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Are There Weight-Loss Benefits of Vitamin B12?

By Sylvie Tremblay

Proper nutrition can make or break your health -- including your ability to maintain a healthy weight. But that doesn't mean that a single nutrient will make you lose weight. There's some early evidence linking vitamin B-12 to weight control, but you shouldn't count on it as a magic bullet for shedding excess pounds.

Evidence for B-12 and Weight Status

There's preliminary research showing adequate vitamin B-12 status may play a role in weight control. One study, published in 2013 in Medicinski Glasnik, observed B-12 levels in almost 1,000 people to look for links between B-12 levels and body weight. The authors found that people with low vitamin B-12 are more likely to be overweight and obese, while people with healthy B-12 levels tended to maintain a healthier body weight.

Another study found similar results in pregnant women. This study, published in a 2015 issue of PLoS One, found that pregnant women with low B-12 levels were more likely to be obese. And a 2014 study in Nutrients found the same association in overweight and obese adolescents.

While these studies show that low B-12 levels are correlated with a higher body weight, that doesn't necessarily mean getting more vitamin B-12 will make you lose weight. You'll still need a calorie-controlled diet and exercise program to do that.

Vitamin B-12 and Exercise

While it's not know whether vitamin B-12 can directly help you lose weight, low B-12 levels can interfere with the active lifestyle you'll need to follow if you want to shed pounds. Low vitamin B-12 levels cause anemia, which can make you feel tired and make you lose your breath easily -- not the best feeling if you want to work hard at the gym. That's because B-12 normally helps you make healthy red blood cells capable of transporting oxygen. Without enough B-12, your red blood cells have a harder time carrying oxygen to your tissues, and you start to feel fatigued more easily.

If you're currently suffering from anemia because of a B-12 deficiency, correcting that deficiency can help you feel more energized -- so you can be more active, burn more calories and lose weight. If you suspect you have anemia, talk to your doctor.

B-12 Foods and Weight Loss

Even if B-12 isn't a weight-loss cure-all, foods naturally high in vitamin B-12 can help you lose weight. B-12 is most abundant in meats and shellfish -- like beef, turkey, crab and mussels -- and eggs. A 3-ounce serving of turkey, for example, has 0.8 microgram of vitamin B-12 -- or one-third of the 2.4 micrograms you need daily. A 3-ounce serving of mussels has 20 micrograms, an 8-ounce glass of milk has 1 microgram and an egg offers 0.4 microgram.

These foods have another nutrient in common -- protein. And including high-protein foods in your diet can help you lose weight. One review, published in Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity in 2008, notes that a moderately high-protein diet helps with weight loss and improves body composition -- a measure of the amount of fat vs. the amount of lean tissue in your body. Including lean meats, eggs and dairy helps boost your protein intake to support fat loss, and it ensures you're getting the B-12 you need.

Take a Holistic Approach to Weight Loss

Losing weight requires more than one simple change -- like getting more vitamin B-12. You'll need to make several small changes for long-lasting weight loss. In addition to eating lean protein rich in vitamin B-12, you should fill your diet with whole grains, fruits, nuts, legumes and lots of vegetables. Reduce your calorie intake by 500 to 1,000 calories daily to lose weight at a gradual-but-effective rate of 1 to 2 pounds weekly. And boost your weight-loss results with a combination of cardiovascular exercise -- like brisk walking, cycling, jogging or rowing -- plus strength training designed to help you build calorie-burning muscle tissue. If you have any health concerns, check with your doctor before beginning a diet and exercise plan.

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