Belly Fat Linked to Deficiency of Vitamin D

People with higher levels of belly fat and larger waistlines are more prone to have lower vitamin D levels, according to recent study.

Vitamin D, a fat-soluble secosteroids, is produced in our skin on contact with sunlight, and it plays countless roles in the human body.

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Recent studies have found that vitamin D might protect against heart failure, diabetes, and cancer.

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to hair loss, obesity, bone health, autoimmune disease and respiratory tract infections.

Understanding vitamin D deficiency

Since vitamin D appears to play a part in so many conditions, addressing the deficiency issue could have a considerable impact on everyone.

One group of researchers investigating this topic hails from the VU University Medical Center and Leiden University Medical Center, both in the Netherlands. Led by Rachida Rafiq, they recently presented their discoveries at the European Society of Endocrinology annual meeting, held in Barcelona, Spain.

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Rachinda Rafiq and her team set out to understand whether the type and location of fat played a role. To do this, they collected data from the Netherlands Epidemiology of Obesity study, including thousands of men and women aged 45–65.

The research team focused on total fat, abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue (belly fat under the skin), visceral adipose tissue (around the organs), and hepatic fat (in the liver).

During their study, they adjusted the data for a range of potentially confounding variables, such as smoking, alcohol intake, ethnicity, education level, chronic disease, and physical activity levels.

Vitamin D and belly fat exposed

According to results from the research, both total and abdominal fat in women were associated with lower vitamin D levels, but that abdominal fat had the greatest impact. In men, however, lower vitamin D levels were pointedly linked with fat in the liver and abdomen.

According to Rafiq, “The strong relationship between increasing amounts of abdominal fat and lower levels of vitamin D suggests that individuals with larger waistlines are at a greater risk of developing deficiency, and should consider having their vitamin D levels checked.”

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Her next step is to understand why this relationship exists. Does a deficiency in vitamin D cause fat to be stored in the abdominal region, or does belly fat decrease levels of vitamin D? It will take more work to tease apart cause and effect.

“Due to the observational nature of this study, we cannot draw a conclusion on the direction or cause of the association between obesity and vitamin D levels, however, this strong association may point to a possible role for vitamin D in abdominal fat storage and function,” Rafiq explains.


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