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“Vitamin D insufficiency is a risk factor for other diseases. Because it is linked to increased body fat, it may affect many different parts of the body,” explains Richard Kremer. “Abnormal levels of Vitamin D are associated with a whole spectrum of diseases, including cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes, as well as cardiovascular and autoimmune disorders.” (Courtesy: iStockphoto)

MCGILL (CAN)—Vitamin D is not only good for your bones. New research shows it may help keep muscles free of fat.

“The lower the levels of Vitamin D, the more fat in subjects’ muscles,” says Richard Kremer, professor of medicine at McGill University.

Kremer and Vicente Gilsanz, professor of radiology and pediatrics at the University of Southern California,  conducted a study and found an astonishing 59 percent of subjects had serious Vitamin D deficiencies (less than 20 ng/ml or 50 nmol/L).

What makes the results especially surprising, Kremer says, is the fact that all the subjects were otherwise healthy young women living in California. Exposure to sunshine triggers the production of Vitamin D.

Details of the study are reported in the March issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
The study 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.

“Vitamin D insufficiency is a risk factor for other diseases. Because it is linked to increased body fat, it may affect many different parts of the body,” explains Kremer. “Abnormal levels of Vitamin D are associated with a whole spectrum of diseases, including cancer, osteoporosis, and diabetes, as well as cardiovascular and autoimmune disorders.”

“We are not yet sure what is causing Vitamin D insufficiency in this group,” says Gilsanz. “High levels of Vitamin D could help reduce body fat. Or, fat tissues might absorb or retain Vitamin D, so that people with more fat are likely to also be Vitamin D deficient.”

While study results may inspire some people to start taking Vitamin D supplements, Kremer recommends caution.

“Obviously this subject requires more study,” he says. “We don’t yet know whether Vitamin D supplementation would actually result in less accumulation of fat in the muscles or increase muscle strength.

“We need more research before we can recommend interventions. We need to take things one step at a time.”

The study was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, the U.S, Department of the Army, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Dimensional Fund Advisors Canada (a subsidiary of U.S.-based Dimensional Fund Advisors).

McGill University news: www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/