As my readers and patients know, I often emphasize the importance of vitamin and mineral supplementation (see previous blogs about multivitamins, and vitamin D). A recent randomized clinical trial has now shown that supplementation with a multivitamin was effective in inducing weight loss in a group of Chinese women.

This clinical trial, published in the International Journal of Obesity, enrolled 96 overweight or obese Chinese women, and randomized them to receive either a multivitamin & mineral supplement, a calcium supplement, or placebo. After 6 months, they found that women taking the multivitamin lost 8lb, compared with 2.5lb on calcium, and 0.5lb on placebo. Note that the weight loss seen with the multivitamin is similar to that seen with the weight loss medication orlistat (Xenical). The multivitamin group was found to have a higher metabolic rate compared with placebo, and both the vitamin and the calcium groups enjoyed some improvement in their cholesterol levels.

As noted in the accompanying editorial by my colleagues Drs Astrup and Bügel at the Department of Human Nutrition, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, the rather impressive degree of weight loss seen in this study with a multivitamin is intriguing, and the study needs to be repeated, in greater number and in other ethnic groups, before we can draw any broad conclusions. However, there are some physiological mechanisms that can support the weight loss seen. Several vitamins and minerals are known to have a key role in the function of the mitochondria, which function as the ‘power plants’ of our cells. Therefore, repleting important nutrients with a multivitamin may improve mitochondrial function and result in increased caloric burn by each of our cells.

The bottom line is that it is difficult to obtain all necessary vitamins and minerals in our nutritionally deplete food supply, and therefore, a multivitamin is recommended for most people. The potential for weight loss is one more item to add to the list of potential benefits. Speak to your doctor to find out which multivitamin is best for you!

Dr. Sue Pedersen © 2010

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