Yet Another Reason to Lose Weight

Vitamin D levels increase with weight loss

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

(RxWiki News) Being overweight or obese carries a number of health risks. Now there's one more health benefit for losing weight.

Overweight or obese women who lose at least 15 percent of their body weight boost their blood levels of Vitamin D, a nutrient that may help prevent chronic disease.

“Since vitamin D is generally lower in persons with obesity, it is possible that low vitamin D could account, in part, for the link between obesity and diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes,” said Caitlin Mason, Ph.D., lead author of a new paper.

"Lose weight to increase Vitamin D levels and improve health."

“Determining whether weight loss helps change vitamin D status is important for understanding potential avenues for disease prevention,” said Mason, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Hutchinson Center’s Public Health Sciences Division.

More and more is being learned about the enormous role vitamin D plays in our bodies. According to the National Institutes of Health, vitamin D:

  • helps and encourages the body to absorb calcium
  • is needed for bone growth and bone healing
  • helps protect against osteoporsis along with calcium
  • influences cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function
  • reduces inflammation
  • assists gene proteins that manage cell growth, differentiation and death

The study involved 439 overweight-to-obese, sedentary, postmenopausal women, aged 50 to 75. They were randomly divided into four groups: exercise only, diet only, exercise plus diet and no intervention.

Those who lost 5-10 percent of their body weight saw only a small increase in blood levels of vitamin D. But women who lost more than 15 percent, had a nearly threefold increase in vitamin D, not taking into account dietary intake of the nutrient.

Researchers were surprised by these findings, according to senior author Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Hutchinson Center’s Prevention Center and principal investigator of the study. “It appears that the relationship between weight loss and blood vitamin D is not linear but goes up dramatically with more weight loss," McTiernan said.

She continued, "While weight loss of 5 percent to 10 percent is generally recommended to improve risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugars, our findings suggest that more weight loss might be necessary to meaningfully raise blood vitamin D levels.”

Vitamin D is found naturally in some foods including fatty fish. When the skin is exposed to sunlight, the body the vitamin.

It's thought - but not known - that obese people have lower levels of the vitamin because it's stored in fat deposits. Weight loss may release the trapped nutrient.

The relationship between vitamin D and chronic disease including cancer and heart disease has not been clinically proven.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 26, 2011
Last Updated:
October 18, 2012