A high visceral fat level, or abdominal fat, is associated with lower vitamin D levels in obese individuals, according to a study by the VU University Medical Centre Amsterdam and the Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands. Therefore vitamin D deficiency is associated with being overweight.
Abdominal fat and vitamin D deficiency
In the study, medical researcher Rachida Rafiq and her colleagues investigated how the amount of body fat and abdominal fat measured in participants in the Netherlands Epidemiology of Obesity (NEO) study was related to their vitamin D level. After correction for a number of possible influencing factors, including chronic disease, alcohol consumption and levels of physical activity, they discovered that the greater the amount of abdominal fat, the lower the levels of detected vitamin D. In women, body fat as well as abdominal fat were associated with lower vitamin D levels; in men this was mainly abdominal fat and liver fat.
Rachida Rafiq:”Although we did not measure vitamin D deficiency in our study, the strong link between increasing amounts of abdominal fat and lower vitamin D values suggests that people with a larger waistline are at greater risk of developing a deficiency and should consider having their vitamin D level checked to prevent possible adverse effects on health.”
Obesity and low vitamin D levels
Obesity is a worldwide epidemic, causing around 2.8 million deaths a year worldwide. Vitamin D deficiency is usually associated with impaired bone health, but in recent years it has also been associated with higher risks of acute respiratory tract infections, autoimmune diseases and cardiovascular disease. Although more research is needed, a link has now been demonstrated between low vitamin D levels and obesity. Therefore vitamin D deficiency is associated with being overweight.
As Rachida Rafiq says:“Because of the observational nature of this study, we cannot draw any conclusions about the cause of the link between obesity and vitamin D levels. However, this strong association may indicate a possible role of vitamin D in the storage and function of abdominal fat.”
Further research needed
The researchers are now planning to investigate what is behind this strong association between vitamin D levels and obesity: whether a lack of vitamin D makes people susceptible to storing fat, or whether elevated levels of fat are decreasing vitamin D levels.