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Can Vitamin D Help Prevent Overweight Toddlers?

vitamin D and overweight toddlers

Results of a new study suggest that vitamin D supplements may do more than help infants and toddlers develop strong bones. Now experts have found that vitamin D may help prevent overweight toddlers, an important discovery given the increasing rate of obesity.


Previous research has suggested that vitamin D can play a role in helping with weight loss. More specifically, overweight and obese individuals who were vitamin D deficient lost more weight and inches on a low-calorie diet and vitamin D supplement plan than their peers who didn’t take the vitamin.

Now a team from McGill University has found that vitamin D supplementation during the first year of life may result in children having less body fat and more muscle mass as toddlers. The finding was a surprise, since the researchers had set out to evaluate the importance of the nutrient for bone density.

When the investigators were using body scans to measure bone density, they found it was also possible to assess the children’s fat and muscle mass. That discovery lead to the first time investigators have linked the presence of a healthy vitamin D status during the first three years of a child’s life and the development of muscle mass.

The data were collected from a long-term follow-up of a study of vitamin D supplementation in which infants were given one of four different dosages (400, 800, 1,200, or 1,600 International Units) between 1 and 12 months of age. The authors discovered that:

  • Body composition of the children at 36 months was similar regardless of which dose of vitamin D had been given during the first year of life
  • However, children who had vitamin D levels greater than the threshold set by the Canadian Paediatric Society (>75-80 nmol/L) averaged approximately 450 grams less body fat at age 36 months
  • Children who were more physically active (as rated by their parents) also were leaner than less active children

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Also read about 2 ways mothers can protect children from obesity

The authors concluded that their study “demonstrates higher vitamin D status and physical activity levels associate with leaner body composition in 3-year-old children.” Parents should talk to their pediatrician about their infants' and toddlers' intake of vitamin D intake not only for bone health but for helping prevent overweight children.

Also read about how an Arizona nun fights obesity among Pima Indian children
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Canadian Paediatric Society
Hazell TJ et al. Vitamin D supplementation trial in infancy: body composition effects at 3 years of age in a prospective follow-up study from Montreal. Pediatric Obesity 2016; DOI:10.1111/ijpo.12105

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