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Can Vitamin D Deficiency Lead to Weight Gain?

Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is produced by the body when exposed to the sun. It can also be obtained from the diet, although the options are very few.

Sun exposure and diet, alone are never sufficient to maintain the required vitamin D levels.(1)

It is believed that around 50 percent of the world population have vitamin D deficiency.(1)

Vitamin D is essential for bones, the brain, and the immune system. It is also believed to help prevent unwanted weight gain.(2)

Vitamin D and Weight Gain

It is seen that obese and overweight people are more likely to have low vitamin D levels compared to people with a normal body mass index (BMI) range. This helped in concluding that low vitamin D levels could lead to weight gain.(3,4)

Numerous studies were done to support it.

In one study women were given 1000IU of vitamin D or placebo every day for 12 weeks. By the end of the week, the vitamin D group lost 5.9 pounds of fat and the placebo group lost 1.1 pounds. It was also seen that vitamin D group women gained 3.1 pounds more muscle mass than the placebo group.(5)

Despite these findings, research suggests that consuming a higher amount of vitamin D has very less effect on weight gain or loss. More studies are needed to evaluate the same.

What Makes People with Excess Weight have Low Vitamin D Levels?

A lot is being researched to find this out.

It is suggested that vitamin D is stored in fatty tissues and people with larger bodyweight need a greater amount of vitamin D to maintain the blood levels similar to the people with low body weight.(3,4)

Also, overweight or obese people spend less time outdoors or eat less vitamin D rich diet or vitamin D fortified food.

Experts suggest that people with overweight need 1.5 times more vitamin D than individuals with low BMIs whereas obese people would require 2-3 times more.(4)

Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

Limited sun exposure and a low amount of vitamin d intake would lead to vitamin D deficiency.

The signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are as follows:

Any of the above symptoms indicate vitamin D deficiency and a doctor should be consulted for the same.

Who Is At Risk of Vitamin D Deficiency The Most?

Anyone can suffer from vitamin D deficiency but a few people are more at risk of it.

People who have undergone gastric bypass surgery are less able to absorb vitamin D from the diet that may put them at a greater risk of vitamin D deficiency.(1)

Older individuals with darker skin tone or those who spend less time outdoor are at an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency(1)

Obese people are more prone to vitamin D deficiency.(1)

Certain prescription medications would accelerate vitamin D breakdown, increasing the risk of vitamin D deficiency.(1)

How to Improve Vitamin D Levels?

There are various ways in which vitamin D levels can be improved.

Sun Exposure

The body produces vitamin D from cholesterol when the skin is exposed to sun rays.(6)

Experts say, exposing 40% of skin to the midday sun is sufficient for most people to produce enough vitamin D.(1)

People with darker complexion would find it difficult to produce enough vitamin D from the sun alone. Smog levels, altitude, cloud cover, and seasons are other influencing factors.(7,8)

Also, dermatologists warn against excess sun exposure due to the increased cancer risk because of UV radiation.

Diet and Supplements

To improve vitamin D levels it is important to increase the intake of vitamin D rich or vitamin D fortified food in the diet, which includes:

  • Fatty food
  • Plant-based milk
  • eggs
  • liver
  • meats

The daily value of vitamin d is set to 600 IU (15mcg) per day for adults and 800 IU (20 mcg) per day for females who are pregnant.(9)

Excess intake can prove to be toxic as well because it is a fat-soluble vitamin and may accumulate in the tissues. Accidental overdose is the most common cause of vitamin D toxicity.(10) This can lead to vomiting, pain, poor appetite, brain disturbance, and heart and kidney problem. In severe cases, it may even lead to death.

To avoid toxicity, it is best to keep the vitamin D levels checked.

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 16, 2021

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