B Vitamins: Are they the answer to natural weight loss?
This is certainly not a new or revolutionary claim and so it is questionable as to why B vitamins seem to be surrounded by so much hype in the diet industry. More puzzling however is the question of why so many consumers will shed out a substantial amount in money just to buy products which contain these ingredients. The question remains; are they really the answer to dieters’ weight problems?
What are the most commonly used B Vitamins in weight loss products?
B Vitamins are a type of compound that our body requires in order to carry out various different functions. The body does not need a lot of these vitamins – contrary to what some diet pill manufacturers would have you believe- and most of our intake comes from the food we eat. As well as this, our body itself makes some of these vitamins and that is why people are sometimes diagnosed with having a vitamin deficiency. This means that they are either not eating enough foods that contain the vitamin or that their body is not making enough of it.
To combat this, vitamin supplements came onto the market and from here they were gradually introduced into some diet pills. What is often forgotten however is the reason why these supplements appeared in the first place – to treat a lack of the substance in certain individuals. This fact will be important later on when we look to see how effective the consumption of these vitamins will actually be for weight loss.
When we talk about B Vitamins we are not speaking about 1 in particular but rather we mean a whole range of different compounds that come under this category.
There are in fact 8 different B Vitamins which include;
• Vitamin B1 – Thiamine
• Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin
• Vitamin B3 – Niacin
• Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic acid
• Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine
• Vitamin B7 – Biotin
• Vitamin B9 – Folic acid
• Vitamin B12 – Cyanocobalamin
For the purpose of this article we will only address those that are most commonly used in diet products at the present time. A quick search into the ingredients of a considerable amount of pills provides that Vitamins B1, B3, B7 and B12 are most frequently found in their ingredients lists.
We will look into each of the latter 4 mentioned above individually in order to get a more general view of how effective B Vitamins, as a group, will be for weight loss overall.
The 4 Most Common B-Vitanins
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
This Vitamin is the one that is most frequently used to support claims of weight loss and fat burning. It is needed by the body for a variety of different functions including maintaining the heart and nervous system. Most importantly for weight loss however is the fact that it is also used by the body to release energy from substances that lead to an increase in body weight if stored. These include those such as fat, protein and carbohydrates.
In terms of deficiency, if an individual has a lack of Vitamin B1 in the body they will often experience tiredness, headaches, heart problems and a poor appetite to name but a few symptoms. The last one is particularly puzzling; if less of the vitamin causes you to eat less why do so many diet pills include it? Well the obvious answer to that is that it helps to relieve the other, much more serious, side effects that are associated with a lack of B1.
The specific reason as to why most diet products include it to promote weight loss however is as follows; the vitamin is essential for something called ATP synthesis in cells. This is the process that provides the body with energy and it is also responsible for transforming starch and sugars specifically into energy. According to most manufacturers of diet products, it then follows that the vitamin creates a substantial amount of extra energy by breaking down these compounds with the result that more of them can then be burned off during exercise. These compounds would otherwise be stored and added onto the body as extra weight. This is the frequent explanation as to how weight loss can occur by consuming moderate amounts of this vitamin.
What this explanation does not take into account however is that this process is already going on inside the body prior to any extra consumption of B1. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Vitamin B1 alone will help you to lose weight.
This is due to 2 very important facts. The first being that there is a certain limit of every substance that the normal body can withstand and make use of. Therefore, whether you are consuming only the recommended dose of Vitamin B1 or well over that, this is unlikely to result in any significant change since the body will already be working effectively and optimally using the former dose. In fact it may even have undesired effects as it might actually cause problems within the body as it tries to get rid of the excess amount. Normally excess B1 is filtered out in the urine and so although side effects may occur in rare instances, overdosing on this particular vitamin is unlikely to occur.
The second reason as to why extra B1 may not be effective for weight loss is actually due to the nature of the compound and how it works within the body. We mentioned above that it converts compounds into energy but this energy must be burnt off for any chance of weight loss occurring. At most, this vitamin can help to facilitate weight loss since it may provide the potential for a bigger amount of energy to be burnt off. Weight loss results however will also depend on 2 things; whether the individual is lacking in B1 in the first place (as the addition of extra B1 is most likely to cause significant changes here) and also how much will power and motivation that the individual consuming the vitamin has.
If the individual does not partake in any considerable amount of exercise then even though fat etc. has been converted into energy, this energy will be stored back in its original form if it is not used or ‘burnt off’. Therefore individuals will not lose anything if they do not put a substantial amount of effort into their weight loss regimes overall.
