Milk, Vitamin D, and Childhood Obesity

Morning milk
We’ve been looking at various proposed answers to the childhood obesity problem. A small percentage of babies could be helped by making sure that their bottle-feeding phase does not extend for much over a year, and should certainly be finished by age two. One of the reporters we consulted was Bill Taylor, whose article included a reminder that milk is not the Holy Grail. Some milk is good, but more milk is not necessarily better. Taylor writes,

Children who drink too much milk are likely to develop iron and vitamin D deficiencies and perhaps obesity. Iron deficiency, in particular, can lead to long-term development problems.

The potential problem with milk is, while the child is busy drinking it from a bottle, solid food containing these nutrients is not being eaten. The way in which vitamin D deficiency can relate to adolescent obesity is covered by David Hutto for Natural News, who tells us about a study originating from Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Rhode Island. Hutto quotes lead author Zeev Harel:

It is possible that the association between obesity and low vitamin D status is indirect, arising from obese individuals having fewer outdoor activities than lean individuals, and therefore, less exposure to sun. Likewise, is it also possible that obese individuals do not consume enough foods that contain vitamin D.

The troubling aspect is, vitamin D deficiency is very difficult to treat in these individuals. They can take supplements, but the supplements don’t “take.” For 72% of the subjects, their internal levels of vitamin D refuse to approach normalcy. So, does obesity cause the body’s inability to metabolize that particular vitamin? Or does the D shortage result from not soaking up enough sun rays, and somehow cause obesity? It’s not exactly clear.

A while back, another Natural News writer, Reuben Chow, related the results of an earlier study, which had been presented at an American Heart Association conference. There seems to be a strong connection between low levels of vitamin D in teenagers, and several undesirable health conditions. They looked at a bunch of 12- to 19-year-olds who pretty much lined up ethnically with the overall population of the United States. This article doesn’t specifically use the word “obesity,” but it does mention “wider waists” and a plethora of other problems, some of which might correlate with obesity:

These adolescents had 2.36 times the likelihood of having high blood pressure, 2.54 times the likelihood of high blood sugar, and a staggering 3.99 times the likelihood of having metabolic syndrome, which is a group of risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes; these include high blood pressure, heightened levels of triglycerides, decreased levels of ‘good’ cholesterol, elevated levels of fasting blood glucose, as well as wider waists.

It appears that vitamin D might be captured and stored by fat cells, unable to reach the organs that need it. That study’s lead author was Jared P. Reis, Ph.D., of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins, and he did use the “O” word. Dr. Reis writes,

Low levels of vitamin D are strongly associated with overweight and abdominal obesity. Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it may be sequestered within adipose tissue. This may explain why those who are obese are more likely to be vitamin D deficient.

As always, there is more to this than meets the eye.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Doctors target roots of childhood obesity,”, 05/05/11
Source: “Vitamin D deficiency linked to childhood obesity,” Natural News, 05/02/11
Source: “Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Health Conditions in Adolescents,” Natural News, 04/01/09
Source: “Low Vitamin D Levels Associated With Several Risk Factors In Teenagers,” Science Daily, 03/18/09
Image by grongar, used under its Creative Commons license.

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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