How much vitamin D should I take for weight loss? You don’t have to tell me, I already know the answer. The Vitamin D Council recommends 5,000 IU’s a day so that you can lose weight. If you want to get lean and look better naked then getting enough vitamin D is critical.
Though Vitamin D has many health benefits it is also known to be a fat burner and help aid with weight loss. But how much Vitamin D should you take?
5 Ways Vitamin D Can Benefit Weight Loss
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that your body absorbs and stores to stay healthy. This essential vitamin helps the body retain minerals such as calcium, and the nutrient also helps prevent over-absorption of signaling chemicals such as the parathyroid hormone.
In addition, research has shown that vitamin D helps protect the immune system by shielding it from infections and viruses like influenza. Recently, scientists have discovered that blood and most of the organs and tissue within the body contain receptors for this nutrient.
This pathology has important implications for key parts of human anatomy like the circulatory system and the endocrine system. But perhaps the most exciting current research on this nutrient has been in the field of using vitamin D for weight loss.
How the Body Obtains Vitamin D
Your skin synthesizes vitamin D as a hormone while absorbing the ultraviolet (UV) rays of sunlight, and many dieticians encourage getting vitamin D as a nutrient from enriched or fortified foods. Since vitamin D does not occur naturally in many foods, some experts recommend obtaining the vitamin from natural supplements.
The risk of skin damage from sun exposure and ozone-layer depletion also causes many people to opt for vitamin-D pills and supplements instead of sunbathing. At the very minimum, most adults need at least 400–800 IU (or an average of 600 IU) of vitamin D each day. An even more popular recommendation is the intake of 1,000 to 2,000 IU every day to remain on the safe side.
Vitamin-D and Weight Loss
Disturbingly, the latest World Health Organization reports indicate that between 40 and 50 percent of the world’s population do not get enough vitamin D. An estimated 1 billion people have severe vitamin-D deficiency (VDD).
Some populations are at greatest risk of acquiring this deficiency, including older individuals, breastfed babies, darker-skinned people, and people who live in latitudes with low sunlight. Unfortunately, people who are obese also have a greater risk of developing a vitamin-D deficiency. Inversely, research now suggests that consuming up to 4,000 IU of vitamin D can benefit weight loss.
A look at the top benefits of taking vitamin D for weight loss can help you make an informed decision on your fitness journey.
- Vitamin D Helps Regulate Belly Fat
Researchers have hypothesized the low vitamin-D levels may contribute to obesity. Studies have shown that people with a body mass index (BMI) higher than 30 typically have systems low in vitamin D.
A University of Minnesota study found that since the body uses vitamin D as an environmental sensor, low levels of vitamin D tells the body to store extra energy for times of limited resources.
The body primarily stores this excess energy as fat. For many individuals, this excess fat accumulates around the waistline for easy access to the bloodstream through the digestive system.
A minimum of 20 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter) level of vitamin D within the bloodstream can help the body counter this storage of excess belly fat and may help some individuals lose weight.
For example, a 2014 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who maintained high vitamin-D blood levels and followed a strict diet and exercise routine lost an average of seven pounds more than women who did not have high vitamin-D blood levels.
Because the body processes vitamin D through the liver and sends it into the bloodstream, taking vitamin D for weight loss is one of the most promising ways to complement calorie restriction and daily exercise.
Healthy vitamin-D blood levels can also reduce adipogenesis (the formation of fat cells within the body). For example, a study in the Journal of Women’s Health found that older women with higher vitamin-D levels experienced less weight gain over the course of five years.
Likewise, a study in Nutrition Journal found that overweight and obese women who took 1,000 IU of Vitamin D every day for 12 weeks lost a measurable amount of fat mass independent of other bodily changes.
The research found that stored vitamin D tells the hypothalamus to decrease the output of parathyroid hormone (PTH), a hormonal substance that may cause the body to hoard belly fat.
Similarly, a 2015 University of Milan study and a 2018 Leiden University study found that dieters who take vitamin D may experience greater measurable reductions around their waistlines than those who do not take vitamin D. If you struggle with keeping your waistline in check, you may wish to have a specialist check your blood vitamin-D levels and adjust supplementary intake accordingly.
- Vitamin D Has Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
As one of the 24 micronutrients necessary for survival, vitamin D affects genes within nearly every organ of your body. Vitamin D is responsible for the synthesis of numerous peptides that reduce stress and help the body fight off infection.
The nutrient also engages in molecular signaling to inhibit inflammatory substances from adhering to cell walls and causing stress and inflammation. In addition, the body’s organs also have receptors that turn vitamin D into the activated or hormonal form known as calcitriol.
