Vitamin D has developed a sterling reputation amongst advocates of alternative medicine recently, and is being credited with countless health benefits. Although many of these claims can’t be substantiated, and in some cases have been discredited, emerging research shows a definite link between obesity and low levels of vitamin D.
A key study in understanding the relationship between Vitamin D and weight loss was conducted almost accidentally by researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School. The study recruited 38 obese people, and found that their baseline levels of vitamin D predicted their potential to lose weight. Similar studies have shown that obese individuals have low levels of vitamin D.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study in 2007 finding that women who took a supplement containing both calcium and vitamin D while following a weight loss program had better results than those who didn’t take the supplement. The group that was given the supplement also had a better lipid and cholesterol profile at the end of the study than the others.
A later study in the same journal had similar results. The study followed 126 overweight women for six months, and found that those who took vitamin D and calcium from dairy had a greater likelihood of losing weight.
It’s also possible that because vitamin D promotes healthy bones and a strong immune system, it makes exercise easier and therefore encourages weight loss.
It’s important to note, however, that the exact mechanism by which vitamin D affects weight loss is unknown — and no studies have yet shown that vitamin D by itself is beneficial. Current research indicates that the vitamin has to be taken with calcium and used in conjunction with a weight loss program to be of any use.
How Much is Enough?
Experts can’t seem to agree on how much vitamin D you should be getting on a daily basis. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, people between the ages of 1 and 50 should intake about 600 International Units of vitamin D every day. However, it is possible to take too much vitamin D — although it’s similarly difficult know exactly how much is too much. The National Institutes of Health set the maximum daily allowance for adults at 4,000 IU, but you should talk to your doctor to determine what the right dose is for you.
How to Get it
Vitamin D is unique in that your body produces it when you expose your skin to sunlight. Fair-skinned people can synthesis enough vitamin D with only about 45 minutes of sunlight a week, while people with darker skin will need more time, up to three hours. People who live in northern areas may find it difficult to get enough sunlight during the winter, and may need to get vitamin D through dietary sources and supplements. Clouds and smog that block the sun will also limit how much vitamin D you can produce.
Fatty fish (like salmon and tuna) and eggs are good dietary sources of vitamin D, and many foods, like milk and cereals, are usually fortified with it as well.
As always, you should consult with your doctor or other qualified health professional beginning any supplementation program.
Do you feel that vitamin D has helped you lose weight and stay healthy? Share your experience in the comments!