Recent studies have shown a link indicating that low vitamin d and weight gain may be related. It’s like a chain of different reactions.
Due to the increasing number of skin diseases caused by solar radiation and warnings from dermatologists and sunscreen manufacturers about potential UV ray damage, fear of sun exposure has been generated.
Because of this, it’s been recently discovered that there are people out there who aren’t getting enough vitamin D. This “deficiency” could make it difficult to control body weight, thus promoting overweight.
Vitamin D is not exactly a vitamin but a neurological steroid hormone that influences 10% of all the body’s genes, so its deficit could affect many diseases.
This “vitamin” is essential in the body since it is responsible for absorbing calcium and phosphorus to mineralize the skeleton, among other things.
Likewise, vitamin D is also crucial for the proper functioning and development of muscles and nerves. Therefore, it is essential for preventing: bone, muscle, and neurodegenerative diseases.
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According to the same study, people with a deficiency in vitamin D tend to accumulate fat around the abdomen, gaining faster weight.
How can we get enough vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble provitamin (which dissolves in fats) and can be obtained in two ways:
- Consuming foods rich in vitamin D such as milk, butter, cheeses, eggs, whole grains, fatty fish (tuna, salmon, and mackerel), mushrooms, and oysters
- By transforming provitamin D from cholesterol into vitamin D through sunlight exposure
It should be borne in mind that sunscreens above factor 8 and clothing prevent vitamin D synthesis efficiently. So depending on your purpose, it should be considered whenever you go out.
Vitamin D, cholecalciferol (D3), 25-hydroxyvitamin D, calcitriol what’s the difference?
Vitamin D can naturally be found in two forms:
- Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3), present in animal origin foods
- Ergosterol (Vitamin D2), which is present in most plants and the fungi family
However, since the mechanisms of action, metabolism, and general terms, the characteristics of both vitamins are very similar; in this article, we will refer to vitamin D3 as D, which is also the common nomenclature.
Cholecalciferol, or Vitamin D, is inactive and must pass through the liver first. It undergoes a small change in its chemical structure where the compound 25-hydroxyvitamin D is then formed (also known as calcidiol or 25-hydroxycholecalciferol).
This metabolite is used in laboratory studies to determine the status of vitamin D in the body. Subsequently, 25-hydroxycholecalciferol undergoes another modification in the kidneys, giving rise to calcitriol, which is vitamin D with the highest biological activity.
This metabolite itself is a hormone and is responsible for the various functions of vitamin D.
Low vitamin D and weight gain: Which are the right foods?
One of the animal origin foods that everyone considers healthy is fatty fish, such as salmon.
It provides large amounts of protein, about 18%, vitamins, especially from groups B, A, and D, and minerals, such as iodine, which is important and sometimes scarce in a typical diet.
Thus, taking salmon will have an effect not only on your cardiovascular health but also on the eyes, bone maintenance, and proper thyroid functioning, among others.
Like eggs, salmon fulfills the ideal magic combination for losing weight. Nevertheless, you should always balance your food accordingly.
Eating foods with vitamin D at least once a week reduces the risk of respiratory infections by up to 50%.
If salmon doesn’t convince you, try tuna. With only about 80 grams of bluefin or albacore tuna, you’ll cover half of your vitamin D needs. It is also perfect for any weight loss diet, as it is low in calories, high in protein, and low in fat.
You may opt for canned tuna also, but in this case, it is best to choose the “water” variety instead of the “oil” one. Canned tuna it’s prevalent among bodybuilders and models for rapid muscle development.
Eggs, especially yolks, also contain vitamin D. Besides, they have omega 3, vitamins A, E, B12, and minerals like selenium.
In addition to obvious health benefits, they’re affordable for almost every pocket and provide a valuable contribution to muscle strength as a source of energy and also promote a feeling of satiety.
In this regard, the magazine “Nutrition Today” reviewed analyses of more than 25 studies on proteins and concluded that the natural and high-quality proteins present in eggs contribute to the strength, power, and energy of the body in various ways.
This food provides sustained energy because it does not cause an increase in blood sugar or insulin levels. And as for muscle strength, their intake influences mass and function in people of all ages.
A single egg provides more than six grams of protein (13% of the recommended amount), helping people build and maintain muscle mass. It also prevents muscle weakness in the elderly.
Milk is one of the best ways to get vitamin D. Unlike other foods, you can drink milk anytime during the day: morning, at noon, and at night. It will also provide you with a good dose of calcium, a mineral that is not generated by the body.
It is only through diet and its mobilization from the bones that it reaches the body. So a permanent intake of calcium-rich foods is important for maintaining a healthy skeleton and preventing disease.
Likewise, milk is the best source of calcium and promotes its absorption: the body absorbs 32% of the milk’s calcium. The positive effects of this food are also due to the number of proteins and vitamin K that it provides to the body.
Like milk, orange juice is enriched with vitamin D. A single cup contains about 137 IU, which by the way, also provides us with the recommended daily dose of vitamin C.
Among the wide variety of mushrooms that exist, mycologist Richard Perez, a graduate of the University of Texas (USA), highlights that “the properties of one of the most common, the oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus), rich in vitamin C, vitamin D, and antioxidants, as well as being good for accelerating the metabolism.”
The expert also clarified that “it is a myth” that mushrooms are pure fiber and carbohydrates since they also contain protein and “many other things that we are just discovering in mycology.”
Another variety, Ganoderma lucidum, known in traditional Asian cultures as “the mushroom of immortality,” helps regenerate and preserve the immune system.
Furthermore, the Trametes Versicolor, also called “turkey tail,” a very colorful fungus, can help prevent malignant tumors’ appearance.
What exactly are the functions of vitamin D?
The best-known physiological function of vitamin D is maintaining the balance of calcium and phosphorus concentration in the blood. To achieve this, it involves the work of three organs:
- Intestines, where calcium efficiency increases and phosphorus absorption takes place
- Kidneys reabsorb calcium back into the bloodstream
- Bones, where bone formation gets stimulated. Together the actions of vitamin D that are directed at calcium metabolism are known as calcemic
However, because vitamin D receptors are found in almost every organ and tissue in the body, their actions are not limited to mineral metabolism.
This nutrient has other important functions in the body:
- Inhibits proliferation and stimulates the differentiation of skin cells
- Promotes the development of hair follicles
- Modulates the response of defense cells (immune system)
- Participates in blood pressure regulation
- Involved in the synthesis, secretion, and action of insulin
- Inhibits the proliferation of malignant or tumor cells
- Promotes protein synthesis and maintains the function of rapidly contracting muscle fibers
- In the central nervous system, it induces the synthesis of compounds (neurotrophins) that have neuroprotective effects
- Increases the concentration of glutathione (antioxidant) in the brain, which protects neurons from toxicity
- Supports reproduction and fertility
How much vitamin D should be consumed on a regular basis?
The European Union and the United States health authorities have established adequate intake levels between 400 and 600 IU per day, about 10 or 20 micrograms.
Furthermore, Vitamin D Sunbathing is also needed to help transform cholesterol into vitamin D. It is necessary to ensure safe and regular sun exposure for at least 10 minutes, three or four days a week.
However, it’s not recommended to use sunscreen unless it has a protection index lower than 8, as mentioned before.
The truth is that, during the summertime, it’s easy to take the recommended sunbath dose. Nevertheless, you must bear in mind that even during wintertime, this habit is equally important.
In 2010, the National Academy of Medicine published recommendations for vitamin D intake. It is established that from toddlers 1-year-old and until the age of 70, the recommended dose is 600 International Units (IU). From the age of 70 onwards, an intake of 800 IU is recommended.
It should be noted that these amounts only apply to healthy people who do not suffer from vitamin D deficiency; if this is the case, specific treatment should be received to correct the deficiency since the amount of 800 IU per day would be insufficient.
Depression and Vitamin D
Are you having constant feelings of sadness, crying, loss of interest or pleasure in most usual activities, sleep or appetite disorders, feeling tired, or lack of concentration?
Watch out! If you have these symptoms, it could be depression. This disease affects a person’s feelings, thoughts, and behavior and may cause various physical and emotional problems.
Factors that increase the risk of depression
Depression can appear in the teenage years of the twenties and thirties. As mentioned above, women are diagnosed with this disease more often than men, but this may be partly because they’re more likely to consult a doctor in the first place.
Some of the factors that may increase the risk of depression are:
- Low self-esteem, being overly dependent, self-critical, or pessimistic
- Been physically or sexually abused
- Coping with stressful situations such as a difficult relationship, financial problems, or loss of a loved one
- Immediate family members with a history of depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, or suicide
- Having a chronic illness such as diabetes, cancer, obesity, heart disease, or chronic pain
Recent studies have also associated vitamin D deficiency with depression.
What is the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and depression?
Vitamin D is a nutrient that, in addition to its actions related to calcium and phosphorus, is also involved in a wide variety of non-bone related functions.
The presence of vitamin D receptors in the brain has been documented, which play an important role in neuroendocrine function, i.e., low vitamin D concentration can negatively affect growth and communication between cells and neuronal activity.
Also, vitamin D has been linked to serotonin production, and given that low levels of this neurotransmitter are found in depressed people, vitamin D may greatly benefit them.
Signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency
It’s been estimated that more than one billion people worldwide have a low concentration of vitamin D (hypovitaminosis D).
Although it usually goes unnoticed because there are no symptoms, in other cases, the presentation of symptoms may vary depending on age and severity.
For example, adults may experience muscle weakness, bone pain, difficulty walking, and frequent falls. Conversely, delayed tooth eruption, poor growth, and bone discomfort may be symptoms of rickets (a disease characterized by softening and weakening of the bones).
Low vitamin D and weight gain: Prevention and treatment
Although it has been suggested that sun exposure might be a good idea for maintaining an adequate amount of vitamin D, several factors, such as time of day, season, latitude, skin color, and exposure length, make it difficult to generalize this recommendation.
Besides, due to the risk of skin cancer associated with unprotected sun exposure, this practice is usually not recommended to treat vitamin D6 deficiency or insufficiency.
Moreover, nutritional sources of vitamin D are limited. Animal sources include fish liver oil, some fish, and eggs. While in plant foods, the amounts of this vitamin are small.
Therefore, for many people, sun exposure or diet alone is insufficient to provide the right amount to correct vitamin D deficiency.
Furthermore, evidence suggests that supplementation with doses of 400 to 600 International Units of vitamin D per day is not adequate to correct vitamin D deficiency on time.
In this regard, supplementation with 4,000 IU/day of vitamin D (cholecalciferol) is considered a physiological and safe dose in adults 17 and older.
International Endocrine Guidelines state that the treatment regimen for vitamin D deficiency in adults should include administering large doses of this nutrient orally or parenterally for eight weeks, followed by a long-term maintenance regimen.
Research shows a link between low blood vitamin D concentration and symptoms of weight gain and depression.
Lack of vitamin D may be one of many factors that contribute to depressive mood and altered metabolism.
People with depression get out less, and because sun exposure promotes vitamin D synthesis, they are more likely to develop hypovitaminosis D.
Other research has suggested that vitamin D supplementation may work for treating depression in vitamin D-deficient patients. However, people who have adequate amounts of vitamin D would not benefit from it.
Supplementation with small doses of vitamin D reduces the likelihood of a good outcome. Remember, it is said in the medical field: “the correct dose makes perfect.”