healthy lifestyle choices, like eating a healthy diet and engaging in physical activity.
5 vitamins to boost metabolism
Most of the vitamins that can be used as part of an effective weight loss routine are naturally occurring, meaning you can get them from natural foods. If you eat a balanced diet, you may already get enough of these vitamins. Still, some people may be deficient in these vitamins, and supplementing with them in pill form may help boost metabolism and burn calories more efficiently.
The best vitamins for weight loss and metabolism also usually have favorable safety profiles and minimal side effects because they have been studied extensively.
1. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 helps with many essential processes in the body, including the functioning of the central nervous system and the production of red blood cells. It also plays an important part in energy metabolism, and is sometimes used by athletes to increase their endurance (NIH-c, 2022).
Low levels of vitamin B12 are common, especially in people who don’t consume animal products, because animal products are the primary food source for vitamin B12. Others at risk of vitamin B12 deficiencies include older people, those with anemia or digestive disorders, and people who’ve had gastrointestinal surgery (NIH-c, 2022).
At this time, there is no proof that supplementing with B12 will boost your metabolism if you are not deficient. But people with a vitamin B12 deficiency may see a metabolism boost (NIH-c, 2022).
Vitamin B12 deficiency: levels, symptoms, treatment
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is present in a limited number of foods—fatty fish and cod liver oil are the best food sources. You can also get it through sun exposure. Vitamin D helps with many processes in the body, like building bones and reducing inflammation. It also plays a vital role in processing sugar (NIH-d, 2022).
If you are wondering which vitamins are good for losing belly fat, you might want to add this supplement to your arsenal—some think of vitamin D as a fat burner. For example, a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that supplementing with vitamin D and calcium may reduce belly fat in people with overweight and obesity (Rosenblum, 2012).
Because vitamin D is hard to obtain from foods and many of us don’t get adequate sun exposure, vitamin D deficiency is common, affecting almost 40% of Americans (Rubin, 2021). Contact your healthcare provider to find out if you may be deficient in vitamin D and whether supplementing could help you achieve modest weight loss.
Calcium is a mineral found in abundance in the body. It’s rare for someone to be calcium deficient, but some groups are at risk, including postmenopausal women, older adults, people who don’t consume dairy products because of allergies or dietary preferences, people with a history of eating disorders, and adolescents (Beto, 2015).
Calcium helps build strong bones and teeth, and plays important roles in the circulatory system and neurological systems, and in hormone regulation. It also helps regulate metabolism and plays a part in weight management (NIH-b, 2022).
One study suggests that adding calcium and vitamin D supplementation to a lower-calorie diet may increase fat loss in people who typically consume low levels of calcium, compared to people who only lower their calorie intake (Zhu, 2013). Another study showed similar results, suggesting an association between calcium and vitamin D supplements and weight loss (Shahar, 2010).
Calcium-rich foods: dairy products and much more
Magnesium is a nutrient found in nuts, whole grains, and leafy greens. It helps regulate your nervous system, muscles, blood pressure, and blood sugar (NIH, 2021). There are indications that magnesium supplements may help people lose weight, especially if they have certain underlying conditions.
Studies suggest that supplementing with magnesium may help people lower their BMI and decrease their waist circumference, especially those with hypertension, obesity, magnesium deficiency, and insulin resistance (Castellanos-Gutiérrez, 2018; Askari, 2021).
5. Green tea extract
While green tea isn’t a vitamin, it’s one of the few weight loss supplements with some research behind it. You can consume green tea as a beverage, but you can also consume it in pill form.
Green tea is thought to potentially help with weight management because of its main ingredients: catechins and caffeine, which may help increase metabolism and act as appetite suppressants. Green tea supplementation may contribute to a small amount of weight loss in people with overweight or obesity (Jurgens, 2012).Green tea may also play a role in fat oxidation and glucose tolerance (Venables, 2008). It may also help regulate metabolism and improve appetite control (Rudelle, 2007; Rainsa, 2011).
Should you take vitamins for weight loss?
Most over-the-counter vitamins and supplements marketed for weight loss are of little use and may be no better than a placebo. A report from the US Government Accountability Office states, “Little is known about whether weight loss supplements are effective, but some supplements have been associated with the potential for physical harm” (NIH-a, 2022).
