Vitamins and Fat Burning:
What works, what doesn't, and what work against it.

by Tanya Zilberter, PhD

Supplements make up the greatest part of the super-profitable weight loss industry. Are all dieters that use them just salespeople's victims? Some doctors just do not believe in them, while health concerned people are taking them religiously, preferring one brands over another, depending on their beliefs and the selling art skills of supplement distributors.

Vitamin A

Adipose tissue from vitamin A-deficient animals showed an increased fat burning rate. On the other hand, excess vitamin A caused a decrease in fat burning, so think again when you are going to take a vitamin A pill. [1]

Vitamins of B-group

Believe it or not, fat burning can be dangerous when products of lipolysis begin to circulate in the blood threatening to settle in the blood vessels sometimes forming deadly clogs. Luckily, one of the B-family, Nicotinic acid, seems to be able to prevent this unwanted effect. It actually prevented the increase in free fatty acids concentration that occurred during exercise. Levels of free fatty acids during the nicotinic acid treatment were significantly lower than control values during both exercise and recovery after exercise. [2]

Although after administration of nicotinic acid adipose tissue fat burning increased, the released fatty acids were retained in adipose tissue. [3] This effect of nicotinic acid allows it's use it as a protective measure on the development and progression of cardiovascular disease. [4]

Another b-family member, Carnitin enhanced fat burning. [5]

Vitamin C

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) combined with Algae increased fat burning in a synergistic manner. [6] However, ascorbic acid decreases the lipolytic effect of stress as a result of its direct effect on fat (adipose) tissue [7]. It looks like vitamin C can help to increase fat burning at rest but it blunts the lipolysis already activated by stress through the emergency nervous system (sympathetic).

Here we come to a very interesting point that proves vitamins are principally different from drugs. A drug does always the same thing for you. If it is designed to decrease body temperature, for example, there's no way it will increase it in any circumstances. However, there is a class of biologically active substances that act depending on the body state. Their major purpose is to return a body function back to normal. They are adaptogenes. In this sense, vitamin C looks like an adaptogene, and so do some other vitamins as we'll see below.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D (or increased sensitivity to vitamin D) raises cholesterol levels. On the other hand, vitamin D2 acted to oppose stress-induced fat burning. [8, 9] It means that while working as a pro-lipolysis agent, vitamin D helps prevent a lipolysis from going too far. Doesn't it look like adaptogene again?

Vitamin E

Vitamin E so far is not known for its direct effect on fat burning, however, E-avitaminosis was shown to deteriorate the activity of the fat burning enzymes in the liver, skeletal muscles and kidneys. [10]. Alpha-tocopherol in rather high doses has been shown able to decrease fat burning activated by lack of oxygen, for example during anaesthesia [11], or after trauma [12], thus limiting the bad trauma-induced changes in metabolism. Adaptogene, isn't it?!

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is one more vitamin that protects against the unfavorable vasing lipolysis in the liver, skeletal muscles and kidneys. It was established that in rats with food K-avitaminosis, liver and skeletal muscle enzyme helping in the breakdown of lipids, lipase, was activated. The analogous changes in the activity of the test enzymes were discovered in animals given antivitamins K -- pelentan. [10].

What kind of conclusion can be drawn out of these facts? Sorry guys, if you are looking for a magic bullet to dramatically increase fat burning, look somewhere else.


1. Ramachandran CK, et al. Metabolic potential of the adipose tissue of rats during hyper- and hypovitaminosis A. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1986 May; 182(1): 73-78.

2. Trost S, et al. The effect of substrate utilization, manipulated by nicotinic acid, on excess postexercise oxygen consumption. Int J Sports Med. 1997 Feb; 18(2): 83-88.

3. Wahlberg G, et al. Effects of nicotinic acid treatment on glyceride formation and lipolysis in adipose tissue of hyperlipidemic patients. Int J Clin Lab Res. 1993; 23(2): 88-94.

4. Ishikawa T. Nicotinic acid and derivatives for therapy of hyperlipoproteinemia. Nippon Rinsho. 1994 Dec; 52(12): 3292-3297.

5. Koldovsky O, et al. Developmental aspects of lipid metabolism. Physiol Res. 1995; 44(6): 353-356.

6. Nakagawa H. Effect of dietary algae on improvement of lipid metabolism in fish. Biomed Pharmacother. 1997; 51(8): 345-348.

7. Misekova D. Lincova D. Hynie S. The effect of ascorbic acid on adrenergic lipolysis. Sbornik Lekarsky. 94(1):55-62, 1993.

8. Fassina G, et al. Effect of vitamin D2 on hormone-stimulated lipolysis in vitro. Eur J Pharmacol. 1969 Feb; 5(3): 286-290.

9. Fassina G, et al. Antagonistic action of vitamin D2 on noradrenaline-induced lipolysis in vitro. J Pharm Pharmacol. 1967 May; 19(5): 344.

10. Lider VA. Tissue lipolytic activity with various vitamin K and E allowances in white rats. Vopr Pitan. 1985 Sep; 5: 37-39.

11. Camus G, et al. Tocopherol mobilization during dynamic exercise after beta-adrenergic blockade. Arch Int Physiol Biochim. 1990 Mar; 98(1): 121-126.

12. Abidova SS, et al.The efficacy of using alpha-tocopherol during ftorotan anesthesia. Eksp Klin Farmakol. 1996 Jul; 59(4): 3-4.