For those of you struggling with your weight - do you remember weight-loss experts claiming that the solution was very straightforward - that all you had to do was burn more calories than you consumed?
Easier said than done.
It turns out weight gain and loss are both strongly influenced by many factors, including genetics, gender, age, hormones, stress levels, exposure to toxins and health status. Even social and environmental factors count.
Recently, some studies have linked weight gain to vitamin D deficiency. For instance, women whose vitamin D levels were normalized through supplementation during a diet and exercise program lost more weight.
In another study, the benefits of weight loss - lower blood pressure (BP), lower blood sugar and insulin levels, and lower blood lipid levels - were greater in participants who took calcium and vitamin D during their weight-loss program.
A third study showed that people of Asian Indian decent were much more susceptible to obesity and insulin resistance when they were deficient in vitamin D.
The link between vitamin D and weight loss is not clearly understood. Some health experts have speculated that vitamin D receptors (cellular proteins that specifically bind to vitamin D and help it to carry out its functions inside cells) on fat cells tell them whether they should be burned as energy or stored as excess body weight.
Additionally, brain vitamin D receptors that control metabolism and hunger levels may need enough vitamin D to function properly as well.
Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce systemic inflammation seen in overweight people. In other words, having adequate vitamin D levels lessens the stress of carrying extra body weight.
Besides weight gain, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression. The listlessness of depression can lead to inactivity, contributing to weight gain. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to poor blood sugar control, contributing to weight gain and diabetes risk.
The best dietary sources of vitamin D include fatty fish such as cod, tuna, mackerel and salmon. Cow's milk and eggs also have vitamin D.
While your skin can manufacture vitamin D from sunlight, this process can be affected by the season, the weather, how far north you live, pollution levels and even sunscreen. This is why most people are encouraged to take dietary supplements to reach the recommended blood levels of vitamin D.
And while adding vitamin D supplements to your diet is a great first step toward shedding unwanted pounds, these lifestyle changes can also help:
- 30 minutes of exercise five or six times a week
- Cutting out processed foods and added sugars
- Eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and
- Replacing animal fats with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated oils present in olive oil, flaxseed oil and avocados.