Supplements. Their claims are really all over the place. And if you have a weight loss goal in mind, you’ll want to be mindful about adequate nutrient intake for your general health, whether it comes from foods or vitamins and supplements. You may have also heard that certain vitamins and supplements may be tied to weight loss.
At first glance, that might sound like a fad that’s up there with diet pills, patches, and the like, so we turned to Erin Palinski-Wade, a New Jersey-based registered dietitian and certified diabetes expert and author of “Belly Fat Diet for Dummies,” to break down if there are vitamins help support weight loss.
“Consuming a nutrient-dense diet rich in beneficial nutrients is always the best bet as you not only consume the vitamins and minerals in the food, but additional compounds that may benefit health, such as added fiber and antioxidants,” says Palinski-Wade. “However, if you are not able to meet your daily needs through diet alone, adding supplemental nutrients may help.”
While there are a range of vitamins and minerals touted to do this (we’re looking at you, B12), there are only a few that have real merit. And in most cases, you’re better off getting them through food. Here’s how to maximize a healthy diet to get the nutrients you need and support your goals:
Ah, the sunshine vitamin. “While there is an association between obesity and low levels of vitamin D, there has not yet been research to suggest that adding vitamin D as a supplement will promote weight loss,” Palinski-Wade says. “However, one study did find that adding a vitamin D supplement while following a weight loss meal plan led to an increase in weight loss when compared to women following the same meal plan without the additional supplementation,” she points out.
Other research hasn’t been so promising. A review of 20 randomized controlled trials concluded that supplementing with D did not change BMI or waist circumference in healthy adults, some of whom were considered obese, according to the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism in 2020.
Vitamin D levels can also have a direct impact on mood, which in turn can impact weight, Palinski-Wade adds. This is because low levels of vitamin D have been linked with an increased risk of depression and mood disorders, and a depressive mood and resulting reduced energy levels may increase the risk of weight gain.
Low levels of vitamin D may also impact sleep quality and quantity, and since a poor night’s sleep can affect appetite hormones and calorie intake, it makes sense that a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, Palinski-Wade adds. Meanwhile, improved sleep due to correcting low vitamin D levels may in turn help to promote weight loss.
So how can you up your vitamin D intake? According to Palinski-Wade, the best source of vitamin D is sunlight, though additional food sources include fortified dairy products, mushrooms, eggs, and fatty fish. During the winter, if you live in a Northern climate, you may also consider a supplement, but always talk to your doctor first to determine if you actually have a deficiency and if it would be beneficial for you to do so.
Although magnesium is not directly linked with weight loss, magnesium plays a role in the body’s stress response and also supports healthy sleep, Palinski-Wade says.
“High stress levels, along with insomnia may impact appetite, calorie intake, and body weight along with overall energy levels,” she explains. “By consuming adequate magnesium, you may enjoy improved sleep and lower stress which indirectly may improve body weight.”
Optimal food sources of magnesium include pumpkin seeds, nuts, seeds, dried beans, and whole grains, Palinski-Wade says.
According to Palinski-Wade, some research suggests that consuming adequate vitamin C may slow age-related lean body mass loss while helping the body to more effectively oxidize fat.
“When lean body mass is preserved, this has a positive impact on metabolism and therefore overall body composition and weight,” she explains. “Additionally, adequate vitamin C levels have been associated with a reduction in circulating stress hormones in the body after a stressful situation. When stress hormones are elevated, this can increase fat accumulation in the midsection (visceral fat), so adequate vitamin C may help to offset storage of this dangerous fat.”
C-rich foods include strawberries, bell peppers, kiwi, broccoli, cantaloupe, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and citrus.
The bottom line: While popping vitamins alone won’t magically promote weight loss, making sure you’re getting the recommended levels while also following an effective diet and exercise plan can help you to reap the vitamins’ researched benefits, which in turn may promote a healthy weight.
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