During puberty, lack of vitamin D can hamper growth and also cause weight gain in girls, a new study has shown.
Researchers from the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and the University of Southern California conducted their study in sun-drenched California and even their vitamin D deficiency was found to cause higher body mass and shorter stature in girls at the peak of their growing spurt.
The research team measured vitamin D in girls aged 16 to 22 using a simple blood test (25-hydroxy vitamin D). They also assessed body fat and height to determine how vitamin D deficiency could affect young women's health.
"The high prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in young people living in a sun-rich area was surprising. We found young women with vitamin D insufficiency were significantly heavier, with a higher body mass index and increased abdominal fat, than young women with normal levels," said study lead author, Richard Kremer, co-director of the Musculoskeletal Axis of the MUHC.
The researchers examined 90 Caucasian and Hispanic girls and discovered that young women with normal vitamin D levels were on average taller than peers deficient in vitamin D.
Yet in contrast to what's been previously reported in older women, their investigation found no association between lack of vitamin D and bone strength.
Co-author, Dr. Vicente Gilsanz, head of musculoskeletal imaging at the Children's Hospital Los Angeles of the University of Southern California, said: "Because lack of vitamin D can cause fat accumulation and increased risk for chronic disorders later in life, further investigation is needed to determine whether vitamin D supplements could have potential benefits in the healthy development of young people,"
The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.