The University of Michigan School of Public Health published research that suggests inadequate levels of vitamin D could be a key factor in increased fat accumulation in children, and could be an important weapon in the fight against childhood obesity.
According to their findings, there is a strong correlation between vitamin D deficiency and the rapid build-up of abdominal body fat. This specific type of fat is often associated with an increased risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, as well as numerous other serious medical concerns.
In order to better understand the link between these two factors, researchers first measured the vitamin D blood serum levels of 479 children, ages 5 to 12, living in Bogota, Columbia, and then monitored their weight gain for a 30-month period. Due to the inherent shortcomings with relying solely on the body mass index standard of gauging body fat, the researchers opted to use a three-prong approach which took into consideration not only BMI, but also waist circumference and a more advanced technique know as the subscapular-to-tricep skinfold ratio.
They found that those children with the lowest levels of vitamin D at the beginning of the study gained weight more quickly, and more body fat overall as compared to their less deficient peers. The researchers also noted lower than average increases in height among girls with low levels of vitamin D. This latter observation was not however found in members of the male sub-population.
Global obesity rates have climbed steadily in recent decades – particularly among young people. Less obvious, but of equal concern to many medical professionals, is a similar increase in vitamin D deficiency in children.
Epidemiologist Eduardo Villamor, senior author of the study:
"We found that the kids with the lowest vitamin D levels at the beginning tended to gain weight faster than the kids with higher levels.. Our findings suggest that low vitamin D status may put children at risk of obesity. This is significant because vitamin D insufficiency is highly prevalent across the globe and childhood obesity rates are dramatically increasing worldwide." 
The Importance of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is naturally produced by the human body in response to sun exposure. Traditionally, it has been believed that people living in sunnier climates would naturally maintain healthy levels of vitamin D as a byproduct of their surroundings. Closer investigation, however, has repeatedly shown this theory to be flawed. And the substantial lack of vitamin D documented among children living in sunny Bogota serves to only further underscore the need to better understand the depths of this misconception.
There is an increasing push within the greater medical community to revise the official intake recommendation for vitamin D in response to this and other health concerns to which low blood levels of vitamin D have been linked. The current recommendation was increased to 200 IU per day for healthy adults in 1997. On November 30, 2010, the Institute of Medicine increased that recommendation to 600 IU per day , but many people still support drastically raising that recommendation, including the Vitamin D Council .
Because food-based sources of vitamin D are limited, and regular exposure to sunshine appears to be insufficient, the use of dietary supplements to ensure proper intake has become increasingly popular. And if low levels of vitamin D are in fact contributing to the worldwide childhood and possibly adult obesity problem, then something as simple as an over-the-counter vitamin could potentially save millions of lives in the long run. I personally use and recommend Suntrex D3.
- Gilbert-Diamond D, Baylin A, Mora-Plazas M, Marin C, Arsenault JE, Hughes MD, Willett WC, Villamor E. Vitamin D deficiency and anthropometric indicators of adiposity in school-age children: a prospective study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Dec;92(6):1446-51. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.29746. Epub 2010 Oct 6.
- Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. DRI's for calcium and vitamin d. National Academy of Sciences. 2010 November 30.
- Vitamin D Council. Newsletter: today, the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board has failed millions. Vitamin D Council Institute of Medicine. 2010 November 30.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.