The Vitamin D-ilema

A recent presentation at the Endocrine Society’s 91st Annual Meeting reported an interesting connection between vitamin D and weight loss.

If you’ve listened to the news in the past year, you probably already know that vitamin D is the new star in the supplement world. Studies are piling up touting the importance of this previously underrated vitamin for everything from mood to cancer prevention to physical performance.

Now it turns out that your vitamin D status is actually a good predictor of how successful you’ll be in trying to lose weight.

The study presented at the Endocrine Society’s meeting showed that men and women with higher vitamin D levels experienced a greater amount of weight loss when dieting compared to those with lower levels.

Researchers measured blood levels of vitamin D in 38 obese patients prior to and following an 11-week diet that contained about 750 less calories per day than the participants needed to maintain their weight. That alone should have caused weight loss. But what the researchers found is that for each 1 ng/ml increase in  blood levels of vitamin D, participants lost an additional half pound of weight!

“(Blood level) of vitamin D predicts subsequent weight loss, suggesting a potential role for vitamin D in promotion of weight loss” said the researchers, suggesting that vitamin D might have an effect on fat metabolism.

This is not the first time vitamin D has been linked to weight-related issues. Diabetes, for example, has long been shown to be significantly more prevalent in people with low blood levels of vitamin D. And one study showed that supplementing with vitamin D improved insulin sensitivity, a measure of how well your body metabolizes carbohydrates. (Insulin insensitive people are much more likely to have problems with blood sugar and weight.)

The thing of it is, there’s really no downside to supplementing with vitamin D. And studies are pretty clear that a high percentage- if not the majority- of Americans have less than optimal levels of this nutrient in their blood. (You can get a simple vitamin D blood test by asking your doctor for a 25-OH Vitamin D test.)

The supplements are very inexpensive, the size of a tic-tac (easy to swallow) and demonstrably safe at 2,000 IUs a day (and probably more). (Your body makes 10,000 IUs when you spend just 15 -20 minutes in the sun!)

With low levels clearly impacting weight loss success, what’s the downside of trying vitamin D supplements?

In my opinion the answer is clear: None.

Vitamin D comes in easy to swallow capsules,  but these days I’ve been using vitamin D in the emulsion form from Designs for Health. You  get a 2,000 IU dose of the most absorbable and highest quality form (vitamin D3) in one drop, and a single bottle contains 900 servings. I just put it in my morning drink every day!