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What vitamin gives you an appetite?

Having a healthy appetite is important for getting the nutrition your body needs. However, many people struggle with having too little or too much appetite. An imbalanced appetite can be caused by many factors, including stress, medications, medical conditions, and nutritional deficiencies. Understanding what affects your appetite can help you get it back to a healthy level.

What is appetite?

Appetite is your body’s physical desire for food and the motivation to eat. It is controlled by a complex system of hormones and brain chemicals that signal hunger and fullness. Ghrelin, produced in the stomach, is a hormone that increases appetite. Leptin, produced in fat cells, suppresses appetite. Appetite is also stimulated by the sight, smell, taste, and texture of food.

What causes poor appetite?

There are many potential causes of poor appetite or lack of appetite, including:

  • Illnesses: Diseases and infections can suppress appetite. This includes chronic conditions like cancer, hepatitis, and kidney disease.
  • Medications: Many prescription drugs, including antibiotics and antidepressants, can reduce appetite as a side effect.
  • Stress and anxiety: High stress levels increase cortisol, which can decrease appetite.
  • Gastrointestinal disorders: Conditions like acid reflux, ulcers, IBS, and celiac disease can make eating uncomfortable.
  • Dental problems: Tooth decay, mouth sores, ill-fitting dentures, and other dental issues can make eating painful.
  • Depression: Appetite changes, up or down, are common in depression.
  • Chemosensory disorders: Loss of taste and smell due to aging, sinus problems, or nerve damage can reduce enjoyment of food.

What vitamins increase appetite?

Certain vitamins play an important role in regulating appetite. Deficiencies in these vitamins can suppress appetite, while supplementing them may help increase appetite.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 aids metabolism and energy production. Low B12 levels are tied to reduced appetite. Older adults, vegetarians, and those with absorption issues are at risk of B12 deficiency. Eating B12-rich foods like meat, eggs, and dairy can help. Supplements are another option.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D aids bone health and immune function. Research links low vitamin D to poor appetite, especially in older adults. Getting adequate sun exposure and eating vitamin D-rich foods like fatty fish, eggs, and fortified milk can help increase vitamin D levels. Supplements are another option.


Zinc supports immune function and growth. Deficiencies are associated with loss of appetite. Eating zinc-rich foods like oysters, beef, beans, and nuts can help prevent zinc deficiency. Supplements are another option if deficiency is suspected.


Iron carries oxygen in the blood to bodily tissues. Low iron reduces appetite and can cause anemia. Eating iron-rich foods like red meat, spinach, beans, and fortified grains can help treat iron deficiency. Supplements may also be needed.

Other ways to stimulate appetite

Along with vitamin supplementation, other strategies can also help stimulate appetite:

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day rather than 3 large meals.
  • Try nutrient-dense, high calorie foods like avocados, nuts, dairy, and protein shakes.
  • Exercise lightly before meals to stimulate hunger.
  • Drink meal replacement shakes or smoothies if food is unappealing.
  • Try ginger, mint, or cinnamon teas which may stimulate digestion.
  • Sit down and relax while eating – stress inhibits appetite.
  • Eat with others – socializing can improve mealtime enjoyment.

When to see a doctor

Talk to your doctor if poor appetite persists and is causing unintentional weight loss and malnutrition. Unexplained appetite changes could signify an underlying medical condition in need of treatment. Your doctor can check for nutrient deficiencies with blood tests. Appetite stimulant medications may be prescribed in some cases. Getting to the root cause will help get your appetite back on track.


Vitamin deficiencies, especially of vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc, and iron, can lead to a poor appetite. Correcting these deficiencies through diet changes and supplementation may help stimulate appetite. Other strategies like eating smaller meals more frequently, exercising lightly before eating, and reducing stress can also help improve appetite. See your doctor to identify and treat any medical conditions contributing to appetite changes. With a personalized approach, most cases of poor appetite can be successfully managed.