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Questions Remain About the Relationship Between Vitamin D and Teen Obesity

It’s common to see vitamin D deficiencies tied to a host of health problems in news headlines; for example, previous research has found associations between a D deficiency and an increased risk of weight-related health conditions, including cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance. Recently, however, the Mayo Clinic reported on a new study that found that teens who are overweight or obese may not benefit from taking vitamin D supplements. The study was one in a series of Mayo Clinic studies on childhood obesity, and was published in the journal Pediatric Obesity. In the new study, researchers administered vitamin D3 supplements (100,000 IU once a month) to 19 adolescents, ages 13 to 18, who were obese and had low vitamin D levels. After three months, researchers found that while the participants’ vitamin D levels did rise, their cholesterol and triglyceride levels increased and they did not experience significant changes in body weight, body mass index (BMI), waistline, blood pressure, or blood flow.

While this new study may provide some insight into vitamin D’s relationship with obesity, it’s important to be aware of the limitations of this research, and to understand the valuable health benefits vitamin D may offer. In particular:

  • Vitamin D is vital to children’s bone health—D deficiency has been found to increase the risk of bone deformities and rickets. Research has also linked vitamin D supplementation to a decreased risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures later in life.
  • In the new study, lifestyle factors, such as lack of exercise and poor diet, may have contributed to the markers of obesity (cholesterol, body weight, etc.) that the researchers measured. These factors could have masked health benefits that the vitamin D supplements may have otherwise provided.
  • The study was also small, relatively short, and did not have a control group, so more clinical research is needed to understand the relationship between vitamin D supplementation and adolescent obesity.

In the end, the study’s researchers concluded that the jury is still out on the benefits of vitamin D supplementation for overweight adolescents. However, there’s plenty of research that has found vitamin D may provide important health benefits: In addition to bone health, vitamin D has been linked to increased immune function and decreased risk of death from any cause.

Source: Mayo Clinic

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