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Making Vitamin D Work Better with Weight Loss

Man in Brown Knitted Sweater Organizing the Medicines

Vitamin D has been touted to do almost everything for you under the sun (pun intended). Yet, we know now from some of the largest prevention trials in the world ever conducted, such as the VITAL trial, that it can do some things, but it has also failed to impact many other conditions.  Still, one of the more fascinating potential findings from the VITAL trial of vitamin D versus placebo was whether individuals with a healthier weight or body mass index (BMI) are more sensitive to the benefits of vitamin D? It appears this could be the case.1 

Vitamin D can get trapped in adipose tissue, and instead of getting circulated in the blood, it can remain sequestered or removed from all the action, so to speak. Another reason vitamin D may be less effective in those who are overweight or obese is the ability of the body to convert vitamin D into a more active or effective form, as it could be hampered by excess adipose tissue.  In other words, “blunted metabolism” or a “blunted response” to vitamin D could occur in those with a higher BMI1. Thus, it could be argued that one of the less appreciated benefits of trying to achieve a healthier weight, and/or waist, could be an increased sensitivity to the benefits of vitamin D from food sources, or even supplementation. 

Over 16,000 participants in the U.S. VITAL trial were analyzed in the latest publication that caught my attention, and the researchers found, and now hypothesize, that some of the potential benefits found in men and women from this large trial could be the result of a greater sensitivity to vitamin D for those able to achieve or maintain a healthier weight. Secondary analysis from VITAL has found a lower risk of cancer, mortality from cancer, and being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in those with a healthier BMI, but not for those with higher BMIs. This is fascinating because it is easy to want to believe that you need to take a supplement if your blood level of vitamin D is low. But in some past weight loss studies, blood levels of vitamin D “naturally” increased without any increase in dietary or supplemental vitamin D, if actual weight loss occurred. 

So, what is the bottom line of this column this month? Just cut to the chase Dr. Moyad! Okay, I will. The bottom line is that one of the benefits of losing weight/waist as we get older, and even when dealing with some medical conditions, could be a greater sensitivity to the benefits of numerous nutrients, and not just vitamin D. Perhaps the vitamin D story is setting the stage for appreciating countless unsung benefits of achieving, or even trying to achieve, a healthier weight.  

This is so darn fascinating I just had to share this story with you. It is the beginning of 2023 and most of us (including myself) are always looking for added reasons to keep extra weight off, and I think this is just one of the countless motivational reasons to help you get to your weight loss goal. Although I know it is not easy and, in fact, it is a pain in the gluteus maximus! However, the next time you eat healthier and exercise, think of little old vitamin D just waiting there to do its thing while you are working harder to become healthier. It will then want to work harder to help you (sorry, but that is the vision in my mind because I need motivation too)!

  1. Tobias DK, et al. JAMA Network Open 2023 published on-line January 17.