Vitamin D and Weight: The Science Behind the Link

Vitamin D is a nutrient that is essential for human health. It is readily available to everyone through natural sunlight as well as a range of different foods. Vitamin D has been shown to improve bone and cardiovascular health, promote a positive mood, increase energy levels, and reduce the risk of developing certain diseases. What many people don't know about vitamin D, however, is how it can also help you to reach your weight loss goals. 

This article will discuss what vitamin D does for your body and why so many people have found it beneficial when trying to lose weight.

Vitamin D and Weight

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that regulates calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood, which are both necessary for bone health. Vitamin D also helps build muscle tissue, strengthens your immune system and regulates brain function. 

You can get an adequate amount of vitamin D by spending enough time outside in the sunshine. To get your daily dose, just an hour outside between 11am - 12pm during summer months, and a half-hour before sunset during wintertime on days with no cloud cover, should usually suffice. 

But there's more to vitamin D levels than just sitting out in the sun, as your age, weight, skin colour and certain medications can all have an effect on how much Vitamin D is in your system. 

As well as through sunlight, Vitamin D can also be absorbed from food sources such as dairy products, and mushrooms.

What are Healthy Levels of Vitamin D?

The current recommended level for adults is between 40 and 80 ng/ml but as many as two in five adults are thought to be vitamin D deficient. This is a concern because deficiency can lead to bone problems and other health issues which will be explained in detail below.

How Much vitamin D is Recommended Daily?

Everyone needs vitamin D for healthy bones and muscles, but the recommended daily intake varies depending on a range of factors including your age, genetics, and even the season. 

For infants up to the age of one, 400 IU is generally needed per day. For older children, 600 IU is needed per day; while adults usually need around 900 IU.

Getting enough Vitamin D can be difficult if you live in a cold climate during winter months or you work inside all the time, so if you are sun-deprived you will need to think more about your diet.

How can you Add More Vitamin D to your Diet? 

If you're not getting enough vitamin D, try adding some of these foods to your diet:  

  • Fatty fish like salmon, sardines or mackerel because they are a good source of omega-three fats and contain plenty of Vitamin D. 
  • Dairy products such as milk and yogurt have small amounts of vitamin D but that's better than nothing at all! Try substituting milk with almond milk for even more health benefits. 
  • Eggs can be enriched by feeding chickens a dietary supplement that contains Vitamins A & D. Other fortified foods include breakfast cereals and rice. 
  • Mushrooms have a similar vitamin D content to that of fish but are lower in calories.

You can also take various supplements to increase your vitamin D levels, but be careful as too much vitamin D can cause nausea, vomiting, weakness, and excess weight loss. Be careful not to exceed the recommended dosage unless directed by your doctor or healthcare professional.

Does Vitamin D Help you Lose Weight?

There are various reasons why Vitamin D levels can help to facilitate weight loss and prevent you from putting that weight back on again.

First of all, Vitamin D helps to regulate the amount of fat cells in your body. If you have low levels of vitamin D, the fat cells in your body will grow larger and more mature. 

Low levels of vitamin D can also lead to an increase in inflammation throughout your entire body. This inflammatory process is what often results in weight gain because it causes you to store more calories as fat rather than use them for energy.

Vitamin D also helps with weight loss by increasing serotonin production. Serotonin is often called the "happy chemical" because it literally helps us feel happy and satisfied. In terms of weight loss potential, high levels of serotonin help to curb your appetite and reduce cravings for unhealthy foods.

Finally, vitamin D is also important because it helps to increase muscle mass. If the levels of Vitamin D in your body are too low, then you will not  be able to produce enough calcium ions which are vital for using food for muscle growth. This can result in more of your food instead being converted into fat.

What is Vitamin D Deficiency?

Vitamin D deficiency is a very common health condition that affects around one billion people worldwide. Deficiency occurs when either there isn’t enough vitamin d or your body cannot absorb it properly to meet your daily needs. This is often because of a lack of vitamin D in your diet or because you are not exposed to enough sunlight, but it can also be due to certain medical conditions such as a history of gastric bypass surgery.

What are the Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency? 

There are various symptoms of vitamin D deficiency but these are some of the most common: 

  • Rickets
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Weight gains
  • Headache and dizziness
  • Depression 
  • Dry eyes and mouth 
  • Heart palpitations or increased heart rate 
  • Shortness of breath (even with mild exertion
  • Aching joints 
  • Potential for increased risk of heart disease, and certain cancers


Why does Vitamin D Deficiency Have Such a Major Effect on your Body?

The main function of vitamin D is to help maintain your body's calcium levels. When your body identifies a lack of vitamin D, your parathyroid hormone stimulates calcium absorption from your bones and releases it into your bloodstream to maintain balance. This leads to thinning bones and an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.