This hormonal version of vitamin D helps repair cells, fights oxidation, and may even increase longevity. Notably, many of the top antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods (such as olive oil, spinach, walnuts, and salmon) are also great natural sources of vitamin D.
- Vitamin D May Improve Lean Muscle Mass, Strength, and Bone Mineral Density
In addition to reducing belly fat, taking vitamin D for weight loss has important implications in musculoskeletal health. A 2017 study found that combining vitamin D with aerobic exercise and resistance training can result in more calorie loss than exercise alone.
Vitamin D may also help with energy output during strenuous workouts, and the nutrient can increase lean muscle mass over the course of a year. In men, vitamin D can greatly raise internal testosterone levels that prompt weight loss.
Along with exercise benefits, the body stores vitamin D and enables it to play an important role in muscle repair. Muscle tissue has special receptors for vitamin D that enable the nutrient to strengthen muscle fibers and help facilitate recovery from cellular damage.
For example, since the heart is a muscle, this organ also has special receptors for vitamin D. A study published in Circulation Journal found that people low in vitamin D are significantly more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Therefore, taking vitamin D for weight loss also may help lower the rate of heart-disease risk markers like triglycerides.
Vitamin D may also inhibit the collection of scar tissue and fibroblasts following heart-related trauma. Overall, the vitamin can compound the benefits of cardiovascular workouts and benefit cardiovascular health.
The nutrient has other workout implications as well. Because there is an inverse relationship between internal vitamin D levels and mood swings, a lack of vitamin D can lead to muscle fatigue.
According to research, supplementing this essential nutrient may lead to greater stamina during exercise. The nutrient is also essential in the conversion of amino acid tryptophan into serotonin, a hormone greatly associated with an elevated mood and more energy.
Serotonin may also reduce intermittent feelings of uncontrollable hunger and increase the feelings of fullness after meals, protein shakes or snacking.
In addition, vitamin D may also help improve sleep and result in greater restfulness after a day of physical activity.
As an added bonus, vitamin D may reduce the release of cortisol, a stress hormone known to encourage the storage of belly fat. Since one of the main roles of vitamin D is to regulate and boost the absorption of calcium and phosphorous, the use of vitamin D can gradually increase bone density over time.
This bone density is not only important in the prevention of fractures – but it can also improve the bodily structure and overall fitness level.
- Vitamin D Can Help Counteract the Effects of Insulin Resistance
Studies have shown that people with type II diabetes or who are at risk for the condition may increase insulin secretion through vitamin D intake. The nutrient can also help with the hunger and overeating associated with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.
A study at the University of California at Davis found that high vitamin D levels result in the release of the hormone leptin. This hormone tells the body that it is full and may improve insulin sensitivity toward healthier foods.
- Vitamin D Has Helpful Implications for People Considering Gastric Bypass Surgery
Many people view gastric bypass surgery as a viable option for extreme weight loss. Also known as bariatric surgery, this procedure removes or restricts a large portion of the stomach and intestines. One of the problems with altering these organs is that it can significantly limit the amount of vitamin D absorbed from food.
In turn, this lack of vitamin D can lessen the long-term benefits of undergoing this surgery. Following the procedure, medical professionals may advise you to increase your vitamin D intake to help lower this risk of this deficiency.
Wait, Does Vitamin D Really Help Weight Loss?
Maybe you’ve heard about taking vitamin D to ease depression, treat acne, or even help ease COVID-19 symptoms. But now people are talking about vitamin D for weight loss?!
No, it’s not just another fad. There’s actually a decent amount of evidence that shows a correlation between vitamin D levels and weight loss.
Here’s the deal on the link between adding some D and weight loss.
What does vitamin D even do?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin you can get from some foods or supplements. Your bod can also make it when you soak up the sun Sheryl Crow-style.
Vitamin D is vital for:
- maintaining strong bones and teeth
- keeping your immune system working at its best
- helping your body properly absorb calcium and phosphorus
Since not many foods naturally contain vitamin D, many health professionals recommend that adults get 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure each day or take a supplement to get the recommended daily intake of 600 IU (15 mcg).
If your local weather looks like an endlessly gray “Twin Peaks” highway scene, then you prob aren’t getting enough vitamin D from the sun. According to research from 2013, folks who live far north or south of the equator often do not produce enough vitamin D from sunlight.
