Could Supplementing Be the Answer to Excess Weight Problems?

Vitamins scattered on table and in bowls

If you’ve spent any time listening to podcasts or many YouTube influencers, you will most certainly come across stories and discussions about how nutritional deficiencies may be the root cause of obesity and, in a similar fashion, how supplementing with specific vitamins or minerals may be the answer to excess weight issues. In this article, we will discuss the most significant nutritional shortfalls in America and whether these deficiencies contribute to overall health and weight gain.

Before we start, it’s important to remember that there can be a significant difference between the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of a vitamin or nutrient and how much your body needs. For one, dietary allowances are based on somewhat older data that may or may not be compatible with what we know today. On the other hand, we don’t know the full breadth of interactions between supplements, nor do we understand exactly how an individual needs different levels based on their genetic predispositions and environmental circumstances. As such, before starting any supplementation regimen, it’s essential that you speak to your primary care physician and a weight loss specialist like Dr. Chang to understand how these supplements may work best for you.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a critical nutrient that supports the nervous system and the proper functioning of nerves around the body. This vitamin is also essential for patients who have had bariatric surgery and is a common deficiency after surgery. Vitamin B12 can be supplemented in various forms, including the oral route, sublingual, and by injection. An injection is the most bioavailable and commonly administered for people with pernicious anemia. Sublingual and oral forms have comparatively lower bioavailability. Your doctor can offer the best guidance on which route is best. Low vitamin B12 levels may be associated with several physical ailments that can be severe, depending on how deficient the patient is. Since the body retains stores of Vitamin B12, deficiencies may not be caught for months…however, symptoms can begin sooner.

Vitamin D

Many Americans are deficient in this vitamin due to a genetic predisposition for low vitamin D absorption or because they don’t get outside in the sun enough. In this case, the recommended daily allowance is typically low for someone with minimal sun exposure (think office workers), and many patients will require more than the recommended daily amount to achieve proper levels. Vitamin D allows the body to use calcium appropriately, build strong, resilient bones, and support other complex tissue structures. Adequate Vitamin D levels are also crucial for mental health concerns and may reduce anxiety and depression in some patients. Vitamin D3 is the most bioavailable form and can easily be purchased online or in stores in gel cap form. Your doctor can measure vitamin D levels with a simple blood test and suggest appropriate supplementation dosage. You may need two or more weeks to normalize Vitamin D levels.


Iron is an essential nutrient that regulates the hemoglobin in the blood. It is a nutrient in which some pre- and many post-bariatric patients are deficient in. A lack of iron can lead to anemia and related symptoms, including low energy levels and poor physical function. Iron is easily measured in the blood and should only be supplemented if there is a deficiency. Too much iron can be problematic.


Magnesium is an interesting nutrient because it is essential for the proper function of muscles and nerves. Typically, there are a few outward symptoms of low magnesium. However, deficiencies can cause or worsen high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.


Protein is a cornerstone of virtually every part of the postoperative bariatric diet. It helps increase muscle mass, maintain bone strength, reduce cravings, and normalize metabolism and other important health markers. Of course, lean proteins like chicken, turkey, and fish are always preferable to fatty proteins. Postoperative bariatric patients will almost always need to supplement their diet with low-sugar protein shakes or bars.

There are, of course, many other vitamins and nutrients that need to be tracked. A periodic complete blood count is the best way to measure these levels and any deficiencies.

A Note on Testosterone

For our male patients out there, low testosterone, a condition coined “Low T”, is often put forth as a reason for reduced muscle mass and lower energy in middle age. We will dedicate an entire article to this in the future. However, patients must understand that Low T is not typically supported in the data as a widespread concern – there are a relatively small number of hypogonadal patients. In this subgroup of patients, testosterone supplementation, in the form of hormone replacement therapy, can be a game changer. However, for most, testosterone is not “the” issue. Granted, as we age, testosterone levels do decline, so it is incumbent upon middle-aged patients to improve their diet and exercise regimens to boost their testosterone naturally. You also need to minimize alcohol as it’s a testosterone killer. Certain supplements like Fadogia Agrestis and Tongkat Ali have made the rounds of the podcast circuit and may have some benefit in increasing free testosterone. However, the FDA does not regulate supplements, so it is essential that you speak to your doctor before starting any new program.

Our bodies rely on hundreds if not thousands, of vitamins and minerals that work together to create homeostasis or balance. In most cases, our bodies can adequately regulate these vitamins and minerals to keep us healthy and active. However, certain nutrients are more prone to deficiency. A regular check-up with a complete blood count from your primary care physician or weight loss specialist is essential to identify any problems and stay ahead with supplementation.

Bariatric Patients and Vitamin Supplementation

If you’re a postop bariatric patient, you will have a particular supplementation regimen prescribed to you. You must follow this supplementation program, including a multivitamin that may be enhanced with B12, D, iron, protein, and calcium supplements. Some of the most debilitating postop complications revolve around patients not following their supplementation regimen, so it is important that you stick to the plan.

We encourage you to contact the office if you have any questions or concerns about your supplementation.

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