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Obesity leads to vitamin D deficiency

Study suggests larger people may store the vitamin instead of circulating it through their body
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed

7th February 2013 - Obesity can lead to a lack of vitamin D in the body, according to a study led by the University College London Institute of Child Health.

Dr Elina Hypponen, lead author of the research, says in a press release: " Vitamin D deficiency is an active health concern around the world. While many health messages have focused on a lack of sun exposure or excessive use of suncreams, we should not forget that vitamin D deficiency is also caused by obesity.

"Our study highlights the importance of monitoring and treating vitamin D deficiency in people who are overweight or obese, in order to alleviate adverse health effects caused by a lack of vitamin D."


While previous studies have linked vitamin D deficiency with obesity, the new study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, sought to establish if a lack of vitamin D triggers weight gain, or whether obesity leads to the deficiency.

This study analysed genetic data from 21 studies, a total of up to 42,024 Caucasian people from North America and Europe. Researchers found that a 10% per cent rise in BMI was linked to a 4% drop in concentrations of vitamin D in the body.

The findings, for all ages and both men and women, suggest that obesity leads to vitamin D deficiency and not the other way round (ie: vitamin D deficiency leading to obesity).

The authors say the most likely explanation for the association found in the study is that the larger storage capacity for vitamin D in obese people leads to lower circulating concentrations of the vitamin.

The sunshine vitamin

Vitamin D deficiency is a growing public health concern. It is an essential nutrient needed to help absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are important for healthy bones and teeth. It is made in the skin after exposure to sunlight but can also be obtained through diet and through supplements.

Overall, the study results suggest that although increases in vitamin D are not likely to help with weight regulation, increased risk of vitamin D deficiency could contribute to the adverse health effects associated with obesity.

Dr Hypponen says, therefore, efforts to tackle obesity should also help to reduce levels of vitamin D deficiency.

Reviewed on February 07, 2013

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