Can I Use Vitamins for Weight Loss?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Weight loss isn’t easy

In reality, slimming down isn’t that simple. Learn what the experts have to say about vitamins and weight loss.

Big claims, slim evidence

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.

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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.

Vitamin B12

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.

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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.

Vitamin D

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.

But more research is needed to test these results and learn how vitamin D supplements might affect other people with overweight.

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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.

Omega-3 fatty acids

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.

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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.

Calcium

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.

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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.

Green tea

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.

Takeaway

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.

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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.

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