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Vitamin D for Weight Loss

Can It Help You Lose Weight?

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Updated July 14, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Vitamin D/Weight Loss
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Vitamin D supplements are sometimes touted as a natural weight loss aid. Indeed, some research suggests that running low on vitamin D might increase your risk of obesity, while taking vitamin D supplements may help promote weight loss and weight maintenance.

Benefits of Vitamin D for Weight Loss

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

1) Dieting

In a 2010 study 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.

2) Weight Gain Prevention

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).

3) Heart-Health

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).

When Should You Take It For Weight Loss?

Supplements containing both vitamin D and calcium are possibly effective 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.

Even though vitamin D is found in some foods (such as oily fish and fortified milk) and can be produced by the body during sun exposure, taking supplements may be a more reliable means of increasing your vitamin D levels. 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. (Essential for strong bones and osteoporosis prevention, vitamin D may also help fend off heart disease and stimulate your immune system.) In order to achieve weight loss, it's important to combine vitamin D supplementation with a healthy diet and regular exercise program.

If you decide to take vitamin D supplements, be aware that consuming an excessive amount of vitamin D may cause vomiting, loss of bone density, and other problems.

Sources:

Caan B, Neuhouser M, Aragaki A, Lewis CB, Jackson R, LeBoff MS, Margolis KL, Powell L, Uwaifo G, Whitlock E, Wylie-Rosett J, LaCroix A. "Calcium plus vitamin D supplementation and the risk of postmenopausal weight gain." Arch Intern Med. 2007 May 14;167(9):893-902.

Foss YJ. "Vitamin D deficiency is the cause of common obesity." Med Hypotheses. 2009 Mar;72(3):314-21.

Major GC, Alarie F, Doré J, Phouttama S, Tremblay A. "Supplementation with calcium + vitamin D enhances the beneficial effect of weight loss on plasma lipid and lipoprotein concentrations." Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jan;85(1):54-9.

National Institutes of Health. "Vitamin D: MedlinePlus Supplements". January 2011.

Shahar DR, Schwarzfuchs D, Fraser D, Vardi H, Thiery J, Fiedler GM, Blüher M, Stumvoll M, Stampfer MJ, Shai I; DIRECT Group. "Dairy calcium intake, serum vitamin D, and successful weight loss." Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Nov;92(5):1017-22.

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