As a result, an estimated 50 percent of the global population is low in vitamin D. And some groups are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency, such as:
- older adults
- breastfeeding infants
- folks with darker skin tones
- those who don’t get enough sun
- people with obesity
What’s the link between vitamin D deficiency and obesity?
Dated research from 2003 and 2004 suggests that a higher body mass index (BMI) and body fat percentage are associated with lower blood levels of vitamin D.
One theory is that folks with obesity might eat fewer vitamin D-rich foods, but there isn’t much research to support that link.
Other possibilities are that obesity exposes less skin to the sun and that folks with obesity spend less time outdoors — but again, there doesn’t seem to be any supporting research.
Your body also needs certain enzymes to convert vitamin D into its active form. And, according to a 2013 research article, levels of these enzymes tend to be lower in people with obesity. Still, we need more research to find out more about this link.
Does weight affect how much vitamin D you need?
The amount of vitamin D your body needs may be connected to your weight.
A 2012 study found that if people with obesity were theoretically at their body’s “ideal” BMI, then they would be getting enough vitamin D for their body size.
In another 2012 study of women who were overweight or had obesity, those who lost weight had an increase in their vitamin D levels.
A large 2016 review echoed this finding, with researchers concluding that weight and fat loss seem to increase the vitamin D levels of people who used to have obesity.
Studies also suggest that vitamin D levels climb higher as people lose more weight. In a 2011 study, researchers found that people who lost 15 percent or more of their body weight experienced vitamin D increases 3 times greater than those who lost 5 to 10 percent of their body weight.
On the other hand, a 2014 study suggests that boosting vitamin D levels in the blood might help reduce body fat and encourage weight loss. So this may be a bit of a chicken-or-egg situation.
tl;dr on obesity, weight, and vitamin D
Obesity seems to be a risk factor for vitamin D deficiency. This is likely because your daily requirement for vitamin D depends on your body size. But since vitamin D also seems to aid in weight loss, there could be something more there.
What are vitamin D’s benefits for weight loss?
So now we know that weight loss = higher vitamin D levels. In true mathematical fashion, it seems the reverse is also true. Here’s the research breakdown:
- In a 2018 study, researchers found that women who were overweight or had obesity experienced reductions in weight, BMI, waist circumference, and hip circumference after taking vitamin D supplements for 6 weeks.
- In a 2014 study, women with obesity ate a calorie-restricted diet and exercised for 1 year. Half received a vitamin D supplement, and the other half got a placebo. Those who got enough vitamin D lost more weight — an average of 7 pounds more than the women who didn’t have sufficient vitamin D in their blood.
- In a study from 2012, women who were overweight or had obesity took vitamin D supplements for 12 weeks. By the end of the study, the women had not lost weight, but their body fat had decreased. So, even if higher vitamin D levels don’t lead to weight loss, they might lead to fat loss.
- Taking vitamin D could also help keep the pounds off. In a 2012 study of 4,600 women ages 65 and older, researchers found that higher levels of vitamin D were linked with less weight gain over 4.5 years.
How does vitamin D actually help with weight loss?
Some research from 2008 notes that vitamin D could potentially suppress the formation of new fat cells in the body. Additional 2016 research supports this finding, showing that vitamin D also seems to suppress the storage of fat cells, which basically makes it hard for fat to form in your body in the first place.
Vitamin D also boosts levels of serotonin (the “feel-good hormone”), which might play a part in appetite control and increase feelings of fullness after eating. Naturally, this could decrease your calorie intake and, likewise, your body weight.
tl;dr on taking vitamin D to lose weight
Increasing your vitamin D levels *might* promote weight loss if you’re not already getting enough, especially if you also exercise and eat a nutritious diet.
Vitamin D might make it harder for fat to form and be stored in your body. It may also increase your levels of serotonin, which can help you feel more full after eating and may help with weight management.
Vitamin D dosage for weight loss
According to the National Institutes of Health, adults need at least 600 IU (15 mcg) of vitamin D each day.
Still, it’s not exactly a one-size-fits-all situation, since a decent amount of research suggests the ideal dosage should be based on body weight.
Researchers in a 2012 study adjusted vitamin D levels for body size, calculating that 32 to 36 IU per pound (70 to 80 IU per kilogram) is needed to maintain adequate blood levels.
So, depending on your body weight, this level could be much higher than the current standard upper limit of 4,000 IU per day. Doses of up to 10,000 IU have also been reported without any observed negative effects.
Keep in mind that vitamin D can still cause toxicity when consumed in large amounts, so it’s a good idea to talk with a healthcare professional before taking more than the upper limit of 4,000 IU per day.