Having said this, if the individual is using the pill containing Vitamin B1 purely as an aid to weight loss and is also undertaking a low calorie diet and regular exercise, the B1 will help to keep the body burning fats and carbohydrates through this exercise and is believed to be linked to improving muscle tone at the same time.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Also frequently used in diet products is Vitamin B3. This is so highly thought of that like B1 it can also be bought as a supplement in its own right which can be taken orally or through injection.
Vitamin B3 is crucial to a huge amount of different processes that go on inside the body and the key fact here is that a lot of these are related to the metabolic rate. In fact B3 is involved in over 60 different metabolic processes and again like B1 all of these result in an increase in the production of energy.
This particular vitamin is mainly used due to its multi-faceted approach to weight loss; it is said to have a variety of indirect effects on individuals’ weight. These indirect causes include being able to decrease the amount of triglycerides in the blood stream by increasing the rate at which they are broken down. This has effects on cholesterol and is particularly helpful for those who have high instances of this.
The National Institutes of Health also state that B3 helps to maintain a properly functioning digestive system and nervous system. This may help to promote weight loss in those that are prone to digestive problems and it is clear that well maintained and efficient bodily processes may help individuals to start losing weight. Also by affecting the nervous system, B3 is believed to be able to regulate levels of Serotonin which is what makes people feel alert and helps them to combat stress. This too may help indirectly as stress thought to be one of the main causes of over eating.
Blood circulation is also stated as being improved by taking Vitamin B3 supplements. This aids weight loss by making sure that oxygen can be transported as efficiently as possible to every muscle in the body meaning that individuals can maintain exercise for longer periods of time and thus will result in an increase in the amount of fat that can be burnt.
Most importantly for weight loss results, B3 (like B1) helps to convert the food we eat into energy. It does this by increasing the metabolic rate of individuals specifically to metabolise carbohydrates. It also promotes the production of a compound called L-Carnitine which is a type of amino acid that helps the body to burn fat by carrying the fatty acids into the mitochondria of cells where energy is produced.
By speeding up the rate at which fatty acids are turned into energy this vitamin achieves an energy boost in individuals. Again though this must be used by users to increase the amount of exercise that they undertake. While Vitamin B3 may act as a catalyst for a number of different processes that can contribute to weight loss, it does not seem to be able to promote weight loss by itself without the addition of diet and exercise. It seems as though B Vitamins so far are important for the body to function to its full potential but as far a weight loss goes it does not seem to be able to provide results directly.
In fact, Vitamin B3 is one of the rare B Vitamins that has actually undergone some form of clinical testing. This however is not favourable in terms of supporting any weight loss results. A study carried out in 2010 actually demonstrated that large amounts of this vitamin actually caused a weight gain in individuals. This is because B3 is actually an appetite stimulant meaning that individuals could find themselves consuming more calories than the vitamin is actually helping to burn.
There is very little clinical evidence that tells us about the effects of Vitamin B3 on weight loss alone as it is usually combined with a variety of other ingredients. Due to this there is not much proof that it actually does work to provide real results through its indirect effects. The closest evidence that we actually have to support these claims has been published by the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies for the European Food Safety Authority. The Panel found merely that B3 ‘contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism’.
There is nothing here to suggest that the vitamin can improve metabolism beyond this normal metabolic rate and so this means that it may help to promote weight loss in only very limited circumstances. It is possible that the vitamin could potentially help those who are obese since they will usually be sufficiently lacking in B3 although the extent of this still questionable since there is nothing to say that once an individual has a normal metabolic rate, that they will be able to burn more calories than the vitamin may be causing them to eat.
The general opinion concerning Vitamin B3 specifically is that it is not rated very highly in terms of real weight loss effects but that it may be good to use as a general supplement to promote a healthy internal system.
Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
B7 is often described as a vitamin that can lead to ‘rapid weight loss’. Like the majority of other B Vitamins, it too helps with the process of turning carbohydrates into fuel in the form of glucose. This is, as we already know, then burnt and used for energy.
Most manufacturers of diet products do not seem to stress this particular compound too much in comparison to others that it is usually combined with. This immediately causes some confusion over whether its weight loss effects are actually viable; why is B7 known for rapid weight loss if the manufactures of these types of products more often than not include it as a secondary ingredient?
The theory behind its inclusion in diet products is that it can help individuals to lose weight via the effects that it has on aiding the metabolism and using energy more effectively within the body. Most diet pill sites that include Vitamin B7 in their pills also explain that its addition can help to regulate blood sugar levels.
