THIS week I am going to write about the importance of vitamin D. Yes, yes, again, I know! But this time because it affects obesity. As you are probably aware, the Western world is seeing an increase in obesity of epidemic proportion. In May 2011 David Cameron stated that obesity already costs the NHS a staggering £4 billion a year, a figure expected to rise to £6.3 billion by 2015. However, within four years, that figure is expected to rise to £6.3 billion.
These figures include the cost of treating the spiralling number of people with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, strokes, many cancers and osteoarthritis. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is around 20–80 times more likely for people who are obese compared with lean people. Coronary heart disease (which itself is slightly more common among obese people) is two to three times more common among diabetic men and five times more common among diabetic women.
Could vitamin D deficiency cause obesity?
Let’s take a look at what researchers have found about the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and obesity. A study published in the Journal Medical Hypotheses, entitled ‘Vitamin D deficiency is the cause of common obesity’ suggests that when the body perceives a drop in vitamin D levels, it assumes that the sun (our main source of vitamin D through the action of sunlight on the skin) has gone in and winter has arrived. To prepare the body for the scarcities of this season, it adopts a winter metabolism by storing fat and therefore increasing body size. Other physiological changes could include an increase in blood pressure and insulin resistance – both perfectly normal bodily responses to ensure protection against cold and lack, but deadly in a time of warmth and plenty. Insulin resistance is the precursor to diabetes and a study from Drexel University found that there is an increased risk of diabetes for the vitamin D deficient obese.
Now, clearly not everyone suffers from this kind of ‘winter response’ but if you think you do, I would really recommend that you have your vitamin D levels tested. This is a simple blood test that your doctor can do for you.
Don’t stop for a cappuccino
Don’t stop for a cappuccino just because you went to the gym. People tend to overestimate the amount of calories they burn during physical activity and underestimate the calories in most foods! It can take 45 minutes to burn off a cappuccino and will undo all the good you did in the gym!
Vitamin D deficiency is the cause of common obesity. Medical Hypotheses [2009, 72(3):314-321]
Foresight: Tackling Obesities: Future Choices – Modelling Future Trends in Obesity & Their Impact on Health. www.bis.gov.uk/assets/foresight/docs/obesity/14.pdf
Drexel University. Increased Risk For Diabetes When Obesity And Low Vitamin D Are Present. Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 19 Jul. 2012. Web.