The Link Between Vitamin D and Weight

by Kelli Cooper
(United States)

While long associated with primarily bone health, research emerging over the year suggests that vitamin D may play a significant role in overall health with deficiencies being linked to a host of problems from cancer to diabetes. Recent studies have found yet another potential pitfall of low vitamin D levels—weight gain and difficulty losing weight. It is important to remember that there is no one magic strategy for facilitating weight loss, and while simply getting enough vitamin D will not likely be enough, making sure to get as many pieces of the puzzle in place as possible will only help your efforts.

Role of Vitamin D

When it comes to vitamin D and your weight, it appears to influence it from many angles. Your fat cells require adequate levels of vitamin D to function properly; when this vitamin attaches itself to receptors on the surface of these cells, it sends a signal to burn fat rather than store it—if you do not have enough vitamin D, clearly this message is not being sent as efficiently as it should. Vitamin D also helps you body absorb calcium efficiently—low levels of this mineral trigger the production of a chemical that increases the number of calories stored as fat rather than used by the body for energy. Your body also uses this vital nutrient to produce chemicals that influence appetite and serotonin, a substance that plays a central role in feelings, behavior and mood. As you can see, vitamin D has its hand in many bodily processes that ultimately affect your weight, so it is easy to see how a deficiency may contribute to weight troubles.

Recent Research Linking Vitamin D and Weight

A study of over 4,600 women that was published in June of this year found that women with low levels of vitamin D were more likely to gain weight over a 5 year period—the amount gained was not extreme—on average, it was about a couple of pounds--, but this seemingly insignificant amount can add up over time and be enough to increase the risk of serious diseases. This major study was in keeping with previous research that has found obese people were more likely to have insufficient or deficient levels of this vitamin.

Another study that came out this year found low levels of vitamin D appear to be linked to obesity in adolescents. Researchers examined the vitamin D levels of adolescents seeking bariatric surgery and found that over 50 percent of them had low counts—the children with the highest BMI had the lowest levels. Not even 20 percent of the children studied had adequate vitamin D levels.

Getting Sufficient Amounts

Your body can make vitamin D from the sun, and ideally, regular sun exposure should be all you need to get enough, but this can be difficult for many people. Location, time of year, pollution, not being able to get outdoors during peak times, and other factors can hinder the process. A study looking at vitamin D levels of Hawaiians –who on average spend 20 hours a week outdoor without sun protection-- suggest that even sun exposure may not be enough; researchers found 51 percent of people tested still had lower than recommended levels.

It seems that supplementation may be the best route to ensure you have sufficient vitamin D but before you run out to the store to get supplements, you should get your levels tested first. This is the only way to know how much you should be taking. Without getting tested first, you may be taking too much –which can be dangerous since vitamin D can build up in the tissues—or not enough, which will keep you in a state of deficiency. It is also important to get tested at regular intervals to see if you need to adjust dosages to stay in the optimal range.

Closing Thoughts

Like it was mentioned earlier in the article, getting enough vitamin D will not be some magic bullet that will help you lose weight; but, if you do not have sufficient levels of the vitamin and you are struggling with weight loss, research suggests this is something that should be addressed. You also want to tend to all the other things linked with healthy weight, such as getting sufficient sleep, managing stress levels, keeping insulin under control, eating right and getting enough exercise.

Kelli Cooper, a contributor to the blog Weight Loss Triumph, has been covering health and wellness topics for the last several years for a variety of sites. She especially enjoys writing about issues affecting weight loss and how to successfully drop those extra pounds. She is currently traveling throughout Southeast Asia.

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