Not getting enough vitamin D can lead to negative health consequences.

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Obese men, women, and children are 35% more likely to be vitamin D deficient than normal-weight people, and 24% more likely to be D deficient than overweight people, according to a 2015 meta-analysis. One possible explanation: A study published in 2000 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that obesity limits the body’s ability to use vitamin D from both sunlight and dietary sources, since fat cells hold on to vitamins and don’t release them efficiently. Translation: Obesity could actually make vitamin D deficiency worse.


People with diabetes or prediabetes have lower vitamin D levels than those with normal blood sugar levels, according to a Spanish study published in 2015 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. The link held for folks across the BMI spectrum—in fact, both lean and severely obese people with diabetes or prediabetes had significantly lower D than their nondiabetic counterparts. The study’s authors believe that vitamin D deficiency and obesity “interact synergistically” to increase the risk of diabetes and other metabolic disorders.

Heart disease:

Heart disease and vitamin D deficiency are known to go hand in hand; one sobering 2009 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that subjects with extremely low levels of vitamin D were nearly three times as likely to die of heart failure and five times as likely to die of sudden cardiac death. However, experts say there isn’t evidence of a direct link between higher vitamin D levels and lowering cardiovascular risk, so it’s too soon to say if taking supplements might boost heart health.


According to the Nurses’ Health Study II, women between the ages of 27 and 44 with a high intake of vitamin D had the lowest risk of experiencing PMS symptoms. (The study found that higher calcium intake was also associated with lower PMS risk.) A 2010 pilot study suggested a connection between vitamin D levels and PMS for younger women as well. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen are still the first line of therapy for PMS symptoms, but researchers believe vitamin D supplements are a promising alternative.

Inflammatory bowel disease:

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, including D deficiency, are extremely common for people with gastrointestinal health issues that affect their body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Patients with active ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), especially those who take corticosteroids, are often deficient in D, a study in Digestive Diseases and Sciences suggested, and some researchers believe deficiency could have a role not only in increasing the risk of developing IBD but in determining the severity of a person’s symptoms.

Insulin resistance:

Insulin resistance, which leads to glucose buildup in the blood and type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, has been linked to vitamin D deficiency for quite some time; that said, researchers have yet to find that correcting that deficiency can correct the problem. A small study of Norwegian men and women found that vitamin D supplementation doesn’t improve insulin sensitivity in healthy people, and researchers in Iran found that vitamin D supplements had no effect on insulin sensitivity in pre-diabetic patients.

Gum disease and tooth loss:

The sunshine vitamin has a key role in protecting our teeth as we age, too; in one study, older adults who took 700 international units (IU) of vitamin D (along with calcium) each day for three years were less likely to lose teeth than those who took placebo pills, even two years after they stopped taking the supplements. Researchers have also reported strong evidence that D deficiency is a risk for gum diseaseand that it can worsen dental problems once we have them.

Alzheimer’s and dementia:

Studies have linked low vitamin D to abnormalities in brain structure, cognitive decline, and dementia. In a recent study in JAMA Neurology, which measured vitamin D and cognitive function each year in an ethnically diverse group of elderly patients (about half of whom had some form of cognitive impairment at the start of the study), lower levels of D were associated with accelerated cognitive decline. Research is now underway to determine whether or not supplements can offer hope for prevention and treatment.


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