Can Vitamins Help You Lose Weight?Posted on Apr 11th 2011 2:00PM by Kristen Seymour
To clear things up, we went to pharmacist Suzy Cohen. She's been in the business for over 22 years, and her favorite part of her work is helping people understand the pros and cons of using certain medications, including vitamins. She answered a few of our vexing vitamin questions, but you can learn more about (and from) her at DearPharmacist.
That's Fit: Do certain vitamins help facilitate weight loss?
Suzy Cohen: What we eat affects our health and well-being. Unfortunately many of us frequently fall short on getting the nutrients our bodies need. Getting the nutrients we need from diet alone is difficult.
I always recommend taking a multivitamin with added minerals for extra nutrient support. Specific minerals such as iron, selenium and zinc help to facilitate weight loss by waking up and nourishing the thyroid gland.
One could also consider CoQ10, a vitamin-like compound that aids in the production of 95 percent of the body's energy, and is also a thermogenic, meaning it increases metabolism causing the body to burn fat faster. Thermogenic supplements are intended (and taken) specifically to increase your metabolism, which helps you burn fat and sugar. CoQ10 has been clinically proven in studies to help burn calories faster.
TF: What vitamins are most important for someone who is cutting calories?
SC: Once again, I would recommend a multivitamin. The reasons to take a multivitamin or mineral supplement are almost as diverse as the formulas available.
Another option when cutting calories or reducing fish consumption is to consider Omega-3 fatty acids, which are most plentiful in fish oil. The most important Omega-3 fatty acids that aid with weight loss are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Don't be fooled by the fact that EPA and DHA come from unattractive slimy fish; these two powerhouses can help you become thin and beautiful. They provide an "oil" which makes your skin hold moisture so it stays supple and smooths fine lines and wrinkles. As it pertains to weight loss, fish oils containing EPA and DHA help replace the bad fats.
People who are overweight often suffer tremendously with regularity. Fish oils improve regularity within days. As an added bonus, fish oils help improve joint pain (this has been clinically proven) and that allows a person to engage in exercise which only helps to slim the waistline!
You also need to keep your immune system strong in order to feel your best. A powerful antioxidant, Vitamin C helps maintain a healthy immune system and protects against damaging free radicals.
TF: Are there certain vitamins that are most beneficial for someone on a low-carb diet?
SC: Consistently cutting food groups from a daily diet can eventually impact nutritional status, therefore supplementing with the proper vitamins is key. Low-carb diets usually tend to limit fruits, whole grains, beans, and dairy products. In such cases, I recommend a B-complex to help insure proper metabolism of carbohydrates, fat and protein.
Low-carb is also another way of saying high-protein, so taking a supplement that helps break down protein, such as L-carnitine is also recommended.
Folic acid, also known as folate and folacin from dietary sources, is essential in cell division, DNA synthesis and the manufacturing of important amino acids. Folic acid is also essential for nervous system health and is vital to the development of the nervous system of a fetus. Many grains are enriched with folic acid, and for some people that is the only place they get it in their diet. But if you are cutting out grains, then supplementing with folic acid is key.
How about vegetarians or vegans?
Since animal products are a good food source of B12, I recommend a B12 supplement (or B-complex containing B12) in addition to a multivitamin.
Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body, is found primarily in the skeleton where it builds and maintains bones and teeth. Calcium supplementation helps prevent osteoporosis and maintains a healthy blood pressure. Calcium supplements are often combined with other nutrients that offer additional benefits; I normally recommend Calcium with Vitamin D, which is often coupled with calcium to facilitate calcium absorption and bone development. Vitamin D is critical for the proper absorption and use of calcium in the body.
It is also important that vegetarians and vegans consume Omega-3 fatty acids. Rather than fish oil, one can take flaxseed oil, a natural plant-based source of Omega-3 fatty acids, although it is important to note, Omega-3s from fish oil are more readily used by the body than those found in flaxseed oil.
Vegans should consider increasing the amount of plant-based proteins they get their diet, such as beans. I also recommend using a protein supplement such as hemp or rice protein that can be used in smoothies or shakes, which can make for a delicious snack.
TF: What's the most commonly needed vitamin or supplement for those training for an endurance event or working out daily?
SC: [In addition to a multivitamin and B vitamins,] another suggestion is glucosamine, which is nature's basic building block for maintaining joint cartilage. Glucosamine helps to maintain structural integrity of the connective tissues of your joints; basically it makes the squishy material in between your joints. Not only that, but glucosamine blocks certain enzymes in the body that would otherwise destroy your precious cartilage.
Unlike reactive pain relievers, proactive joint care naturally replaces key components needed for daily maintenance, and renewal of joints. It can mean the difference between missing out and making something happen. Glucosamine offers a way for people to feel better over the course of a few months, with virtually no side effects as compared to conventional non-steroidal drug therapy. However, if you are allergic to shellfish, this is not for you.
Cohen encourages anyone confused or curious about the benefits of vitamins to closely examine their lifestyle, dietary habits and health concerns, then talk to a health care professional about supplements. She has recently partnered with Nature Made to help consumers like us make smart supplement choices, and recommends checking out this Vitamin Assessment quiz, which will tell you which vitamins and supplements best meet your needs.