A new University of Michigan study has shown that children who are deficient in vitamin D gained weight around their waist and gain weight more quickly than children who got enough vitamin D. The study was done by E Villamor and colleagues in Columbia.
Accumulation of fat around the abdomen can lead to what is called an "Apple body shape". This shape is linked to increased risk for heart disease, diabetes type 2, and other chronic degenerative diseases.
In this study the researchers followed over 470 schoolchildren from age 5 to 12, starting in 2006. The children were followed for about 30 months. The study looked at the vitamin D levels in the blood of children at the beginning of the study and then looked at the link between vitamin D and changes in three different indicators of body fat over the course of the study. Specifically they looked at body mass index, waist circumference, and scapular – to- triceps skinfold ratio.
Dr Villamor summarized his study by saying "We found that the kids with the lowest vitamin D levels at the beginning tended to gain weight faster than the kids with higher levels" He went on to say that children with the lowest vitamin D levels had more drastic increases in central body fat measures.
Diane Gilbert-Diamond, M.D., another of the authors said "Our findings suggest that low vitamin D status may put children at risk of obesity. This is significant because vitamin D insufficiency is highly prevalent across the globe and childhood obesity rates are dramatically increasing worldwide".
Dr Villamor went on to say "Interestingly, Bogota, Colombia, is in a subtropical zone where one may not expect to find a lot of vitamin D deficiency since the assumption is that sunlight is abundant there, but there could be many reasons people in subtropical climates may not get enough sun exposure."
My reply to this statement would be that Columbia is the same as the United States. Specifically parents rub sunblock on their children before they let them go out to play. The sunblock, as my readers know, also blocks the vitamin D rays of the sun. In addition, children spend much more time indoors than they did 50 years ago because of television and computer games.
Dr Villamor points out that "These findings should motivate some discussion on ways to enhance vitamin D status of children there, although it will be necessary to confirm in intervention studies whether improvements in vitamin D status decrease the risk of childhood obesity and early development of chronic diseases."
This means that we need prospective studies to prove that giving children vitamin D will help prevent overweight and obesity. Until the studies are done, as I frequently say, there is absolutely no harm in normalizing children's vitamin D blood levels by supplementation.
If the prospective studies were to show that there was NO benefit from vitamin D on obesity prevention, there would still be many other benefits from the children taking the vitamin D.
Are you giving your children vitamin D? If they were overweight and you gave them vitamin D have you seen any benefit for their weight?
Children from birth should be getting supplementary vitamin D, as I discuss in my book.