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Low Vitamin D in Children Linked to Weight Gain, Obesity Risk

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Children with low vitamin D levels are more likely to gain weight and accumulate fat around the middle. Scientists from University of Michigan say kids with lower levels of the vitamin tend to gain weight faster than those with higher levels.

Epidemiologist Eduardo Villamor, associate professor at the U-M School of Public Health and senior author of the study, studied 479 children ages 5-12 from Bogota, Colombia. The research took place in 2006 and the chidren were followed for 30 months. According to Villamor, children with the lowest vitamin D levels had the most fat around the waist and "the kids with the lowest vitamin D levels at the beginning tended to gain weight faster than the kids with higher levels."

Vitamin D, Obesity Link Complex

Still, the debate goes on about how much vitamin D is enough for optimal health. In the current study, the researchers also found lower levels of vitamin D were associated with slower growth in height for girls, but not boys.

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According to Villamor, "Though vitamin D intake could be related to early obesity, it's just part of a very complex picture."

Of the 246 children tested, 10 percent were vitamin D deficient and 46 percent had insufficient levels of the sunshine vitamin - even though the study was performed in a subtropical zone: "there could be many reasons people in subtropical climates may not get enough sun exposure," said Villamor.

A suggestion is that boosting vitamin D levels with supplements, fortified foods and sun exposure could reduce the rates of viral infections among school age children, shown by past studies.

It would take interventional studies to confirm the study results. The findings suggest low vitamin D levels might be putting children at risk for obesity and chronic disease from increased waist size that is linked to heart disease and chronic illness in adulthood.

University of Michigan