Low Vitamin D Levels Linked To Weight Gain In Older Women
A new study published in the journal of Women's Health finds that older women who don't get enough vitamin D might be slightly heavier than those who do.
The study, which examined about 4,600 aged 65 and older for 4½ years, found that women with low levels of vitamin D in their blood gained about two pounds more than those with adequate levels of the vitamin.
“This is one of the first studies to show that women with low levels of vitamin D gain more weight, and although it was only 2 pounds, over time that can add up,” said Erin LeBlanc, the author of the study and an endocrinologist and researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon.
Often called the "sunshine vitamin" because most people get it from the sun, vitamin D helps maintain bones and muscles, and keeps our central nervous system in check. In addition to the sun's rays, it can also be found in milk products, fatty fish, and fortified cereals and juices.
However, according to the study, researchers found almost 80 percent of participants did not receive sufficient levels of vitamin D either due to a lack of time spent outdoors or a poor diet.
The researchers noted that it’s possible that decreased sun exposure in fall and winter could trigger the body to increase fat storage for the winter. “As modern societies move indoors, we propose that decreased sunlight exposure leads to chronic [vitamin D] insufficiency and subsequent weight gain year round (not just seasonally),” the study said.
The authors also point out that the study was conducted among older women who, for the most part, were not trying to lose weight – though some of them did so as a natural result of aging. About 60% of the women in the study remained at a stable weight during the study period, 27% lost more than 5% of their body weight, and 12% gained more than 5% of their body weight.
Of the women who lost weight or maintained a stable weight, there was no association with vitamin D levels. But among the 571 women who gained more than 5 percent of their body weight, low vitamin D levels appeared to make a difference.
“Our study only shows an association between insufficient levels of vitamin D and weight gain, we would need to do more studies before recommending the supplements to keep people from gaining weight,” LeBlanc said. “Since there are so many conflicting recommendations about taking vitamin D for any reason, it’s best if patients get advice from their own healthcare provider.”
Feel free to talk to your Women's HealthFirst doctor about any questions you may have about vitamin D and its role in maintaining a healthy weight to determine a plan that's right for you.
[image via UM.edu]