How Vitamin D Aids Weight Loss

Medically reviewed by Merlin Annie Raj, RD (Registered Dietitian) Merlin Annie Raj Merlin Annie RajRD (Registered Dietitian) facebook_iconlinkedin_icon
Written by , MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist Charushila Biswas MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist Experience: 6 years

Vitamin D is known to help strengthen your bones and immunity. But new findings show that its deficiency is related to obesity or weight gain (1). Many dieters find it difficult to lose weight even when they are on a strict diet and workout regularly. If you are also in the same boat, check your vitamin D levels. And if they are low, you can either take vitamin D supplements, go for early morning walks, or consume foods rich in vitamin D. In this article, you will find all about vitamin D and weight gain, vitamin D supplement dosage, vitamin D-rich foods and how vitamin D for weight loss works. Swipe up!

What Is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin because it is synthesized when your body is exposed to sunlight. It is a fat-soluble vitamin, is stored in the fat cells, and helps in maintaining a healthy weight.

The major forms of vitamin D are vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (calciferol). Vitamin D3 is synthesized in the human skin when exposed to the sun. Vitamin D2 is added to foods and is man-made (2).

Vitamin D facilitates the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, thereby helping in the maintenance of strong bones (3). It also helps strengthen the immune system (4). Unfortunately, a study reported that about 50% of the world’s population is deficient in vitamin D due to lack of outdoor activity, poor lifestyle choices, environmental factors, etc. (5). So, how does vitamin D deficiency lead to obesity? Find out next.

Vitamin D For Weight Loss – How Is Vitamin D Deficiency Related To Weight Gain?

Vitamin D For Weight Loss - How Is Vitamin D Deficiency Related To Weight Gain
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The link between obesity and vitamin D deficiency is still in its nascent stage. But there are enough studies to hypothesize that obese individuals are vitamin D deficient and vice versa. Let’s get to the science behind it.

A review article by Brazilian scientists found that vitamin D deficiency was 35% higher in obese individuals and 24% higher in overweight individuals (6).

In another study, the scientists randomly selected obese and overweight women and gave them either a placebo or 1000 IU vitamin D supplement. Researchers found that women who were supplemented with vitamin D showed a significant reduction in body fat mass (7).

In another study on Ethiopian children, the scientists also found that less exposure to sunlight led to vitamin D deficiency, which then affected the body fat mass of the children. Obese and overweight children were found to be deficient in vitamin D (8).

So, it is clear that obese or overweight people tend to be vitamin D deficient due to lack of sun exposure or less intake of foods that are rich in vitamin D. However, more concrete studies are required to confirm the exact mechanism of how vitamin D deficiency leads to obesity.

But will increasing vitamin D consumption or synthesis in the body lead to weight loss? Scroll down to find out.

Do Higher Levels Of Vitamin D Lead To Weight Loss?

Vitamin D For Weight Loss - Do Higher Levels Of Vitamin D Lead To Weight Loss
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Several studies have been conducted to find out if increasing the levels of vitamin D could lead to weight loss. American scientists studied the effect of vitamin D supplementation on senior women. They found that women who were on more than or equal to 30 ng/mL of vitamin D had a lower weight as compared to the women who were on a lower dose (9).

Researchers from Tehran University of Medical Sciences conducted an experiment on healthy and obese women. They were divided into two groups – one group was on vitamin D supplement, and the other on placebo. After 12 weeks, the scientists found a significant reduction in body fat mass in obese women just by increasing vitamin D concentrations (10).

So, yes, if you can manage to get vitamin D into your system, you will increase your chances of losing weight. But how? Here are three great options.

Ways To Increase Vitamin D Levels For Weight Loss

  • Sun Exposure

Sun exposure is very important if you want to increase vitamin D levels in your body. Get up early in the morning (5 a.m. – 6.30 a.m.) and go for a walk or jog. The fresh air will help heal your body and keep you fit. Sun exposure after 8 a.m. can be dangerous, and you should apply sunscreen to prevent skin damage.

  • Vitamin D Supplement

If you cannot go for a walk early in the morning, you must consider taking vitamin D supplements. You will start seeing a significant change in your energy levels, feel less fatigued, and have better sleep and memory. However, talk to your doctor before taking vitamin D supplements.

  • Vitamin D-Rich Foods

This is actually the second best option to increase your vitamin D levels. There are various foods that are rich in vitamin D and should be included in your daily diet. Check out the following list of vitamin D-rich foods.

10 Foods Rich In Vitamin D

1. Milk

Vitamin D For Weight Loss - Milk
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Full-fat cow milk is an excellent source of vitamin D and calcium. And it’s a known fact that both vitamin D and calcium help build strong bones. One cup of milk offers 98 IU or about 24% of Daily Value. Make sure you have at least one glass of milk either in the morning or before going to bed every day.

