Do Vitamins Affect Ketosis?

  • By Dr Paul Rimmer BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD
  • 5 minute read
Do Vitamins Affect Ketosis?

Ketosis is a process that has a mythical status for people who love their low-carb, high-fat diets.

Most people don’t quite get it, though, and it’s hidden behind a veil of science. So, we’re going to lift that veil and look at how your micronutrients – specifically vitamins, affect ketosis.

Today we’re talking about vitamins and ketosis: which vitamins matter? How do they affect the process? Why do you want to affect ketosis in the first place?

Continue reading for the answers to these questions, so you can get in control of your diet and stay effective.

What is Ketosis?

Ketosis is the preferential burning of fats as fuel that your body will perform when you’re restricting your carbohydrate intake.

Combining a calorie deficit and low levels of carbs pushes you to metabolize fats at a premium – either from dietary sources or your internal body fat stores.

Ketosis is all about fat metabolism – the process of taking these lipids (the scientific name for fats) and converting them into working energy for cells.

Ketosis relies on the combined calorie and carb restriction to change your obligate fuel source from carbs to fats.

This only occurs after prolonged carb-restriction, and your body becomes keto-adapted: it becomes more efficient in using these fats as fuel to the point where you might overlook your low carb intake throughout the day.

This efficiency at burning fats is, however, not our default setting. Especially with the importance of carbs in modern diets in providing both energy and crucial micronutrients, it can be difficult to make this switch effectively.

There’s often a “lull” period in the middle. That’s usually when keto flu – a set of flu-like symptoms, happens.

The loss of energy levels during the early stages of low-carb, high-fat diets involves some risks like fatigue and migraines related to this energy deficit.

These risks generally persist if you’re not adapting well to fats.

Proper vitamin intake is even more important on this kind of diet because healthy fat metabolism makes up the difference.

If you can adjust this with appropriate vitamin intake, then your control over the transition to a low-carb diet – and how effective that diet will be – are within your control.

As you can imagine, this is an important point of overlap since the available vitamins in your body control it.

Vitamins and minerals are closely related to energy metabolism, which is one reason they’re so important. There are a few, in particular, that are going to be important in today’s article: B vitamins and vitamin C.

B-Vitamins: Energy Metabolism and Ketosis

Metabolism happens at many levels – and when it comes to ketosis, cellular metabolism is essential.

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This is the chemical setup of your cells and how they produce energy for their functions.

You’ve heard it before: the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell. They’re where nutrients – fats and carbs, become energy.

The environment for that energy processing is where vitamins come in: the process and environment depend on healthy levels of key vitamins.

How do Vitamins Affect Ketosis?

There are four ways that a vitamin is going to affect ketosis directly.

First, the mitochondrial environment. Some vitamins – many on the list we’re going to discuss, affect how the mitochondria function.

You might remember “the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell” – you want to take care of the powerhouse itself, not just the ingredients it uses.

After that, vitamins can affect the metabolism of each of the macronutrients: carbs, fats, and proteins.

These are the remaining three systems that vitamins can interact with to affect the ketosis process. Despite being the product of low-carb diets, it’s not as simple as ignoring carbs.

Carbohydrate metabolism matters because even on low-carb diets, your body is still producing and storing carbs.

They’re maintained in a protected state because some tissues can’t use fats while others – like muscles, need to preserve stores for particularly high-intensity function.

Fat metabolism is what ketosis is all about. Fatty acid oxidation relies on several steps that are based on B-vitamin function.

Vitamins B5, B12, and C, for example, help convert fats into high-energy phospholipids that can be used for energy in cells – a key supporting function for effective ketosis.

Protein metabolism isn’t a trivial matter, either. Immediately, it’s the essential macronutrient as a source of amino acids for tissues.

However, these amino acids are also required for the metabolism of fats and carbs – especially on ketosis, where free energy from carbs is lower, and amino acids provide both energy and metabolic ingredients. Proper protein metabolism makes this possible.

The Most Important Vitamins for Ketosis

  • B1 (Thiamine): This is all about carb metabolism – it’s a component of TPP, which is essential for the healthy conversion of carbs into energy in the Krebs cycle. This process is crucial for sustained energy release, and efficiency is a huge deal in the long run.
  • B2 (Riboflavin): as a key player in the respiratory chain and the coenzymes of the Krebs cycle through FAD and FMN, B2 has many important roles. As with B1, these are the metabolic pathways that turn carbs into energy.
  • B3 (Niacin): Niacin puts the N in NAD and NADP – two of the most important coenzymes in carb metabolism. Deficiency in B3 can cause glucose metabolism dysfunction, especially in fasted states – similar to the conditions under which ketosis occurs.
  • B5 (Pantothenate): B5 supports the proper metabolism of fats and regulating fats in the blood during fasted and underfed states – such as those required for ketosis. PanK1 relies on Pantothenate to produce carbs in the liver and metabolize fats and has an active role in Ketogenesis itself – producing ketones for use as an energy source.
  • B6: As a cofactor of over 100 reactions, you know B6 is going to be important. It’s involved in the storage of energy as fat, the return of that fat for use as energy, and the metabolism of crucial fats like Omega-3s.
  • B7 (Biotin): this is a cofactor in the breakdown of fatty acids and proteins – the two main nutrients you’re going to be working with during ketosis. In that situation, biotin deficiency is even more dangerous than in a regular diet and a non-ketosis state.
  • B9 (Folate): an essential vitamin for the health of mitochondria themselves, as well as controlling many of the different chemicals in the carb metabolism process. Folate deficiency is common in reduced carbohydrate intake (an essential condition for ketosis), which likely makes supplementation necessary.
  • B12 (Cobalamin): B12 is essential for the metabolism of all macronutrients: carbs, fats, and proteins alike. It’s a crucial regulator of the wide-ranging supporting cast of compounds involved in carb and fat metabolism – and deficiency can seriously hamstring your metabolism. B12 is a controlling factor for the metabolism of other B-vitamins, making it an essential focus for any diet.
  • C: vitamin C controls your carnitine levels, which is key because of its role in transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria. Without this transport, your fat-metabolism can’t function efficiently, which is a huge issue on ketosis – where your diet is going to be made up primarily of fats and proteins.

Summary & Key Points

Ketosis is built on the back of metabolic systems that are built on the back of vitamin intake.

B vitamins and vitamin C are the main areas where you'll notice inefficiency and dysfunction during ketosis if you’re not paying them attention.

There’s a combination of challenges here: deficiency makes ketosis both more challenging and less effective, while the low-carb, calorie-deficit that makes ketosis possible also puts you at risk of deficiency.

It’s important to make sure that any attempt at ketosis is also based on awareness of these key vitamins – often requiring supplementation when you’re not eating as many carbohydrates.

If you’re going to take the time to overhaul your carbs and fats completely, you should put the same amount of attention into the vitamins that make it work.

Preparation and forethought are essential for anyone trying to get into ketosis – and get the most from it with the least potential risk.


  1. Vitamins in energy metabolism:
  2. Pantothenate-Kinase and its role in metabolism:
  3. Biotin deficiency and its risks:
  4. Folate deficiency prevalence in ketosis and LCHF diets:
  5. Vitamin C and cholesterol metabolism: