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Vitamin D & Obesity: What's the Link?

Is it possible, that depending on your vitamin D levels, you could be increasing your risk for obesity?

Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids, which enhance intestinal absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate and zinc.

In reports from the University of Puerto Rico, researchers recently looked at medical records from a private clinic that included age, gender, serum 25 (OH) D levels, weight, height, and waist circumference.

The body mass index and waist-to-height ratio were also calculated and categorized according to standard guidelines.

Researchers found that those people who had a higher BMI, waist circumference, and waist-to-height ratio had a significantly lower vitamin D status.

What else did the researchers find?

Listen in as Dr. Mike shares this recent report on vitamin D and its link to obesity.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: May 13, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

Anti-aging and disease prevention radio is right here, on RadioMD. Here's author, blogger, lecturer and national media personality, Dr. Michael Smith, M.D. with Healthy Talk.

DR MIKE: So, a new study coming out of the University of Puerto Rico shows that vitamin D status is inversely associated with obesity. Pretty simple, if vitamin D levels are up, obesity levels go down. Are you taking vitamin D? Are you taking it every day? Do you know your blood level is for vitamin D? Everybody—Well, I wouldn't say everybody, but most people--they know cholesterol, they know sugar levels for the most part, but so many people don't know vitamin D levels. I was doing a lecture a couple years ago and I don't know, there was about maybe 200 people in the auditorium I asked them, I said, "How many of you know your cholesterol level?" and gosh, maybe two-thirds, if not more, raised their hand. "Okay, put your hands down. How many of you know your vitamin D level?" Maybe 10 hands went up—15, maybe, at the most.

We must reverse that trend. You know, I talk about vitamin D all the time and why do I? Because it's one of the few micronutrients that has thousands of studies on it. Laboratory studies, animal studies, human studies showing benefits literally from your head to your toes, inside out, skin, organs, blood vessels, white cells red cells, hormone production, bones, joints, ligaments, muscle, nerves. I mean, I think you get the picture. Take vitamin D. Let me go through this study first and then I'm going to go what I think is the appropriate dose. We'll talk a little bit about vitamin D2 versus vitamin D3 and what is an optimal blood level.

So, this study was published in Obesity Fitness and Wellness. Oh, I'm sorry. This was a report. I take that back. This is a report written up in Obesity Fitness and Wellness, May 4, 2015, and it comes from preliminary findings out of the University of Puerto Rico. Studies show that vitamin D status is associated to obesity, but data in Hispanic individuals is scarce.

So, this was specifically looking, obviously, at the Hispanic people, but it extrapolates to all of us. The aim of this study was to assess the association between vitamin D status in obesity in a clinic-based sample in Puerto Rico. The researchers hypothesized that subjects with a higher body fat percentage would have a lower vitamin D status. The researchers' understanding was that the vitamin D has a link to metabolism. There is a vitamin D receptor on every single cell in your body, including thyroid. Including fat cells. So, when vitamin D level is higher, you're managing energy better. Your metabolism is better. They understand that. So, their hypothesis is very simple. If you're overweight, your vitamin D level is low.

So, they extracted data from medical records from a private clinic. I don't know how many clinics there were, but they look at age, gender, vitamin D levels, blood levels, weight, height and waist circumference. They also checked body mass index. Waist- height ratio is all important, by the way. BMI is kind of the standard in these kinds of studies looking at weight and stuff, but I like to see more and more studies looking at waist circumference, waist to hip ratio, waist to height ratio. Those give us a little more information about overall health, much more than the BMI. So, they looked at all the important stuff. They had 797 people, average age was around 60-ish, about pretty even split between men and women.

A little over 35% were overweight. Almost 44% were obese. This is a random sampling of 797 people from Puerto Rico. I mean, that's not good. So, you have about 35% overweight and 44% obese. Then, they looked at the serum vitamin D level. The average was 44.7 and 5.3% of the subjects in the studies had levels less than 12 ng per ML. That's dangerously low. Almost about 31% had levels between 12-20 ng/ml that's significantly deficient and about close to 44% had levels between 21-30 ng/ml.

In my opinion, still deficient. Mean vitamin D blood levels were significantly higher than normal weight and overweight males compared to obese males and in overweight females compared to obese females. Levels were also higher in those with low risk compared to high risk of waist circumference and waist to height ratio. So, it's just inversely related.

The lower the vitamin D the greater the risk for someone being overweight and having some issues with other types of body composition markers like BMI and waist circumference. Pretty simple. A greater proportion of obese individuals, about 42%, were vitamin D deficient or insufficient compared to the normal weight and overweight individuals. According to the news editors that were reviewing this, the researchers concluded in this clinic-based sample of Puerto Rican adults, those with higher BMI, waist circumference and waist to height ratio had a significantly lower vitamin D status again confirming their hypothesis. Simply confirming the fact that what we know.

Vitamin D, is as I said, linked to every cell in your body, but also to fat cells. I've talked about this before, fat cells aren't just these cells that are just engorged with fat and they sit there. I mean, they do play a role with keeping heat in and adding some protection and that kind of stuff, but we have learned, just really in the past decade or so, that these fat cells, they're called adipocytes, they are metabolically active and the fatter and fatter they get, they have these mechanisms and that continues to build fat.

They communicate together, there's hormones that interact in them like leptin and adiponectin and there are enzymes like glycerol 3 phosphate dehydrogenase. These are active cells and they will get bigger and smaller based on things we do. Here we have a vitamin--t's really a hormone. Vitamin D is really a hormone, it's made in the skin, travels to other parts of the body It's the definition of a hormone, but whatever. Vitamin D interacts with these fat cells and helps them to communicate properly. It helps them to manage their energy better. In a sense, vitamin D helps fat cells become skinnier. Yes. That's what we want. We want skinny fat cells. Additional points from this research.

I found this really interesting because, right at the get-go they tell us the average vitamin D blood level...Let's see. Where was it? 24.7 ng/ml and that's the standard units they give us. 24.7 out of the 797 people from Puerto Rico. 24.7, in my opinion, is significantly deficient. So, the average person in this study is just deficient. You know, personally, I think, and you know, working at Life Extension, we've established an optimal range for vitamin D somewhere between 50-70 ng/ml and your average dose of about 400 international units. That's the dose that the AMA and the FDA support. That's not going to do it for you. To reach that 50-70 ng/ml, you definitely need to be at least 1000 units a day, if not 2000. So, get your blood level tested. We can. Life Extension doctors, give us a call. We can get you on the right dose. Vitamin D2 versus vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 ergocalciferol comes from plants, vitamin D3 cholecalciferol comes from animals. Both of them will boost your blood levels.

So, it's really just if you're a vegan or vegetarian D2 is fine. It doesn't really bother me. Just take vitamin D. Shoot for that 1000 maybe 2000 international units and get tested. It's more important to know vitamin D than cholesterol.

This is Healthy Talk on RadioMD.

This is Dr. Mike. Stay well.