Vitamin D has long been called the “sunshine vitamin” for its health benefits, but a new study has found an unexpected benefit for older women: it can help them keep off extra pounds.
Research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that older women with insufficient levels of Vitamin D gained about two pounds more than those with adequate levels of the vitamin. The five year study, published in the Journal of Women’s Health, involved over 4,600 women aged 65 or older.
“This is one of the first studies to show that women with low levels of Vitamin D gain more weight, and although it was only two pounds, over time that can add up,” said lead author Erin LeBlanc, MD, an endocrinologist and researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon. “Nearly 80 percent of women in our study had insufficient levels of Vitamin D. A primary source of this important vitamin is sunlight, and as modern societies move indoors, continuous Vitamin D insufficiency may be contributing to chronic weight gain.”
Most women in the NIH study (78 percent) had less than 30 nanograms per millimeter (ng/ml) of Vitamin D in their blood — the level defined as sufficient by a panel of experts. In the group that gained weight during the study, those with insufficient Vitamin D levels gained an average of 18.5 pounds over five years. Women who had sufficient Vitamin D gained an average of 16.4 pounds over the same period.
“Our study only shows an association between insufficient levels of Vitamin D and weight gain,” says LeBlanc. “We would need to do more studies before recommending the supplements to keep people from gaining weight.”
Vitamin D was in the news recently when an expert government panel reported that there was insufficient evidence to recommend low doses of calcium and vitamin D for older women. Calcium and Vitamin D supplements have long been recommended to postmenopausal women to ward off osteoporosis and prevent bone fractures. But the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said there was little evidence the supplements prevent fractures.
Adding to the confusion over Vitamin D’s benefits is a new study by a Dutch company which found that the addition of vitamin D to nandrolone stimulates the proliferation of skeletal muscle cells.
OrgaNext Research is developing NDD, a new medicine that combines nandrolone decanoate and vitamin D to support the recovery of elderly patients after hip fractures.
“We are very excited by these findings, because they hold the promise that we indeed can develop a low dose safe and effective therapy to help elderly patients to recover after hip fracture,” said Dutch scientist Lenus Kloosterboer, PhD. “The results of this study bring us closer to offering a clinical solution. Later this year we hope to start with our first in human studies with NDD.”
Researchers say the aging of the U.S.population, led by a growing number of baby boomers entering retirement age, will cause epidemics of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis that will strain the health care system.
Osteoporosis is caused by a decline in mineral bone density, which makes bones weaker over time and more likely to fracture. The disease is responsible for 1.5 million fractures in theU.S.annually at a cost of $14 billion. About half of all women and a quarter of all men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis, according to the National Institutes of Health.