Obesity leads to vitamin D deficiency

February 5, 2013

Obesity can lead to a lack of vitamin D circulating in the body, according to a study led by the UCL Institute of Child Health (ICH). Efforts to tackle obesity should thus also help to reduce levels of vitamin D deficiency in the population, says the lead investigator of the study, Dr Elina Hypponen.

While previous studies have linked with obesity, the ICH-led paper, published in the journal , sought to establish the direction of causality i.e. whether a lack of vitamin D triggers a , or whether obesity leads to the deficiency.

This study, based on an ICH-led D-CarDia Collaboration, used derived from an analysis of 21 adult cohort groups (up to 42,000 participants) to explore the link between (BMI) and genes associated with the synthesis and metabolism of vitamin D. Associations between vitamin D and BMI were further confirmed using data from another genetic consortium with over 123,000 participants.

Researchers found that a 10 per cent rise in BMI was linked to a four per cent drop in concentrations of vitamin D in the body. Overall, the findings suggest that a higher BMI leads to lower levels of available vitamin D, while the effect of a lack of vitamin D on BMI appears to be very small.

The association between obesity and vitamin D status found here was consistent between genders, being apparent both in men and in women, and in younger and older .

Vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bones as well as other functions, is made in the skin after exposure to sunlight but can also be obtained through the diet and through supplements.

Obesity and vitamin D status are known to be associated, but the direction of the association and whether it is causal has been uncertain up to now. Vitamin D deficiency is a growing public health concern, and there is evidence that vitamin D , storage and action both influence and are influenced by adiposity or . While experiments in rats have suggested that large doses of vitamin D2 can boost the amount of energy they burn, trials testing the effect of vitamin D supplements on weight loss in obese or overweight people have not shown any consistent findings.

It has also been suggested that obesity could result from an excessive adaptive winter response, and that the decline in vitamin D skin synthesis from less exposure to sunlight contributes to the tendency to put on weight during colder seasons. However, vitamin D is stored in fatty tissue and thus, the most likely explanation for the association found in the ICH-led study is that the larger storage capacity for vitamin D in obese people leads to lower circulating concentrations of vitamin D.

Overall, the ICH 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 Elina Hypponen, UCL Institute of Child Health and lead author of the study, says: "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 ."

"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."

Explore further: Vitamin D deficiency in pneumonia patients associated with increased mortality

Related Stories

Vitamin D deficiency in pneumonia patients associated with increased mortality

May 10, 2011
A new study published in the journal Respirology reveals that adult patients admitted to the hospital with pneumonia are more likely to die if they have Vitamin D deficiency.

Obese adolescents benefit from high-dose vitamin D supplements

November 1, 2011
Vitamin D deficiency is common in Americans, and especially in overweight and obese adolescents, according to the National Institutes of Health. University of Missouri researchers have found that providing obese adolescents ...

Low vitamin D levels may contribute to development of Type 2 diabetes

December 5, 2011
A recent study of obese and non-obese children found that low vitamin D levels are significantly more prevalent in obese children and are associated with risk factors for type 2 diabetes. This study was accepted for publication ...

Recommended for you

Are sugary drink interventions changing people's behaviour?

July 19, 2017
An evaluation of efforts designed to reduce how many sugary drinks we consume shows some success in changing younger people's habits but warns they cannot be the only way to cut consumption.

Young adult obesity: A neglected, yet essential focus to reverse the obesity epidemic

July 18, 2017
The overall burden of the U.S. obesity epidemic continues to require new thinking. Prevention of obesity in young adults, while largely ignored as a target for prevention and study, will be critical to reversing the epidemic, ...

Weight gain from early to middle adulthood may increase risk of major chronic diseases

July 18, 2017
Cumulative weight gain over the course of early and middle adulthood may increase health risks later in life, according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They found that, compared ...

Study finds children carry implicit bias towards peers who are overweight

June 23, 2017
Even children as young as 9 years old can carry a prejudice against their peers who are overweight, according to a new study led by Duke Health researchers. They might not even realize they feel this way.

Mother's obesity boosts risk for major birth defects: study

June 15, 2017
Children of obese women are more likely to be afflicted by major birth defects, including malformations of the heart and genitals, according to a study published on Thursday.

New study finds more than 2 billion people overweight or obese

June 12, 2017
Globally, more than 2 billion children and adults suffer from health problems related to being overweight or obese, and an increasing percentage of people die from these health conditions, according to a new study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.