No doubt you've seen the headlines saying that not getting enough vitamin D may increase your risk of countless health woes. It's important to read those stories carefully, since links don't necessarily prove cause and effect. "There can be many other explanations for the associations observed," says JoAnn Manson, MD, PhD, chief of the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Massachusetts. "Several large-scale randomized trials of vitamin D are in progress, and they will provide conclusive evidence as to whether supplementation with moderate-to-high doses of vitamin D can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases." In other words, don't panic and start popping pills; do consult with your own doc to be sure you're getting the nutrients you need. Read on for some of the health problems now linked to low vitamin D.
3 Health Problems Because Low Vitamin D
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 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, 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 morbidly 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.
3. Heart disease
Heart disease and vitamin D deficiency are known to go hand in hand; one sobering 2009 study 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.