How Vitamin D Status & Body Composition Impact Your Cancer Risk
Evidence suggests that increasing your vitamin D intake can help reduce your risk of developing cancer and autoimmune diseases (yes, really!), but a new JAMA cohort study indicates this seemingly simple solution isn't so cut and dried.
How vitamin D status impacts cancer risk.
This post hoc analysis of the VITAL study—which evaluated the influence of vitamin D and omega-3 intake on cancer, heart disease, and stroke risk—set out to discover whether body composition played a part in this relationship.
This was inspired by the significant preventive results found in participants with "normal" BMI at the baseline that increased their vitamin D intake but not those with overweight or obesity. These included:
- 24% reduction in cancer incidence
- 42% reduction in cancer mortality
- 22% reduction in autoimmune disease incidence
The cohort study analyzed a subset of 16,515 participants from the VITAL study and found that vitamin D levels increased less over a two-year period in participants with higher BMI. Researchers hypothesize that this is due to a blunted metabolism and lowered amount of circulating (i.e., active) vitamin D in the blood in individuals with overweight or obesity.
Evidence shows a clear inverse relationship between adipose tissue and vitamin D status2, and this correlation subsequently impacts the likelihood that individuals with higher BMIs may reap the proactive health benefits demonstrated in previous studies (e.g., reduced cancer risk, cancer mortality, and autoimmune disease prevalence).
Does evidence show that maintaining healthy vitamin D levels can help reduce the likelihood of developing cancer or an autoimmune disease? Yes. However, current research also indicates that your body composition plays a massive role in how much vitamin D is stored in your adipose tissue (i.e., your body fat) versus the amount available for your cells to use.
Morgan Chamberlain is a supplement editor at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in magazine journalism and a minor in nutrition. Chamberlain believes in taking small steps to improve your well-being—whether that means eating more plant-based foods, checking in with a therapist weekly, or spending quality time with your closest friends. When she isn’t typing away furiously at her keyboard, you can find her cooking in the kitchen, hanging outside, or doing a vinyasa flow.