Supplementing with vitamin D can promote weight loss, study finds

Childhood obesity has become a significant health problem around the world. Not only is it dangerous for children right now, but it also sets them up to develop serious problems later in life, such as diabetes and heart disease. In addition, it can cause psychological damage. While the most obvious solution is for obese children to eat less and move more, there are often many other factors at play that contribute to weight problems. For example, researchers have found that vitamin D supplementation could help form an effective strategy for dealing with childhood obesity.

In the study, Greek researchers looked at 232 obese children over the course of one year. Some of them were randomly assigned vitamin D supplements. At the start of the study and after a year had passed, the participants’ vitamin D levels, body fat, and the blood markers for heart health and liver function were assessed. The researchers found that children who took vitamin D supplements enjoyed significantly lower body fat and body mass index, along with better cholesterol levels.

Lead researcher Evangelia Charmandari commented: “These findings suggest that simple vitamin D supplementation may reduce the risk of overweight and obese children developing  serious heart and metabolic complications later in life.” She said that while vitamin D is considered safe, the long-term effects of supplementing in those without a deficiency aren’t known. Nevertheless, she suggests that overweight and obese children have their vitamin D levels checked to see if there’s a deficiency.

Next, the team plans to explore how vitamin D supplements might affect the health of obese kids and adolescents who are already dealing with conditions like high cholesterol, high blood glucose, or high blood pressure. Their findings were presented at a meeting of the European Society for Pediatric Endocrinology.

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This ties in to study results released earlier this year by Dutch researchers, who discovered that higher belly fat levels are linked to lower levels of vitamin D.

Getting more vitamin D is easier than you think

With the World Health Organization estimating that 41 million kids younger than age five are obese and classifying childhood obesity as one of the 21st century’s most serious public health issues, the repercussions of this finding could be quite significant.

Vitamin D deficiency is very common, with more than three million Americans believed to be deficient. Factors that can lead to a deficiency include age, skin color, and mobility levels. Your vitamin D levels can also be negatively impacted by the use of medications like steroids, cholesterol-lowering drugs, laxatives, and weight loss medication.

The best way to get more vitamin D is by prompting your body to make it by spending some time in the sun. The precise amount needed is going to depend on quite a few factors, including your skin tone, geographical location, the weather, and the time of year, but many people can get enough with somewhere in the range of five to 15 minutes two or three times a week in the sun with your face, legs, and arms uncovered. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that standing behind a window or using sunscreen will stop the skin from producing vitamin D.

It’s hard to get enough vitamin D from food alone, but if you’re looking for some dietary sources of vitamin D, consider salmon, swordfish, cod liver oil, tuna, milk or yogurt. Supplements can also help if you’re not able to get enough from your diet and through sun exposure.

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