Vitamin B and Weight Loss

Vilma Ruddock
Woman taking vitamin

Trying to lose weight can be very challenging, and many people look for a magic medicine or a vitamin as a quick route to weight loss. Many commercial weight loss programs exploit this to recommend services and products, such as vitamin B, as miracle weight loss boosters. However, search the medical literature and you will find no clinical studies to suggest any role for vitamin B in aiding weight loss.

Vitamin B Complex

There are eight vitamins that make up the vitamin B complex. They are essential for:

  • The metabolism of carbohydrates, protein and fat
  • Energy production
  • Synthesis of red blood cells
  • Normal nerve cell function
  • Maintenance of healthy hair, skin and muscle

Inadequate intake of essential nutrients, such as protein and carbohydrates, can lead to diminished energy and exercise endurance. Lack of adequate vitamin B can lead to anemia and fatigue and low energy. Returning your blood levels to normal will improve your energy. There is little data available, however, for the role of extra vitamin B supplements in enhancing energy further.

Because of their role in metabolism and energy production, advocates of the use of vitamin B for weight loss assume that taking supplements can further boost energy for exercise, rev up metabolism (especially breakdown of fat) and therefore hasten weight loss. There is, however, no evidence in the scientific literature for such a claim, especially if you are not deficient in any of the B-complex vitamins.

Until more data becomes available it is a good idea to be cautious about using additional vitamin B to aid your weight loss.

Vitamin B12 Advocates

Vitamin B12 injection is the vitamin B most often prescribed by weight loss programs. But, once again, there is no evidence to suggest that, if you are not deficient in this vitamin, using supplements will speed up your weight loss. In fact, vitamin B12 deficiency itself often leads to weight loss in addition to other symptoms.

Vegetarians are especially at risk for deficiency of this vitamin because of the lack of animal products in their diets. Adequate replacement will reverse the symptoms, but extra dosing of vitamin B12 will not boost energy, performance, or endurance beyond your body's normal ability.

The Functions of the B-Complex Vitamins

All B-complex vitamins have essential functions in the body. All 8 B vitamins are water soluble, which means that what is not used by the body is excreted in the urine each day. Vitamin B12, however, can be stored in the liver for some time.

In addition to their role in metabolism and energy production, each have additional specific roles in maintaining healthy body functions.

Name Function
B-1 (Thiamine) Metabolism of carbohydrates and sugars into energy; maintains healthy hair, skin, nerve cells and muscle
B-2 (Riboflavin) Converts food into energy; maintains hair, skin, nails, muscle, nerve cells and red blood cell production
B-3 (Niacin) Helps convert food into energy; required for fat and carbohydrate metabolism; maintains healthy skin, blood cells, brain, and nervous system
B-5 (Pantothenic Acid) Helps to convert food to energy; helps make red blood cells, hormones, and brain substances
B-6 (Pyridoxine) Helps convert food into energy; involved in production of fats, hormones, red blood cells and brain substances
B-12 (Cyanocobalamin) Helps to make new cells and in metabolism of amino acids and fatty acids; helps in normal nerve cell growth and DNA production; helps make red blood cell; may lower risk of heart disease by lowering homocysteine levels
B-7 (Biotin) Helps convert food into energy and in amino acid metabolism and glucose and fatty acid production; maintains healthy hair and bones
B-8 (Folate)

Maintains healthy spine and brain development in developing embryo; involved in red blood cell production; may lower risk of heart disease by lowering homocysteine levels

None of the functions of each of these B vitamins would suggest that ingesting more than your body needs for its normal functions could enhance energy and metabolism and lead to weight loss, yet the claim continues to exist. Because B vitamins perform these essential functions in the body, be sure to eat a variety of foods rich in these vitamins to ensure adequate intake.

Healthy Route to Weight Loss

Weight loss programs, products, and services make up a multi-billion dollar industry as people gravitate to the next quick fix. Those who have a lot of weight to lose want to be encouraged and motivated by seeing the weight come off quickly. However, current evidence shows that the only healthy and safe way to lose weight and keep it off is to manage your calories by choosing healthy foods and limiting portion sizes. This will ensure that your body is getting all the recommended nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs to function normally. Adding exercise is a proven way to boost up a weight loss effort.

Always check with your doctor before following any weight loss advice to ensure there is no danger to your health.

Vitamin B and Weight Loss