Not only does this condition cause many problems on its own, many people will also experience severe discomfort in their muscles, and can even go on to develop serious conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure. 

Vitamin D and Weight

What is the Impact of Vitamin D Deficiency on Weight Gain? 

Vitamin D deficiency can lead to weight gain or even obesity as it decreases your metabolic rate and increases your appetite. One study found significant differences in metabolic rates between two test groups; one group with lower levels of vitamin D, and another with healthy levels. Both consumed 2500 calories per day but those with higher concentrations of vitamin D were shown to be less hungry than those in the low concentration groups. 

A lack of vitamin D also inhibits insulin from helping cells take up sugar for storage which then leads to increased glucose production when food is consumed. This not only causes you to feel more hungry and eat more, but also causes extra weight gain due to the excess amounts of sugars circulating through your bloodstream which are then turned into fatty deposits. 

When your body has enough vitamin D, it can use stored fat for fuel, rather than making you feel hungry so that you consume extra calories only for them to then be stored as fat too.

Vitamin D deficiency can be detected with a blood test which will give results after about twenty four hours. If your doctor wants to find out if other nutrients levels are low, they might then order additional tests.

Are Vitamin D Supplements Effective for Weight Loss?

The general consensus among many health and diet experts is that Vitamin D supplements can be effective for weight loss when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise. 

A supplement offers an alternative way to make sure you're getting enough Vitamin D without changing your diet or risking damage from UV rays. Vitamin D pills typically contain 400-800 IU and are usually taken once per day with food. 

One study found that when people took a high dose vitamin D supplement daily for 12 weeks, they lost significantly more weight than those who didn't take it. The researchers also reported notable decreases in insulin resistance among participants taking vitamin D supplements compared with those on placebo pills after six months (19% vs 33%). 


Although there was no change in BMI, waist circumference decreased by an average of 0.67 inches in the treatment group but increased slightly in the placebo group.

Some studies have suggested that taking more than 1000 IU may be harmful or even unsafe, so just keep that in mind when looking for the best vitamin D supplement for weight loss. 

Can Vitamin D Supplements Help Diabetics?

There have been some studies that have suggested a link between Vitamin D levels, body weight, and the risk of developing type II diabetes.

Type II Diabetes is a condition where your body doesn't produce enough insulin, or cannot use it effectively, so sugar can’t get into your cells to fuel them. This results in the sugar staying in your blood which can cause various health issues. Vitamin D may help with this because it can improve the body's ability to use insulin, however more research needs to be done before a definitive link can be identified.

What are the Benefits of Healthy Vitamin D Levels?

As well as weight loss, high levels of vitamin D are associated with a positive mood, increased energy levels, healthy bones and teeth, a reduced risk of certain cancers (such as colon cancer), better immune system function, improved cardiovascular health. Further benefits may include protection from asthma, diabetes, and ulcerative colitis. 

Most of these benefits have been scientifically proven through extensive studies and testing. For example, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk for depression, while a higher intake was linked to mood improvements and better cognitive performance among healthy adults. 

Likewise, a meta-analysis (a type of scientific data review) concluded that there is strong evidence linking increased levels of vitamin D with improved bone mineral density and also a reduced rate of osteoporosis-related hip fractures. 

Several studies on the topic have also shown potential links between high intakes or blood levels of Vitamin D with decreased rates of colon cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and other cancers (though this also depended on different gene mutations and family histories.) 


Can Spending More Time in the Sun Help Vitamin D Levels?

Spending time outside in the sun is a great way to increase your body's Vitamin D production, but it's important to remember that too much sun exposure can be potentially hazardous. Make sure you wear sunscreen on days when UV exposure is particularly high to protect yourself from sunburn and to prevent an increased risk of skin cancer.  

As well as increased vitamin D levels, there are many other benefits to spending more time in the sunshine and the fresh air, and taking up an outdoor sport or activity can do wonders for your cardiovascular system, mental and emotional health, and overall sense of wellbeing.

Vitamin D and Weight

To Sum up...

Vitamin D has many well-documented health benefits but we are only now starting to realise its potential for helping to achieve weight loss goals. Vitamin D increases metabolic rate, reduces inflammation, prevents fat cells from maturing, and ensures that fat reserves are used for energy first. 

As vitamin D is readily available through sunlight and various foods, most people will be able to get enough quite easily, but if you have low vitamin D levels, you may want to consider a supplement. Just be careful about how much you take and speak to a medical professional if you are feeling any adverse effects. 

Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to various negative health issues such as osteoporosis and even depression so always make sure you are getting enough. Just remember, while sunlight is a fantastic source of free vitamin D, you should always wear sunscreen and be wary of UV rays as these can cause skin cancer and other potentially fatal diseases.


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