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Multivitamin Supplementation Reduces Body Fat and Lipids

An article published online on February 9, 2010 in the International Journal of Obesity reports a positive effect on fat loss and lipid lowering in obese women who consumed a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement.

In a double-blinded trial, C. H. Sun and associates at Harbin Medical University in China randomized 96 obese Chinese women aged 18 to 55 years to receive a daily placebo, a tablet containing 162 milligrams calcium, or a multivitamin and mineral supplement providing the following nutrients: vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, C, D, E and K1, biotin, folic acid, calcium, phosphorous, chloride, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, manganese, iodine, chromium, molybdenum, selenium, nickel, stannum (tin), silicon and vanadium.

Body weight, body mass index, waist circumference, fat mass, fat free mass, resting energy expenditure, respiratory quotient, blood pressure, fasting plasma glucose, fasting serum insulin, and lipid levels were measured at the beginning and end of the trial. Participants' diets, which were evaluated prior to and following the treatment period, did not differ significantly at either time point.

After 26 weeks, women who received the multi-nutrient supplement had significantly lower body weight, body mass index, waist circumference, fat mass, respiratory quotient, and total and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol compared with baseline levels. When compared to the placebo group's values at the end of the study, body weight, body mass index, fat mass, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and total and LDL cholesterol were significantly lower as well in the multi-nutrient supplemented group. Resting energy expenditure and high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol were higher in the group that received the vitamin and mineral supplement compared to both baseline levels and to the placebo group's 26-week values. Triglycerides, glucose, insulin and fat free mass remained unchanged in all groups.

Participants who received calcium alone had lower LDL and higher HDL levels than the placebo group at the trial's conclusion. This group was included in the study due to the previously determined benefit of the mineral on fat and lipids; however, the current trial showed that supplementation with multivitamins and minerals was more effective than calcium alone to improve these areas. "The findings of this study support the notion that besides calcium, obese individuals need other vitamins and minerals for balancing energy metabolism, controlling body weight and for improving lipid profiles," the authors note.

In their discussion of possible mechanisms, Dr Sun and colleagues remark that the vitamins and minerals used in the study could lead to a higher level of fat oxidation and greater use of fat for energy. "To our knowledge, this study is the first to evaluate the effects of multivitamin and mineral supplementation on lipid profile in obese subjects," they write. "These findings have implications for the development of intervention strategies for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and other obesity-related disorders."

In the landmark 2002 AMA recommendation of a multivitamin supplement, they said: "As people age, they also become less able to absorb some vitamins from their diets. In addition, some physicians may not understand the importance of vitamin deficiency and may fail to recommend multivitamins."


Background: Obese individuals are more likely to have either lower blood concentrations or lower bioavailability of minerals and/or vitamins. However, there are limited data on the effects of nutritional supplementation on body weight (BW) control, energy homeostasis and lipid metabolism in obese subjects.

Objective: The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effects of supplementation with multivitamin and multimineral on adiposity, energy expenditure and lipid profiles in obese Chinese women.

Design: A total of 96 obese Chinese women (body mass index (BMI) 28kg m−2) aged 18–55 years participated in a 26-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled intervention study. Subjects were randomized into three groups, receiving either one tablet of multivitamin and mineral supplement (MMS), or calcium 162mg (Calcium) or identical placebo daily during the study period. BW, BMI, waist circumference (WC), fat mass (FM), fat-free mass, resting energy expenditure (REE), respiratory quotient (RQ), blood pressure, fasting plasma glucose and serum insulin, total cholesterol (TC), low- and high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C and HDL-C) and triglycerides (TGs) were measured at baseline and 26 weeks.

Results: A total of 87 subjects completed the study. After 26 weeks, compared with the placebo group, the MMS group had significantly lower BW, BMI, FM, TC and LDL-C, significantly higher REE and HDL-C, as well as a borderline significant trend of lower RQ (P=0.053) and WC (P=0.071). The calcium group also had significantly higher HDL-C and lower LDL-C levels compared with the placebo group.

Conclusion: The results suggest that, in obese individuals, multivitamin and mineral supplementation could reduce BW and fatness and improve serum lipid profiles, possibly through increased energy expenditure and fat oxidation. Supplementation of calcium alone (162mg per day) only improved lipid profiles.


Y Li, C Wang, K Zhu, R N Feng, C H Sun. Effects of multivitamin and mineral supplementation on adiposity, energy expenditure and lipid profiles in obese Chinese women. International Journal of Obesity (9 February 2010) doi:10.1038/ijo.2010.14

Key concepts: Multivitamin, vitamin deficiency, adiposity, energy expenditure, lipid profiles