‘Carrying extra fat around your waistline cuts your vitamin D levels’

A big waistline is a warning for serious medical ­conditions such as heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes. And here’s a new one. Obese people who carry excess fat around their midriffs have lower vitamin D levels.

That’s a quarter of UK adults. Dutch researchers recommend that people who are overweight with larger than ­normal waistlines should have their vitamin D levels checked.

They found that the amounts of both total and abdominal fat were associated with lower vitamin D levels in women, although abdominal fat had a greater overall impact.

However in men, abdominal and liver fat was associated with lower vitamin D levels. In all cases the greater the amount of belly fat, the lower the levels of vitamin D were.

It’s still unclear though if a lack of vitamin D contributes to abdominal fat storage or if obesity reduces the vitamin levels. Either way, vitamin D is important. Previous research suggests it lowers people’s risk of developing conditions such as arthritis, asthma and Type 1 diabetes due to its anti-inflammatory effect and the positive impact it has on the immune system.

Vitamin D, along with vitamins A and E, are fat-soluble vitamins. So, for instance, vitamin D needs to be dissolved in fat for our bodies to absorb it and use it. It also means that the body can store vitamin D in your fatty areas.

In this study, Rachida Rafiq and colleagues from the VU University Center and Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands examined how the amount of total body fat and abdominal fat related to vitamin D levels.

After adjusting for a number of possible influencing factors, including chronic disease, alcohol intake and levels of physical activity, they found that the amounts of both total and abdominal fat were associated with lower vitamin D levels, and abdominal fat had a greater impact.

Ms Rafiq said: “The strong ­relationship between increasing amounts of abdominal fat and lower levels of vitamin D suggests that ­individuals with larger waistlines are at a greater risk of developing ­deficiency, and should consider having their vitamin D levels checked.

“Due to the observational nature of this study, we cannot conclude on the direction or cause of the association between obesity and vitamin D levels. However, this strong association may point to a possible role for vitamin D in abdominal fat storage and function.”

The researchers are now going to embark on a plan to investigate the role of vitamin D in obesity to clarify its exact role.

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