I just wrote a sharepost on HealthCentral’s menopause site concerning how many women over the age of 50 suffer from poor body images. According to a study out of the University of North Carolina, 61 percent of participants described their weight or shape as having a negative impact on their life while 64 percent thought about their weight or body shape daily. More than 70 percent of participants reported dieting, while some women were resorting to purging, excessive exercise, diet pills and diuretics to try to control their body shape.
But what if one of the ways to battle weight gain as we age is linked to vitamin D? New research out of Oregon’s Kaiser Permanente Center found that older women who have low levels of vitamin D may more readily gain weight. In this study, researchers followed 4,659 women who were age 65 and above for nearly five years. The study, which is part of a larger project called the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures, involved analyzing data collected during medical office and home visits, mailed surveys and telephone calls.
Over the study period, researchers found that 27 percent of the study participants lost more than five percent of their body weight while 12 percent gained more than five percent of their body weight, even though most of the women overall were not trying to change their weight. (About 60 percent remained at a stable weight, considered five-percent of their weight at the start of the study.) Of those who gained weight, women who had low levels of vitamin D gained 18.5 pounds during the course of the period, as compared to the 16.4 pounds gained by the women who had normal vitamin D levels.
"Our study only shows an association between insufficient levels of vitamin D and weight gain," Dr. Erin LeBlanc, an endocrinologist and Kaiser Permanente researcher who served as the lead author, said in a press release. "We would need to do more studies before recommending the supplements to keep people from gaining weight. Since there are so many conflicting recommendations about taking vitamin D for any reason, it's best if patients get advice from their own health care provider."
It turns out that there are many factors that may contribute to a deficiency in vitamin D. According to the George Mateljan Foundation, these factors include:
- Lack of exposure to the sun.
- Issues with dietary fat. “Since vitamin is a fat-soluble vitamin, a diet that is extremely low in fat and/or the presence of certain medical conditions that cause a reduction in the ability to absorb dietary fat may cause vitamin D deficiency,” the foundation noted.
- Health issues with a parathyroid gland or kidney, which may impair the synthesis of vitamin D.
- Aging. “The production of vitamin D precursors in the skin decreases with age,” the foundation stated. “Additionally, with age the kidneys and many other organ systems and cell types are less able to convert vitamin D to its active hormone form.”
- Genetic susceptibility. Some individuals’ genetics cause them to have vitamin D receptors that do not work efficiently. Therefore, these individuals need more vitamin D than normally recommended.
There are signs indicating that a person is not getting enough vitamin D, according the George Mateljan Foundation. These signs include: