Vitamin D Supplements for Weight Loss

Can It Help You Lose Weight?

Vitamin D/Weight Loss

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Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin sometimes touted as a natural weight loss aid when taken in dietary supplement form. Indeed, some research suggests that running low on vitamin D might increase your risk of weight gain, while taking vitamin D supplements may help promote weight loss and maintenance.

While vitamin D occurs naturally in some foods such as oily fish and is added to foods such as fortified milk and juice, many health professionals suggest getting vitamin through sun exposure. For some people, taking supplements may be a more reliable means of maintaining adequate vitamin D levels.

People who are at risk of a vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Older adults
  • Breastfed infants
  • Those with dark skin
  • People with limited sun exposure and those who frequently use sunblock
  • People who have had bariatric surgery (such as gastric bypass surgery)
  • People who are overweight or obese
  • Those who live in northern latitudes

Essential for strong bones and osteoporosis prevention, vitamin D may also help fend off heart disease and stimulate your immune system.

Benefits of Vitamin D for Weight Loss

Here's a look at some key findings on vitamin D and weight:

In a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers compared 12 months of 2000 IU per day vitamin D3 supplementation with placebo in postmenopausal women in a weight loss intervention. At the study's end, women who had adequate blood levels of vitamin D had lost more weight and body fat and had a greater reduction in waist circumference.

In a 2010 study also from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that boosting your levels of vitamin D (and intake of dairy-derived calcium) may increase the likelihood of weight loss while dieting. The study involved 126 overweight women, all of whom were followed for six months.

Vitamin D may help thwart the weight gain that often occurs in middle-aged women, according to a 2007 study from the Archives of Internal Medicine. For the study, 36,282 postmenopausal women were assigned to receive 400 IU of vitamin D and 1,000 mg of calcium in supplement form or a placebo daily. After three years, supplement-taking participants who had skimped on calcium prior to the study were found to be 11 percent less likely to gain weight (compared to those assigned to a placebo).

Vitamin D may enhance some positive effects of weight loss, a 2007 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests. In tests on 63 overweight or obese women assigned to a weight loss program, scientists discovered that those who took 400 IU of vitamin D and 1,200 mg of calcium in supplement form daily during the course of their 15-week diet had greater improvements in cholesterol levels (compared to those given a placebo for the same time period).

The Takeaway

Supplements containing both vitamin D and calcium show promise for weight loss, according to the National Institutes of Health. However, scientists have yet to determine whether taking vitamin D alone (rather than in combination with calcium) can help promote weight loss.

Although vitamin D might not help you lose weight on its own, increasing your vitamin D intake could support your weight loss efforts while enhancing your overall health. In order to achieve weight loss, it's important to combine vitamin D supplementation with a healthy diet and regular exercise program.

Be aware that consuming an excessive amount of vitamin D may cause vomiting, loss of bone density, and other problems. Long-term or excessive intake of calcium supplements may also have adverse effects on health.

Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

If you're considering the use of vitamin D supplements, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

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