The Link Between Vitamin D and Obesity - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on June 26, 2015

The Link Between Vitamin D and Obesity

Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium
and promote bone growth, but research
shows obesity may drive down vitamin D levels.

Obesity has long been associated with a litany of health conditions. From heart disease to diabetes, cancer, sleep apnea, joint pain and more. Studies are also linking obesity to another health issue – a vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D is essential. Your body needs this vitamin in order to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. While this is the most well-known role of vitamin D, it does a lot more. Vitamin D also helps regulate your immune system and neuromuscular system. It also plays a major role in the lifecycle of your cells.

In fact, this vitamin is so important that your body makes it by itself, but only after your skin has been exposed to sunlight.

Since this vitamin is essential to important bodily functions, it’s clear why being deficient in it can be detrimental to your health.

Researchers found that obesity may drive down vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin produced in the skin or consumed in food, and is then distributed in fat tissue. Although an obese person may take in the same amount of vitamin D from the sun, food or supplements as people who aren’t obese, their blood levels still tend to be lower in the vitamin.

Some scientists believe one possible reason for the deficiency in obese people is that vitamin D gets diluted throughout the body. And that dilution shows up as a deficiency in overweight and obese people since they have more mass than normal-weight individuals. And, it’s believed that as a person adds weight and volume to their body, the amount of their skin surface area doesn’t expand proportionately, which can lead to a failure to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D.

Other research has found that vitamin D is essential in preventing cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. A separate study discovered that low levels of vitamin D can substantially increase a person’s risk of heart attack and early death.

But that’s the not the only possible complication of the combination of obesity and vitamin D insufficiency. Researchers found that when someone is both obese and has low levels of vitamin D, their risk of insulin resistance is much greater than if they have either one of those factors alone. In other words, being obese and deficient in vitamin D together increases your risk of developing insulin resistance more than if you’re just obese or just low in vitamin D.

One way to combat vitamin D deficiency is to spend 30 minutes in the sun at least twice a week. You can also take vitamin D supplements and eat vitamin D-containing foods such as swordfish, sockeye salmon, tuna, orange juice fortified with vitamin D, dairy products, eggs and more.

And, of course, getting to a healthy weight will not only help with a vitamin D deficiency, but it can also prevent or lessen the risk of other life-threatening health conditions.

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