Is low vitamin D making you gain weight?

Vitamin D is the most difficult nutrient to get in the amount your body needs it, but could its deficiency be contributing to weight gain?

Vitamin D is a steroid hormone produced by the body through sunlight, thus, many call it the Sunshine Vitamin. It’s fat soluble and is essential for bone health because it helps in absorption of calcium and phosphorous in the body. But against popular notion, it’s not just a nutrient necessary for skeletal health. It’s a hormone that interacts with every cell in the body and important for several other functions, like for building immunity and even cancer resistance.

Many studies about Vitamin D have found that when one has adequate levels of Vitamin D in the blood, they would lose more weight. Whereas, the ones who did not have adequate levels of the vitamin did not lose the extra kilos. Also, the ones who lost kilos seemed to lose just fat, which is the best way to lose weight and their propensity to gain weight also reduced.

It is theorised that the reason Vitamin D has this effect on weight is because it affects the storage of fats and the production of fat cells in the body. Additionally, being a hormone, it affects other hormones and neurotransmitters in the body, particularly testosterone, which is related to body fat, and serotonin, which is related to appetite. Higher levels of Vitamin D have been found to cause increased levels of testosterone and serotonin in the body.

Unfortunately, very few foods are good sources of Vitamin D and therefore, it’s deficiency is much prevalent. A 2006 survey found that 41.6% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D and a more recent 2014 study found 70-100% of Indians could be Vitamin D deficient. Could this have something to do with the increase in obesity incidence in both countries? One can only surmise right now.

This is a serious problem as Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets, osteoporosis and reduced mineral density. Being a hormone, it’s levels will affect the functioning of the rest of the endocrine system as well. So how do we get enough Vitamin D?

One of the best sources is the sun; our skin manufactures vitamin D itself when exposed to sunlight. But for this to happen, we need to expose a fair amount of skin and stay in the sun for more time, which is not always possible. Factors like one’s culture, one’s geographical location, skin colour and use of sunscreen can reduce or entirely prevent the body to produce the vitamin. Thus, sunlight alone is usually not enough to meet the required amount of Vitamin D.

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