2. Cod Liver Oil

Vitamin D For Weight Loss - Cod Liver Oil
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Cod liver oil is a popular supplement that is rich in omega-3-fatty acids. But it is also a good source of vitamin D. One teaspoon of the oil will provide you with 440 IU or 100% DV. So, talk to your doctor/pharmacist and start taking cod liver oil.

3. Salmon And Mackerel

Vitamin D For Weight Loss - Salmon And Mackerel
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Good news for fish eaters/lovers. Salmon and mackerel are not only lean meat and high in omega-3s but also rich sources of vitamin D. In fact, 3 oz salmon contains more than the daily value. Wild-caught salmon offers 247% of the recommended DV, and canned salmon contains 100% DV. Also, 3 oz mackerel contains 400 IU or 100 % DV. Make sure you bake these fish instead of frying or grilling them.

4. Almonds

Vitamin D For Weight Loss - Almonds
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Almonds are healthy nuts that are loaded with omega-3s, protein, calcium, and vitamin D. And 1 oz almonds contain 7% DV.  Unsalted almonds are best for weight loss. You can easily include them in your breakfast bowl, salads, shakes, and protein bars.

5. Yogurt

Vitamin D For Weight Loss - Yogurt
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Yogurt is another good source of calcium and vitamin D. Plus, it is loaded with good gut bacteria that aid digestion. So, yogurt is a must for you if you are suffering from gut problems and are overweight. One cup of yogurt contains about 80 IU and 20% DV. Make yogurt dressing or add it to your breakfast bowl or shakes to get your daily dose of vitamin D.

6. Eggs

Vitamin D For Weight Loss - Eggs
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Egg yolk is rich in fat-soluble vitamins. And vitamin D is one of them. One large egg contains 10% DV. This percent might seem low, but there are other essential fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins and proteins in the egg that aid weight loss and boost body functions. This is precisely the reason you should not completely avoid consuming egg yolk. It is safe to consume two egg yolks per day. You may avoid it if your cholesterol levels are dangerously high. Make egg salad, frittata, or sunny side up.

7. Tuna, Sardine, And Herring

Vitamin D For Weight Loss - Tuna, Sardine, And Herring
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Tuna, sardine, and herring are also great sources of vitamin D. Three ounces of tuna provide 57% DV, 3 ounces of sardine provide 41% DV, and 3.5 ounces of Atlantic herring provide about 100% DV. Remember, your method of cooking also determines the vitamin D content of these fish. Bake them instead of frying or grilling to get the most vitamin D. Make a yummy salad, sandwich or stew for lunch or dinner with these fish.


Vitamin D For Weight Loss - Shrimp
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Like other seafood, shrimps are also a good source of vitamin D. A serving of shrimp contains 40 % DV and provides about 162 IU. However, shrimps are also high in cholesterol. So, avoid them if your cholesterol levels are high, and your doctor prohibits shrimp consumption. You can add shrimps to pho, soups, curries, and salads.

9. Vitamin D Fortified Foods

Vitamin D For Weight Loss - Vitamin D Fortified Foods
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Some juices, soy milk, yogurt, milk, and breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin D. Consuming these will improve your body’s vitamin D levels significantly. You can use them instead of the regular yogurt, milk, or juice. Be careful with the calories you consume in breakfast cereals.

10. Mushroom

Vitamin D For Weight Loss - Mushroom
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Mushrooms are a great source of protein and are also rich in vitamin D. Depending on the type, a cup of mushroom provides up to 890 IU. In fact, mushrooms that are exposed to the sun for a few hours have greater vitamin D content (11).  Add mushrooms to your soup, salad, stews, or savory bread.

These are the best food sources of vitamin D. If you have been feeling lethargic and depressed all the time, your joints hurt, you have gained weight quickly, and keep falling sick, you are probably suffering from vitamin D deficiency. And vitamin D for  weight loss is an excellent way to tackle this problem. Talk to your doctor today and start taking vitamin D-rich foods and supplements, or get at least 10 minutes of early morning sun exposure. You will not only lose weight but also be healthy. Take care!

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Merlin Annie Raj

Merlin Annie RajRegistered Dietitian Nutritionist

Merlin Annie Raj is a Registered Dietitian based out of Hyderabad, India. She has 14 years of experience in Clinical Nutrition as well as teaching Nutrition and Dietetics to undergraduate and postgraduate students. She was awarded the ‘President’s Award’ at the 47th Annual National Conference of the Indian Dietetic Association, 2014
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