Vitamin D deficiency could be an unwitting invitation to obesity, weight gain or stunted growth among girls, says a new study.
The ground-breaking research by McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) found an astonishing 59 percent of those who were studied had too little Vitamin D in their blood. Nearly a quarter had more serious deficiencies of the vitamin.
"Vitamin D insufficiency is a risk factor for other diseases," explained principal investigator and study author Richard Kremer, co-director of the Musculoskeletal Axis of the Research Institute of MUHC.
"Because it is linked to increased body fat, it may affect many different parts of the body. Abnormal levels of Vitamin D are associated with cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes as well as cardiovascular and autoimmune disorders."
The study by Kremer and co-investigator Vincente Gilsanz, head of musculoskeletal imaging at the Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, is the first to show a clear link between Vitamin D levels and the accumulation of fat in muscle tissue - a factor in muscle strength and overall health.
The study results are especially surprising because study subjects - all healthy young women living in California - could logically be expected to benefit from a good diet, outdoor activities and ample exposure to sunshine - the trigger that causes the body to produce Vitamin D.
The results extend those of an earlier study by Kremer and Gilsanz, which linked low levels of Vitamin D to increased visceral fat in a young population, said an MUHC release.
"In the present study, we found an inverse relationship between Vitamin D and muscle fat," Kremer says. "The lower the levels of Vitamin D the more fat in subjects' muscles."