What are Activated B Vitamins?

 Activated B Vitamins

If you’ve purchased B vitamin supplements, you’ve likely seen them advertised alongside various wellness buzzwords, like 'executive', 'super', or 'mega' — so when it comes to 'activated' B vitamins you might wonder whether it’s worth it to include an activated supplement into your wellness routine. 

Let’s explore the benefits of activated B vitamins, learn how activated B vitamins work, and discover their potential health benefits.

What are Activated B Vitamins?

Activated B vitamins are simply a type of B vitamin that has been converted into its most readily absorbable and usable form. 

Some B vitamins can be taken in their activated form, while others need to be activated through internal processes.

Active vs. Inactive B Vitamins 

Of the 13 essential vitamins that our bodies need to maintain good health, eight of them are B vitamins (also known as B-complex or B-group vitamins).

Store-bought B vitamins are synthesized versions of naturally occurring vitamins. These vitamins typically need to be activated by the liver and/or kidneys and absorbed within the digestive tract before they can be used by the body. 


Active form

Found in 

Vitamin B1 (thiamine)

Thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP) (Not available as a supplement)

Whole grain cereals (e.g., whole wheat, brown rice), yeast, pork, legumes

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)


Riboflavin 5-phosphate/sodium phosphate

Meat, fish, eggs, milk, green vegetables, yeast

Vitamin B3 (niacin, nicotinic acid)




Meat (liver), cereals, seeds, legumes

Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)

Pantothenic acid

Liver, kidney, egg yolks, broccoli, milk

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

Pyridoxal phosphate

Meat, nuts, whole grains, vegetables

Vitamin B7 (biotin)


Eggs, meat, fish, seeds, nuts

Vitamin B9 (folate)

Tetrahydrofolate (THF)/ Folinic acid

Green leafy vegetables, dried legumes

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)



Meat and dairy products

Source: Amboss.com. 2022

What Are the Benefits of Activated B Vitamins? 

B vitamins don’t fuel the body or increase our energy levels by themselves. Instead, B vitamins help with a range of internal processes that allow our bodies to extract energy from foods, transport oxygen, and make new DNA.

Activated B vitamins are readily available to be absorbed by the body because they don’t have to be activated through internal processes before being utilised. This ready-to-absorb state is also referred to as increased ‘bioavailability’.

Research shows that three times as much synthetic ‘inactive’ vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) is excreted through urine than the converted ‘active’ form (methylcobalamin). This suggests that activated forms of the B12 vitamin may be better absorbed and utilised in the body than its inactive counterpart.

Should I Take Activated B Vitamins?

Activated B vitamins may be of particular benefit to people who are:

  • Living with digestive problems:

Our digestive tract plays a key role in the metabolism of vitamins. Low stomach acid, or overuse of antacids to manage gastric reflux, can reduce the body’s ability to release B12 from food. Similarly, some gut infections or parasites may hinder B12 absorption.

Some research even shows that people with inflammatory bowel disease have lower levels of folate and B12 and could benefit from additional supplementation. 

  • Genetically predisposed to poor vitamin B metabolism:

This is more prevalent than we think:

Activated B vitamins may be important for people who are genetically predisposed to poor B vitamin metabolism. There are several gene variations (polymorphisms) that can cause B9 deficiencies in otherwise healthy people. 

This kind of gene mutation is more common than you might think. Between 20 - 40% of people of Hispanic or Caucasian descent will have two copies of C677T.  While health issues related to this gene mutation can vary from person to person, C677T is linked with under-methylation

Methylation is essentially a biochemical process that occurs on a molecular level to keep our body functioning properly. Methylation switches on various processes within the body, such as detoxification, DNA repair, and energy production.

Under-methylation can cause inadequate folate conversion and increase homocysteine levels, which have been linked with a range of illnesses, including cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s, depression/anxiety, and problems during pregnancy

Increased bioavailability of B vitamins may improve uptake and absorption of folate, which is why it may be more important for people with this gene variation to take activated B vitamins

If you think you might be predisposed to a B vitamin deficiency, or you want to increase your B vitamin intake through activated supplements, remember to check in with your doctor first.

What Affects the Absorption of Activated B Vitamins?

Many factors may affect the way your body is able to convert and use B vitamins, including the health of your gastrointestinal tract, your age, or even your genetics. 

When you are getting adequate amounts of B vitamins, either through your diet or through vitamin supplementation, any excess will typically be passed out of the body as urine.

Activated B vitamins can provide the benefit of being more readily available, and may reduce the amount of B vitamins lost through the conversion process, 

Activated B Vitamins: The Verdict

Activated B vitamins may be beneficial for many people, particularly those with digestive issues, gene mutations (20-40% of the population), people taking medications, vegans or other factors that affect the body's ability to convert or absorb vitamins. In addition to supplementing your B vitamin intake, you should also aim to get adequate amounts of B vitamins from your diet. After all, vitamin B-rich foods, such as leafy greens, have many other body benefits too, like providing fibre, calcium, and iron. 


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