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Vitamin D levels associated with body weight among older women

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Vitamin D plays a central role in keeping people healthy. Learning about the metabolic effects of this vitamin may help older women maintain a healthy body weight.

A recent study showed that as women age, low vitamin D levels are associated with more weight gain. Weight gain can lead to other chronic health conditions later in life.  

Vitamin D could be vital to maintaining a healthy body weight for women as they age.

Get regular vitamin D tests - ask your doctor.

Erin S. LeBlanc, MD, MPH, a researcher out of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon, was the lead author of this study. Other institutions involved with this research included the University of Minnesota, the University of Maryland, the University of Pittsburgh and the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Honolulu.

Dr. Leblanc and her research team analyzed data from a National Institute of Health survey called the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures (SOF). This survey covered women over the age of 65, living in community homes in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Oregon.

The survey began between 1986 and 1988.  The participants received weight measurements and monitored their vitamin D levels between 1992 and 1994 and between 1996 and 1998.

Deaths and dropouts reduced the number of participants over the years, but 1,054 women finished the survey with all measurements completed. Dr. Leblanc and her colleagues analyzed the fluctuations in the women’s weight compared to their vitamin D levels and found interesting results.

Dr. Leblanc and her colleagues divided the participants into three groups based on weight measurements between the two visits: people with a stable weight and people who lost weight and people who gained weight.

Vitamin D had no effect on people who had lost weight or were weight stable. People in the category that gained weight showed a pattern related to their vitamin D levels.

During the 4.5 years between clinical appointments, the participants in the gained-weight category who had higher levels of vitamin D (greater than 30ng/mL), saw an average of two pounds less in weight gain.

Though this difference is not large, this study was only to test a hypothesis, that vitamin D would provide some metabolic benefit to people.

Future studies will focus on weight and metabolism and involve clinical examination of vitamin D and its effects on more diverse populations.

This study had limitations. The study data only included predominantly white women over the age of 65, making generalizations about these conclusions difficult to make outside of the study population.

Even though this data is specific to elderly female populations, this is a population that has a high level of vitamin D deficiency, which makes understanding the effects of this vitamin very important.

This observational study was published in the June issue of the Journal of Women’s Health. This study was funded by grants from the National Institute on Aging (NIA).

Dr. Leblanc receives funding from Amgen pharmaceuticals, which does not represent a competing financial interest. Marc Hochberg, a contributor to this study, served on an advisory board for and owns stock in Theralogix LLC, a company that markets nutritional supplements, including vitamin D, and received less than $10,000 in 2011. There are no competing financial interests for the rest of the authors.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 9, 2012
Last Updated:
November 13, 2012