The Role Of B Vitamins In Energy Metabolism

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The energy metabolism takes the nutrients you eat and turns them into energy. The process is a vital component in determining how well the body functions and disperses important nutrients and vitamins to where they need to go.

The family of B vitamins, otherwise known as B complex vitamins, are water-soluble vitamins involved in energy metabolism. They play a crucial role in how well the energy metabolism works because certain enzymes in the body can only work with the proper amount of B vitamins that are required for the formation of their cofactors. These specific enzymes help with energy expenditure as well as the building of macromolecules within the body.

What is the metabolism?

The metabolism is a set of uncountable reactions in the body that help convert food to energy, which is used to do everything from moving, thinking and breathing, to storing and getting rid of nutrients and toxins, to keeping organs functioning.

Increasing or decreasing metabolism can be a difficult process to accomplish. Many wish to increase their metabolism to aid in weight loss, but the reactions that go into metabolism are essential for so much more than a healthy weight.


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Image by Fuu J on Unsplash: Do B vitamins give you energy?

Do B vitamins increase metabolism?

Since B vitamins have a direct role in how the body metabolises carbohydrates, fats and proteins, it’s been said that having enough of these essential nutrients can help to speed up the process of metabolism. The truth, however, is that it’s unlikely that B vitamins can increase metabolism – rather, they can restore it to its properly functioning levels. When the body doesn’t have an adequate amount of B vitamins, the energy metabolism suffers and may even slow down.

Other factors that contribute to decreased metabolism function include:

  • Ageing
  • Genes
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Lack of sleep
  • Undereating or lack of adequate meals
  • Dehydration
  • Certain medications
  • Chronic stress or illness
  • High-fat diet

Getting enough B vitamins can help to restore a slowing metabolism, but there’s not much evidence to back up weight loss or an increased ability to metabolise foods beyond average healthy levels.

Types of B vitamins

Thiamine (B1)

Thiamine is used in the body to break down carbohydrates and sugar, create neurotransmitters and metabolise fatty acids. It also has a role in the synthetisation of certain hormones. Natural sources of vitamin B1 include pork, trout, wholegrains and black beans.

Riboflavin (B2)

Vitamin B2 plays a crucial role in the production of energy by helping the body break down fats. It also contributes to the conversion of other B vitamins including niacin and B6 and helps the body break down medications and steroid hormones. Vitamin B2 can be found in organ meats, fortified breakfast cereals, yogurt and milk, and mushrooms.

Niacin (B3)

The body uses niacin to create nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), which is used in over 400 enzyme reactions. NAD+ plays a role in converting carbohydrates, proteins and fats into usable energy, helping cells to communicate, and DNA protection. It can be found in both animal and plant-based foods such fortified cereals and meat.

Pantothenic Acid (B5)

Pantothenic acid aids the body in the production of the coenzymes such as coenzyme A, which it needs for a host of different functions. It is transported via the bloodstream and used in several different energy metabolism processes. Natural sources of B5 include sunflower seeds, chicken, tuna and beef liver.

Pyridoxine (B6)

The body uses vitamin B6 to help break down carbohydrates and fats, as well as in brain development and immune function. Like B5, B6’s role is more broad, and it contributes to over 100 coenzyme reactions. Foods that act as good sources of Vitamin B6 include chickpeas, tuna, potatoes and salmon.

Biotin (B7)

Biotin plays a role in the citric acid cycle and is required as a coenzyme to help lipid and other macronutrient metabolism. It helps to synthesise fatty acids, amino acids and glucose in the body. It also helps to regulate DNA and break down fats and carbohydrates, and is needed in the extraction of biotin from protein-rich foods such as liver, salmon and eggs.

Folate and folic acid (B9)

Folate is the natural form of B9 and aids cell replication and the homocysteine metabolism. Folic acid is the synthetic form, which was developed to help people who cannot ingest enough of the vitamin through diet alone, as is often the case in those who are pregnant. It plays a direct role in cell division and is needed for both vitamin and amino acid metabolism. Vitamin B9 can be found in dark green leafy vegetables, beef liver, avocado and beans.

Cobalamin (B12)

Vitamin B12 is the only vitamin that contains a metal ion, specifically cobalt. It is used in the body to help catabolise fat and protein and to synthesise haemoglobin, which is found in red blood cells. Vitamin B12 has also been shown to help brain and neurological function. It is found naturally in high amounts in animal products such as fish, meat, poultry and dairy products.


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Image by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash: Mushrooms are an excellent source of B vitamins, specifically B2.

Which B vitamin is the most important?

For the energy metabolism to operate at its best, it needs the entire complex of B vitamins. Instead of taking different supplements of B vitamins, many people opt for a B-complex that has the recommended amount of each one. Depending on your diet and lifestyle, however, you may be deficient in just one B vitamin, and that would be the most important one to supplement.

There is no one B vitamin that stands out from the rest, because they are all vital components of how the energy metabolism functions, and thus how healthy the body is as a whole.

Featured image by Yvens Banatte on Unsplash