Older women with insufficient levels of Vitamin D gained more weight than those with sufficient levels of the vitamin, according to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health and published online today in the Journal of Women's Health. The study of more than 4,600 women ages 65 and older found that over nearly five years, those with insufficient 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 two pounds, over time that can add up," said study author Erin LeBlanc, MD, an endocrinologist and researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon. "Nearly 80 percent of women in our study had insufficient levels of Vitamin D. A primary source of this important vitamin is sunlight, and as modern societies move indoors, continuous Vitamin D insufficiency may be contributing to chronic weight gain."
Vitamin D was in the news recently when a panel of primary care experts-- the US Preventive Services Task Force-- said healthy postmenopausal women may need higher doses of the vitamin to prevent fractures, and that there isn't enough evidence to recommend the supplements for younger people. Other expert groups, including The Endocrine Society, have a different take, saying many adults do need Vitamin D supplements to keep their bones healthy.
"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 health care provider."