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Low vitamin D linked to different obesity types between black and white youth

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Vitamin D and obesity

A new study finds different types of fat distribution in obese black and white children with vitamin D deficiency.

Findings published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) suggest vitamin D deficiency in children does lead to obesity, but the way fat is distributed differs in white, compared to black youth. The finding may have implications for developing therapeutic interventions.

The study researchers examined vitamin D levels in the two racial groups to find differences in fat distribution types among 237 obese and non-obese 8-18 year old black and white children. They also looked at BMI, fat, and cholesterol profiles in children, all of whom were healthy.

Silva Arslanian, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh and lead author of the study said, "Our study found that vitamin D was associated with higher fat levels and lower levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as good cholesterol, in both black and white children."

Most in the study were found to be vitamin D deficient based on blood testing. In all of the participants, low vitamin D levels correlated with increased BMI and higher amounts of fat. There was a positive association between higher vitamin D status and “good” HDL cholesterol. The results suggest higher chances of type 2 diabetes and other health risks associated with the disease.

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For white children, the vitamin deficiency was linked to more fat between the internal organs, known as visceral adiposity. For blacks with low levels of vitamin D, fat was predominantly in the subcutaneous tissue, or under the skin.

"Besides therapeutic interventions to correct the high rates of vitamin D deficiency in youth, benefits of vitamin D optimization on fat levels, lipid profile and risk of type 2 diabetes need to be explored," said Arslanian.

Past studies have linked low levels of vitamin D to obesity in children. The current finding is the first to find an association between vitamin D deficiency and the way fat is distributed in children, suggesting differences in obesity types between blacks and whites. More research is needed to understand the implications and risk for type 2 diabetes that accompanies obesity.

The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, doi:10.1210/jc.2010-2388
"Vitamin D Status, Adiposity, and Lipids in Black American and Caucasian Children"
Kumaravel Rajakumar, Javier de las Heras,
Tai C. Chen, SoJung Lee, Michael F. Holick and Silva A. Arslanian

Image credit: Wikimedia commons