Chronic inflammation is one of the major factors to obesity’s deadly medical complications. After all, pot-belly fat cells generate pro-inflammatory chemicals. For obese individuals acute exercise activates inflammatory triggers inside the body. Furthermore, obese individuals are at a greater risk for vitamin D deficiency. This complicates matters as vitamin D makes a very important anti-inflammatory hormone. Obese individuals process vitamin D about half as efficiently as normal-weight people.1Supplementation with vitamin D, coupled with exercise or mild caloric restriction, has been shown to improve markers of fitness and inflammation as well as cholesterol.2Vitamin D also inhibits inflammation inside fat cells.3
People with severe obesity already are eight times more likely to have poor physical function than people with a healthy BMI (body mass index). Seriously obese individuals often experience difficulty with mobility. A study found severely obese people, who also were vitamin D deficient, walked slower and were less active, overall, than their counterparts who had healthy vitamin D levels. 4 Higher levels of vitamin D may decrease pain and improve function in obese individuals with osteoarthritis.5
Vitamin D Helps Obese Children and Teenagers
Obese adolescents face a genuine increased risk for vitamin D deficiency because they tend to absorb vitamin D into their fat stores, which prevents it from being utilized in their blood. Obese teenagers are only about half as efficient at using vitamin D as their lean counterparts.6 Obese adolescents seem to benefit from vitamin D supplement.7
There is another way vitamin D can help obese teenagers. Being obese puts individuals at greater risk for elevated blood sugar, prediabetes, and developing type 2 diabetes. Vitamin D supplements can help obese children and teens control their blood-sugar levels. One study investigated the effect of vitamin D supplementation on the blood sugar levels of 35 obese children and adolescents. The results? By increasing vitamin D intake alone, blood sugar was lowered as effectively as using a prescription drug. A decrease in insulin levels, which means better glucose control, occurred even when there were no changes in body weight, dietary intake, or physical activity.8 Unfortunately, this effect does not seem to be necessarily true for adults.9
Vitamin D Deficiency, Obesity, and Hypertension
Obesity increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to high blood pressure because it stimulates the renin-angiotensin system. Angiotensin 2 is a hormone that is a powerful constrictor of blood vessels. As blood vessels constrict, blood pressure increases. Vitamin D inhibits this system.10 A meta-analysis of 11 studies showed that vitamin D deficiency significantly increased systolic blood pressure and LDL-C (bad cholesterol) levels.11
Because vitamin D deficiency is rather common, it would be judicious for individuals, beginning in youth, to have their vitamin D levels checked. Living in northern latitudes, lack of exposure of the skin to sunlight, dark skin, obesity, and the habitual use of sunscreen increase the risk for vitamin D deficiency.
Because vitamin D is stored in the body, taking high dosages of this vitamin can cause real problems. Excessive amounts of vitamin D can cause the calcium level in the blood to rise too high. Poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, weakness, and kidney problems may occur. Nutritionists and epidemiologists estimate that 50% of the population in North American and Western Europe have insufficient levels of this vitamin. It is a wise policy to have your vitamin D level checked annually, especially if you are at risk or have a family history of cancer, atherosclerosis, and autoimmune diseases.
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Disclaimer: The information in this article is educational and general in nature. Neither Wildwood Lifestyle Center, its entities, nor author intend this article as a substitute for medical diagnosis, counsel, or treatment by a qualified health professional.
- University of Missouri-Columbia. “Obese adolescents benefit from high-dose vitamin D supplements: High doses safely combat nutritional deficiencies, study suggests.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 November 2011. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111101141345.htm.
- Slusher AL. A therapeutic role for vitamin D on obesity-associated inflammation and weight-loss intervention. Inflamm Res. 2015 Aug; 64(8):565-75.
- Karkeni E. Vitamin D limits chemokine expression in adipocytes and macrophage migration in vitro and in male mice. 2015 May; 156(5):1782-93.
- Endocrine Society. “Vitamin D deficiency contributes to poor mobility among severely obese people.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 April 2014. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140415133811.htm
- University of Florida. “Vitamin D can affect pain, movement in obese osteoarthritis patients.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 March 2015. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150330173925.htm
- University of Missouri-Columbia. “Obese adolescents benefit from high-dose vitamin D supplements: High doses safely combat nutritional deficiencies, study suggests.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 November 2011. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111101141345.htm
- University of Missouri-Columbia. “Obese adolescents benefit from high-dose vitamin D supplements: High doses safely combat nutritional deficiencies, study suggests.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 November 2011. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111101141345.htm www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111101141345.htm
- University of Missouri-Columbia. “Vitamin D may lower diabetes risk in obese children and adolescents.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 March 2013. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130326121743.htm
- Jamka M. The effect of vitamin D supplementation on insulin and glucose metabolism in overweight and obese individuals: systematic review with meta-analysis. Sci Rep. 2015 Nov 6; 5:16142.
- Prasad P. Interplay of vitamin D and metabolic syndrome: A review. Diabetes Metab Syndr. 2015 Mar 6. pii: S1871-4021(15)00027-2.
- Manousopoulou A. Vitamin D and cardiovascular risk among adults with obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Clin Invest. 2015 Oct;45(10):1113-26.