Weight loss tea: is it backed by science?
This is why it’s best to review any weight loss vitamins you are considering taking with your healthcare provider. Most vitamins shouldn’t be a problem, as long as you take them in appropriate dosages, but they may not offer the health benefits you’re looking for, especially if you’re not deficient in them.
- Askari, M., Mozaffari, H., Jafari, A., et al. (2021). The effects of magnesium supplementation on obesity measures in adults: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 2021(61), 2921-2937. doi:10.1080/10408398.2020.1790498. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32654500/
- Beto, J. A. (2015). The role of calcium in human aging. Clinical Nutrition Research, 2015(4), 1-8. doi:10.7762/cnr.2015.4.1.1. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4337919/
- Castellanos-Gutiérrez, A., Sánchez-Pimienta, T. G., Carriquiry, A., et al. (2018). Higher dietary magnesium intake is associated with lower body mass index, waist circumference and serum glucose in Mexican adults. Nutrition Journal, 2018(17). doi:10.1186/s12937-018-0422-2. Retrieved from https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-018-0422-2
- Jurgens, T. M., Whelan, A. M., Killian, L., et al. (2012). Green tea for weight loss and weight maintenance in overweight or obese adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2012(12), CD008650. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008650.pub2. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23235664/
- Konradsen, S., Ag, H., Lindberg, F., et al. (2008). Serum 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D is inversely associated with body mass index. European Journal of Nutrition, 47(2), 87–91. doi:10.1007/s00394-008-0700-4. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18320256/
- National Institutes of Health (NIH). (2021). Magnesium. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-Consumer/
- National Institutes of Health (NIH-a). (2022). Dietary supplements for weight loss. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/WeightLoss-HealthProfessional/
- National Institutes of Health (NIH-b). (2022). Calcium. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/
- National Institutes of Health (NIH-c). (2022). Vitamin B12. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/
- National Institutes of Health (NIH-d). (2022). Vitamin D. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
- Okazaki, R. (2018). Body weight and bone/calcium metabolism. Obesity and vitamin D. Clinical Calcium, 2018(28), 947-956. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29950548/
- Parikh, S. J., Edelman, M., Uwaifo, G. I., et al. (2004). The relationship between obesity and serum 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D concentrations in healthy adults. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2004(89), 1196-1199. doi:10.1210/jc.2003-031398. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15001609/
- Rainsa, T. M., Agarwal, S., Makia, K. C. (2011). Antiobesity effects of green tea catechins: a mechanistic review. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 2011(22), 1-7. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2010.06.006. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0955286310001609
- Rosenblum, J., Castro, V. M., Moore, C. E., et al. (2012). Calcium and vitamin D supplementation is associated with decreased abdominal visceral adipose tissue in overweight and obese adults. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2012(95), 101–108. doi:10.3945/ajcn.111.019489. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/95/1/101/4576486
- Rubin, R. (2021). Sorting out whether vitamin D deficiency raises COVID-19 risk. JAMA, 2021(325), 329–330. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.24127. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2775003
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- Shahar, D. R., Schwarzfuchs, D., Fraser, D., et al. (2010). Dairy calcium intake, serum vitamin D, and successful weight loss. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010(92), 1017-1022. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2010.29355. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20810979/
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2022). FDA 101: dietary supplements. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/fda-101-dietary-supplements
- Venables, M. C., Hulston, C. J., Cox, H. R., Jeukendrup, A. E. (2008). Green tea extract ingestion, fat oxidation, and glucose tolerance in healthy humans. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008(87), 778-784. doi:10.1093/ajcn/87.3.778. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18326618/
- Zhu, W., Cai, D., Wang, Y., et al. (2013). Calcium plus vitamin D3 supplementation facilitated Fat loss in overweight and obese college students with very-low calcium consumption: a randomized controlled trial. Nutrition Journal, 2013(12). doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-8. Retrieved from https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-12-8
Dr. Chimene Richa is a board-certified Ophthalmologist and Senior Medical Writer/Reviewer at Ro.