Vitamin D – Obesity Link

One vitamin that’s been making the news a lot lately is Vitamin D. Yes, that’s the one we are supposedly getting our fill of from sun exposure and fortified milk. Vitamin D, which regulates bone metabolism, is mostly obtained through exposure of the skin to direct sunlight but as it turns out that many, and I mean, many of us, are deficient in this very essential vitamin. Even USA Today is reporting that testing for vitamin D levels, once uncommon, has skyrocketed as medical studies raise awareness about vitamin D deficiencies.

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with some infectious diseases, cancers, cardiovascular disease and autoimmune disorders, and now, brace yourselves: obesity. A recent study found that among 90 young women living in (sunny) southern California, those with insufficient levels of vitamin D were significantly heavier and had greater body mass than their counterparts with sufficient levels of vitamin D. Compared with the vitamin D sufficient women, same-age counterparts with insufficient vitamin D levels were heavier by about 16.3 pounds on average. The vitamin D insufficient group also averaged 3.4 points higher in body mass measurements.

The investigators also say they found an “unexplained and intriguing” positive link between height and vitamin D status and call for further investigation into this, as well as correlations between vitamin D levels, bone growth, and obesity. The study also indicates that vitamin D insufficiency is extremely common in young women living in a sun-rich area of the United States. So what do we do about all of this news?

First of all, get out in the sun a bit without sunscreen for 15 minutes minimum, a day. It would be wise to ask your doctor to order a Vitamin D blood level to check your status. If you are below 20, ng/mL, consider a supplement. Remember, you’ll need to take your vitamin D with a fatty food and you’ll need to take high doses, most likely (the 400 IU RDA will likely do nothing to change your levels). As your doctor how much is right for you. (from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, January 2009)