In terms of actual weight loss there is an extreme lack of clinical evidence that supports the view that B7 can provide quick and realistic weight loss results and it only seems to be able to help individuals who are diabetic; at least from the limited research that is available at the present time.
One study that was published in 2008 does provide a preliminary indication that B7 might have some effects on weight loss although this would be in very limited circumstances and as an indirect rather than a direct result. The study itself did not look at the effects of Biotin on its own but in conjunction with Chromium Picolinate to examine whether this would improve glucose metabolism in overweight to obese individuals who were suffering from type 2 diabetes. This alone is problematic as Chromium, unlike the B7 is backed up by evidence which suggests that it has this effect. It is therefore questionable as to whether it was the Chromium and not the B7 that produced the results demonstrated here.
These were that the combination of these ingredients could and did improve the metabolism of glucose in the subjects but this does not mean to say either of these compounds will have any effect at all on those who are not suffering from diabetes.
It appears then that Vitamin B7 in particular is backed up by very little, if any proof that it can work to result in any weight loss at all let alone ‘rapid weight loss’ in individuals. It too may be useful for a variety of other health reasons including the growth of hair and nails but until any concrete research comes to light, the bottom line is that taking B7 alone, or even in combination with other ingredients, is extremely unlikely to contribute to any significant weight loss.
There simply is just no basis on which weight loss claims by manufacturers concerning this specific ingredient can be justified.
Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin)
This vitamin is not actually included in most diet pills due to any effects that it has on weight even though the manufacturers of diet products might have you believe otherwise.
It is actually essential for the body to make red blood cells as well as being crucial in both DNA synthesis and efficient functioning of the nervous system. It has however also been claimed to be able to act as an energy enhancer allowing increased exercise in those who consume it and also as being able to boost the metabolic rate. These statements seem to be misplaced when you examine why the B12 actually does this.
To understand this we must first look into what happens to those who have a B12 deficiency. Symptoms of this condition include tiredness, weakness and stomach upsets amongst various others. This is important in terms of what the vitamin is claimed to do.
Statements relating to the effects of Vitamin B12 are actually based on those who suffer from a deficiency and relate to the curing of the associated symptoms mentioned above. For example, B12 is said to have energy increasing properties because those who are deficient often suffer from fatigue, thus when they take a supplement they have an increased amount of energy available. It is also worth noting that this type of deficiency is not that common due to the fact that the body can actually store this vitamin. A deficiency also takes years to develop as the daily requirement of B12 is so small that most diets meet it. This is why it is generally not seen in adults under 50 years of age and on the basis that this is so rare, the likelihood of B12 working for you is very slim.
In those that do not have a deficiency, research has actually suggested that taking supplements of B12 will not affect energy levels or metabolism beyond what is normal.
There is no evidence available that suggests that Vitamin B12 can improve energy levels on its own regardless of whether a deficiency is present, in fact there is more data that has been published that supports the opposite view. Furthermore, it is actually not the case that Vitamin B12 is alleged to aid with weight loss directly at all but only indirectly through this increased amount of energy which is often explained as leading to the potential for more exercise.
Even if some evidence did come to light which suggested that the vitamin could have effects on energy and the metabolic rate of normal, healthy individuals, any weight loss results will still depend entirely on their will power and motivation relating to their weight loss efforts.
We therefore believe that it can be said with some certainty that, at least until some evidence to the contrary becomes available (and this seems extremely unlikely), Vitamin B12 either in the form of a pill or as an injection, is not a weight loss supplement to begin with and in addition, will not provide noticeable indirect weight loss results in those who are not suffering from a deficiency.
Conclusion: The Overall opinion on B Vitamins for weight loss
Considering all of the information given above it seems a bit far stretched to say that any of the B Vitamins alone can act as a route to weight loss. While it is true that they each have some potential indirect effects on individuals’ weight, this is not their primary goal and a reduction in weight will not always result from these secondary processes.
If we are to be blunt, we would recommend taking these supplements only if you have been diagnosed with a Vitamin B deficiency as this is when they are most likely to work since they have been designed for this purpose. Failing that you may also want to take them for general well-being but as a conclusion we would not recommend taking B Vitamins for the purpose of a weight loss supplement and do not rate them very highly in this area.
For more articles on B Vitamins we recommend you read our, Can Niacin really help with Weight Loss article.
Take a look at our Saba ACE article for dietpills containing B Vitamins.
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