June 8, 2022

Do Low Vitamin D Levels Lead To Weight Gain?

Do Low Vitamin D Levels Lead To Weight Gain?
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Vitamin D is a vital micronutrient required by the body. It can either be obtained from a few significant sources of food items or from the body’s exposure to sunlight, upon which the body synthesizes it. However, both ways of obtaining vitamin D can rarely fulfill the required daily value.

Around a billion people suffer from a vitamin D deficiency, and half of the human population has subpar levels. Though it is essential for your immunity, bone, and brain health, maintaining appropriate levels has also suggested a better outcome in combating weight gain.

Let us analyze whether a deficiency in vitamin D can cause weight gain and how to deal with the same below.

The Connection Between Weight Gain And Vitamin D

Individuals who were overweight and obese appeared to have low vitamin D than people with a normal BMI (body mass index) who had better levels. It led people to assume that lower levels could lead to weight gain.

According to a study, women were either given a placebo or 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day for 12 consecutive weeks. As a result, the placebo group lost around half a kilogram (kg) of weight, whereas the vitamin D group lost around 2.7 kgs. The vitamin D group also noted an increase of 1.4 kg of muscle mass. However, there was no noticeable difference in total body weight or waist circumference.

The effect of increased doses of vitamin D on weight is considered minuscule by current research. Evaluating different variables like body fat and weight may need to be considered.

Why Are Lower Levels Of Vitamin D Common In Heavier People?

Scientists suggest that several factors may contribute to this.

Vitamin D is a component stored in fat. So, overweight or obese individuals may require higher amounts to replenish the necessary serum levels.

Less outdoor activity amongst obese people and a poor diet deficit in vitamin D can also be factors for low vitamin D levels.

Expert advisers suggest 1.5 times more supplementation in overweight people and 2-3 times more in obese individuals when compared to people with a normal BMI.

Though it is common to find low vitamin D in the overweight or obese category, more research is needed to confirm a relationship between weight gain and a deficiency of this vitamin.

Adverse Effects Of Vitamin D Deficiency

Unless vitamin D levels are critically low, one cannot observe any prominent symptoms. Blood tests are the only way to check vitamin D deficiency. But some common symptoms of a severe vitamin D deficiency can be noted through:

  • Rickets in children
  • Dental issues
  • Cardiac problems
  • Muscle spasms
  • Bone-related pain
  • Seizures

If you experience any of the above symptoms, consult your local physician to exclude vitamin D deficiency as a possible cause.

Who Is More Susceptible To Developing Vitamin D Deficiency?

Though anyone can suffer from vitamin D deficiency, certain sections of the population may be at a higher risk than others:

  • Decreased absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamin D, is a side effect of gastric bypass surgery and may put patients suffering from it at risk.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, short bowel syndrome, and chronic pancreatic insufficiency also lead to vitamin D deficiency.
  • Old age, duskier skin, and less outdoor time stunt the ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight, making them prone to deficiency.
  • Low levels of vitamin D are also remarkably higher in obese individuals.
  • The disintegration of vitamin D may be quickened by a select few medications, possibly leading to lower levels.

Regular Testing For Vitamin D

Blood tests measure your vitamin D levels and indicate in case of a deficiency. 

  • 30-100ng/mL are considered as healthy levels 
  • Below 20ng/mL is considered as mild deficiency 
  • Below 10ng/mL is considered as moderate deficiency 
  • Below 5ng/mL would be a severe case of deficiency.

Most physicians suggest getting tested twice a year for people with low levels. It helps determine when the vitamin D levels fluctuate and change the supplementation accordingly.

Ways To Improve Vitamin D Levels

Sun Exposure

The human body produces vitamin D from cholesterol upon exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.

Midday exposure to the sun with at least 40% of your skin exposed and without sunscreen for 20 minutes is adequate for maintaining normal levels of this vitamin.

Clouds, smog, altitude, and seasonal changes may alter the amount of vitamin D you synthesize. Relying just on the sun for sufficient vitamin D might be difficult for people who have a duskier skin tone or live in places with a temperature above 35 degrees or reside below the equator.

Scientists also inform that too much exposure to the sun can increase your chances of getting skin cancer.

Supplementation And Diet

The inclusion of vitamin D-rich foods and vitamin D fortified foods play a huge role in fulfilling the required amount needed by the body. Eggs, liver, fatty fish, mushrooms, fortified dairy products or plant milk, etc., are some food sources that contain a significant amount of vitamin D.

Though 600 IU of vitamin D is the reference daily intake (RDI) for adults, the dosage recommended for pregnant women is slightly higher at 800 IU.

A few medical experts believe these levels to be too low to maintain the necessary serum values of vitamin D.

Doctors recommend 800-4,000 IU of vitamin D if a person does not reach optimum vitamin D levels even after modifying their diet and exposure to the sun.

However, one has to be careful as high doses for long can accumulate in the tissues and be toxic.

Severe symptoms of vitamin D toxicity might occur if high amounts are taken for a prolonged time. Accidental overdose is the most common cause of vitamin D toxicity. Though rare, it can lead to symptoms like nausea, vomiting, decreased appetite, cardiac and kidney issues, and possibly even death.

To avoid this, consult a medical expert to assess your serum levels and recommend the amount of vitamin D you need.


It is not likely that a vitamin D deficiency may cause one to gain weight. Although, low levels may cause adverse effects, which you can avoid if you have the correct levels.

Having a diet rich in Vitamin D, taking vitamin D supplements, and spending some time in the sun daily, can help maintain optimal vitamin D levels.

Physicians and nutritionists recommend taking annual biochemical tests to keep nutrition deficiencies like vitamin D away. It can assist in altering your dosages to fulfill the suitable amount needed.

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