Among all the herbs, vitamins, minerals and various supplements that are out there claiming to help treat a wide variety of ailments, vitamin D has gained itself a dazzling reputation. Alternative health advocates attribute all sorts of benefits to this vitamin, some of which have been backed up by science. Other claims, however, cannot be substantiated by any reliable research. I have observed that even Gynecologists are routinely checking Vitamin D levels on every female patient that I see in my practice. The claim is tha there is a growing body of evidence, that seems to link low levels of vitamin D with obesity, osteoporosis, fatigue, bone loss etc. While more research needs to be done so that we can fully understand this relationship and the mechanisms at work here, the finds are still worth consideration for any that have been struggling with their weight and bone metabolism.
What The Studies Say
The first study that’s worth including in any discussion on this topic comes from researchers at the University of Minnesota, where they practically stumbled on the connection. The scientists recruited 38 obese individuals to take part in an observational study on weight loss. By chance, the researchers noticed that the subjects had a noticeable tendency to be suffering from a vitamin D deficiency.
Another study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition took a much more direction approach to the issue. In this study 126 were observed for 6 months while they followed a weight loss program. One group was given vitamin D and calcium supplements while the other group, as a control, was not. The vitamin D group, at the end of the program, showed a greater success-rate for weight loss than the control. This could be coincidence though and depend on adjusted confounding variables which may influence study outcomes.
A similar study also noticed that the subjects that were given vitamin D had a healthier cholesterol profile at the end of the trial period.
Again, as I mentioned at the start, no research to date has been able to specifically identify how these weight loss benefits of vitamin D work. It’s also important to realize that, in all of the studies, vitamin D has been used in conjunction with a complete weight loss program. That means that vitamin D is not a magic pill. Old fashioned diet and exercise are still necessary for you to lose weight.
In each study, vitamin D was also taken along with calcium to help with absorption. There is no evidence to suggest that you’ll get the same results with vitamin D alone.
With all those disclaimers out of the way, though, the fact remains that vitamin D has an undeniable link to obesity and that adequate levels could support your efforts to lose weight.
So, how do you get enough and how much is enough?
Along with it’s many uses, vitamin D is unique in its source: the Sun. Incredibly, our bodies are capable of synthesizing all of the vitamin D that we need when exposed to a relatively small amount of sunlight.
The exact amount of time you’ll need to spend in the sun, though, depends on a variety of factors. Fair skinned people, for example, can get all the vitamin D they need in as little as 45 minutes per week. Darker people, though, may need to spend as much as 3 hours in the sun to be able to create the same amount of the vitamin.
The further north you go, too, the more of a challenge it can be for you to get the levels of vitamin D that you need. Pollution that blocks the sun or weakens its rays will also make things more difficult for you in your quest for the vitamin.
Fortunately, you can also get plenty of vitamin D from a pretty standard healthful diet. Specifically, fatty fish such as salmon and tuna are rich in the vitamin. Eggs are also a good source of this essential nutrient. Many foods, like milk and cereal, are fortified with vitamin D as well.
How Much Do You Need?
Now that we have an understanding of yet another reason why you need it and where you can get it, how much vitamin D should you aim for?
Unfortunately, there doesn’t really seem to be a clear answer to that question – as is often the case with health questions.
According to the Maryland University Medical Center, most people should get about 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D each day. Confusingly, the National Institutes of Health have set the maximum limit of daily intake an a whooping 6,000 IU which creates a pretty large gap between maximum and minimum dosages.
With all of the ambiguity surrounding vitamin D, it’s best to talk to a doctor before beginning supplementation. It is possible to develop toxicity from consuming large amounts of Vitamin D because it is a fat-soluble vitamin so, as with all supplements, it’s best not to try to self-medicate.