Vitamin D and obesity: current perspectives and future directions

Proc Nutr Soc. 2015 May;74(2):115-24. doi: 10.1017/S0029665114001578. Epub 2014 Oct 31.


In recent years, new functional roles of vitamin D beyond its traditional role in calcium homoeostasis and bone metabolism have emerged linking the fat-soluble vitamin to various non-communicable diseases. Vitamin D deficiency (25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) < 25-30 nmol/l) and sub-optimal status (25(OH)D < 50-100 nmol/l) are increasingly associated with unfavourable metabolic phenotypes, including insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and CVD; conditions also commonly linked with overweight and obesity. Early studies reported poor vitamin D status in the morbidly obese. More recently, it has been observed that a graded relationship between vitamin D status and BMI, or specifically adiposity, exists in the general population. A number of hypotheses have been proposed to explain the potential mechanisms whereby alterations in the vitamin D endocrine system occur in the obese state. Plausible explanations include sequestration in adipose tissue, volumetric dilution or negative feedback mechanisms from increased circulating 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3. Others hypothesise that heavier individuals may partake in less outdoor activity, may also cover-up and wear more clothing than leaner individuals, thus decreasing sun exposure and limiting endogenous production of cholecalciferol in the skin. Moreover, in some but not all studies, BMI and adiposity have been negatively associated with the change in vitamin D status following vitamin D supplementation. It therefore remains unclear if body size and/or adiposity should be taken into account when determining the dietary requirements for vitamin D. This review will evaluate the current evidence linking vitamin D status and supplementation to overweight and obesity, and discuss the implications for setting dietary requirements.

Keywords: 1; 25(OH)D 1; 25(OH)D 25-hydroxyvitamin D; 25-dihydroxyvitamin D; Adipose tissue; BMI; FM fat mass; Fat mass; MHO metabolically healthy obese; Obesity; VDR vitamin D receptor; Vitamin D.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity
  • Animals
  • Body Mass Index
  • Congresses as Topic
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / immunology
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Overweight / etiology*
  • Overweight / immunology
  • Overweight / metabolism
  • Overweight / prevention & control
  • Precision Medicine*
  • Recommended Dietary Allowances
  • Vitamin D / metabolism
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / diet therapy
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / immunology
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / metabolism
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / physiopathology*


  • Vitamin D