Do you have trouble managing your weight?  The kilos go on easy, but once they are there they seem like they want to stay for the long haul.

If so - you're not alone!  In fact, this is our main area of expertise, and one we love working with.

But a big part of what we do also involves helping our clients pinpoint the (often overlooked) underlying drivers of their health concerns - and this includes finding and addressing the reasons why some people gain weight easily, and find it difficult to shift.

And you might be surprised to learn that one of these contributing factors may just be your vitamin D levels.

To give a bit of context first, vitamin D is a nutrient that is predominantly made in your skin (from sunshine) and to a lesser extent, found in certain foods that you eat. This is why vitamin D is sometimes referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin’.

The thing is that vitamin D is not only a vitamin – once activated within the body, it actually functions more as a hormone than a vitamin.  And whilst it’s most well-known function is to do with its role in maintaining calcium levels (and therefore, bone health), it also participates in many other areas of health as well.  In fact, vitamin D receptors have been found in areas like the brain, breast, prostate and even some parts of the gut - giving you an idea about just how involved this nutrient is in your overall health.

But, getting back to weight management, here's a few ways that vitamin D can be making an impact...


Your Inner Bear

Your body is constantly keeping tabs on just how much vitamin D it has available at any given time.  And the interesting thing is that people who are overweight or obese have been shown to have lower vitamin D levels than people who are of a healthy weight. Whether or not this is because people who are overweight simply have a higher requirement for vitamin D, or because low vitamin D levels make it easier to gain weight, is still under debate.

There is a theory (and this certainly makes sense to me) that when vitamin D levels are low, this is a signal to the body that there is less sunlight around (i.e. it’s winter) and to make changes to your metabolism that cause you to store more of the food that you eat (in the form of fat).  In other words, putting your body into hibernation mode.  Just like a bear, getting plump in preparation to keep nourished as they sleep the winter away.


Putting Out The Fire

Another factor that can contribute to weight woes is inflammation.  Inflammation can make it very difficult, if nigh-on-impossible, to shift weight easily – even if you are eating well and exercising.

There is evidence to suggest that vitamin D helps dampen down inflammation within the body – particularly if the source of the irritation is the immune system (for instance, you suffer from an autoimmune disease).  Autoimmune conditions can take a range of forms, but all essentially involve an immune response that drives inflammation (and often, pain).  

Vitamin D exerts what we call an ‘immunomodulatory’ effect on the immune system – in plain English, this means helping the immune system stay healthy and balanced - pepped up enough to keep you safe from infections, but not going overboard as in the case of autoimmunity or allergies.


I Heart Vitamin D

Finally, vitamin D also plays a role in our cardiometabolic health – including blood pressure and blood sugar regulation (our risk of developing diabetes).  Studies have shown that people with healthy vitamin D levels tend to be better able to manage their blood sugar levels. And here’s the reason we think this occurs…and why it's particularly relevant to weight management.

Our bodies produce the hormone insulin (you’ve probably heard of this hormone if you know someone who suffers from diabetes) to help us unlock energy from the food (specifically, carbohydrates) that we eat.  However, many people are unaware that our body can only break down and utilise a certain quantity of carbohydrate at a time – any extra we can’t use, insulin helps our body turn it into fat, storing it away for later. 

Now this is fine, if you use that excess up.  But if this scenario occurs too frequently (as is the case with our typical Western diet & lifestyle, where we take in a quite remarkable quantity of carbohydrate), your body’s sensitivity to insulin decreases.  In other words, your body starts producing more and more insulin, because your cells have become a little deaf to insulin’s signals.  And, remember what I said above about insulin being a fat-storage hormone?  That’s right – 'insulin resistance' makes it far more easier for your body to store fat, and very difficult for it to burn fat.

Good vitamin D levels have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, therefore helping your body move more easily into the fat-burning zone.


Test, Don't Guess!

All of the above reasons are why I think EVERYONE should know exactly where their vitamin D levels are sitting.  And yes, of course we can make an estimate, based on how much sunshine you get on a regular basis.  

But after working with clients for more than a decade, I can honestly say that the majority of people I see (probably around 95%!) have levels of vitamin D that I would class as less than ideal.  Even those who I thought would have good levels.

The other important aspect of testing for vitamin D is that we are making sure we are putting safety first.  Too much vitamin D in supplement form can be dangerous – one of the reasons I don’t recommend self-prescribing this vitamin.  By establishing a baseline, we can work out the right dosage for you, and re-test later if necessary.

Vitamin D testing is available through the clinic, and is included in all our Metabolic Balance personalised nutrition programs.


Linda


Tags

Vitamin D, weight loss


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