Severe Obesity Linked to Vitamin D Deficiency Interview with:
Tomás Ahern MB, BCh, BAO
St Columcille’s Hospital and St Vincent’s University Hospital
Dublin, Ireland What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: More than 40% of severely obese people, who make up 6.5% of American adults, are at risk of vitamin D deficiency.

Severely obese people with low vitamin D levels are less active and have worse physical function than those with healthy vitamin D levels. Other investigators have found that poor physical function predicts premature death – whether this is the case in people with severe obesity remains to be determined. Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer: Yes. Other studies, of people without severe obesity, have shown that people with low vitamin D levels have higher blood sugar levels and are more likely to have diabetes. We did not find such a relationship in this study of people with severe obesity. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Answer: Determining serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in severely obese people is appropriate because low levels are common and associated with poor physical activity and poor physical function.

The finding of a low 25-hydroxyvitamin D level should be a portal to interventions that improve physical function and should lead to consideration of vitamin D supplementation. Vitamin D supplementation can take the form of spending more time outdoors or chewing calcium and vitamin D tablets daily. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Ahern: We feel that this study generates the imperative to determine the effects of vitamin D supplementation in severely obese people at risk of vitamin D deficiency. We feel it likely that vitamin D supplementation in this group will result in improvement in physical function and possibly improvement in other markers of increased mortality.


Association between Vitamin D Status and Physical Function in the Severely Obese

T. Ahern, A. Khattak, E. O’Malley, C. Dunlevy, M. Kilbane, C. Woods, M. J. McKenna, D. O’Shea. Association Between Vitamin D Status and Physical Function in the Severely Obese. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2014; jc.2014-1704 DOI: 10.1210/jc.2014-1704


Last Updated on April 18, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD