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The Relationship Between Vitamin D and Weight Loss

8 min read

Essential Takeaways

  • The danger of vitamin D deficiency grew between 1988–1994 and 2001–2002 in both genders but stagnated between 2001–2002 and 2005–2006
  • Vitamin D in the blood has been found to significantly reduce body fat and boost weight loss
  • Vitamin D does not occur naturally in a variety of foods hence it is advisable to get at least 5–30 minutes of daily exposure to the sun

It is common knowledge that science has associated vitamin D deficiency with health complications related to obesity especially with recent research linking the two factors. Numerous studies have been done to support this theory. A study presented in 2015 at the European Congress on Obesity showed that correcting one’s vitamin D levels could potentially help one lose weight as long as one is found to in fact be vitamin D deficient. This is however not the only study supporting this theory. Other studies and research into this topic have suggested that vitamin D indeed plays a significant role in weight loss.

Statistics on the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency is a worldwide health crisis. Despite all the medical advances of the 21st century, it remains an epidemic. More than a billion people globally have deficient or insufficient vitamin D. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, two-thirds of the population had sufficient vitamin D in 2001–2006. Vitamin D deficiency was common in the US population, especially among blacks and Hispanics. 

The danger of vitamin D deficiency varied according to age, gender, ethnicity and race. The risk was found to be less in persons who were male, younger, or non-Hispanic white. Among women, the prevalence at risk was also lower in pregnant or lactating women. The danger of vitamin D deficiency grew between 1988–1994 and 2001–2002 in both genders but stagnated between 2001–2002 and 2005–2006.

The link between vitamin D and weight loss

Reduced levels of vitamin D are usually observed in overweight individuals. This is because the hypothalamus is thought to sense diminished vitamin D levels and respond by increasing the production of hormones that stimulate hunger. Specific enzymes are required to synthesize vitamin D into its active form. Levels of these enzymes vary between overweight and non-overweight individuals. A study conducted in 2012 found that once vitamin D levels in overweight individuals are adjusted to suit their body size, there exists no difference between levels in overweight and non-overweight individuals. This means that vitamin D requirements are based on body size. Hence, overweight individuals need more vitamin D than normal-weight people to reach similar blood levels. This explains why overweight people are more prone to deficiency.

In addition, vitamin D in the blood has been found to significantly reduce body fat and boost weight loss. It also suppresses the accumulation of fat cells and hence fat accumulation. Vitamin D can also increase serotonin levels. Serotonin can control appetite, increasing satiety thereby reducing body fat by decreasing the intake of calories. This implies that an optimum level of vitamin D would sufficiently aid weight loss. Within the cells, vitamin D may also hinder the growth and maturation of fat cells. 

Finally, higher amounts of vitamin D in men may be linked to higher levels of testosterone, which may, in turn, stimulate weight loss. A study done in 2011 found that those men who were given supplements registered greater increases in levels of testosterone compared to the control group. A number of other studies have also demonstrated that increased testosterone levels can decrease fat in the body and ensure weight loss over time.

Other examples of available research and studies linking vitamin D to weight loss

In 2012, a study that analyzed the effect of using both calcium and vitamin D supplements showed that the combination of these supplements did not essentially add total weight loss but instead led to an increase in abdominal fat loss.

A study conducted in 2000 which was documented in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that approximately 77 percent of the American population was deficient in vitamin-D. A number of studies have shown the crucial role of this vitamin D in making bones stronger, warding off depression, and enhancing immunity. After a couple of decades of research and a myriad of studies, experts seem to have proven that indeed the vitamin D is a critical factor in the process of weight loss.

Another study found that even limited extents of weight loss caused a significant increase in the levels of vitamin D present in the blood. In addition, participants in the study who lost at a minimum of 15% of their total body weight had vitamin D levels increases that were close to three times higher than those registered by participants who only lost about 5–10% of their total body weight.

Another study analyzed 218 overweight women over a period of one year. All the women who participated were put on an exercise routine and a limited calorie diet. One-half of these women were given a supplement of vitamin D. The other half of the women were given a placebo. At the conclusion of the study, the researchers learned that the women who satisfied their vitamin D need recording more weight loss. These women were able to lose an average of 7 pounds over the average weight lost by the women who did not have adequate blood levels.

 Yet another study gave overweight women vitamin D supplements for a period of 12 weeks. At the conclusion of the study, although the women did not lose any weight, they did see that the increased levels of vitamin D led to an overall decrease in body fat. Therefore, as per the findings of this study, Vitamin D could be linked to a reduction in overall weight gain.A study of over 4,600 elderly women discovered that increased levels of vitamin D were related to reduced weight gain between visits spread throughout the 4.5 years of the study.

Recommendations

Vitamin D does not occur naturally in a variety of foods hence it is advisable to get at least 5–30 minutes of daily exposure to the sun. Alternatively, one can take a supplement to satisfy the recommended daily requirement of 600 IU (15 mcg). Daily exposure to the sunshine assists the human body to produce the needed quantity of the vitamin. However, the fear of developing skin cancer has made most people to avoid such exposure. It is recommended that one basks either early in the morning hours or late when the intensity of the sun is not high hence the risks of skin cancer are reduced.

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