If you’ve struggled to lose weight, it could be due to a vitamin deficiency. Many common health problems are often related to a lack of essential vitamins, and important micronutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin D, and magnesium play important roles in the way your body uses and stores energy.

A seven-year nutrition survey of more than 18,000 Americans discovered that obese adults consumed significantly lower amounts of all micronutrients, with a few notable highlights: 20 percent more overweight individuals had low levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, and magnesium. Overweight adults also had lower levels of vitamin D, vitamin E, and calcium. The study found that 40 percent of adults weren’t getting enough of these nutrients, regardless of body weight.

One possible explanation for these low vitamin levels is that overweight individuals tend to eat foods with less nutritional value. But researchers also presented a different theory: certain vitamin deficiencies may actually contribute to weight gain. Here’s how these vitamins help your body store energy and regulate body weight.

  • Vitamin A is involved in the regulation of fat cells and the hormones they release, and could play a role in maintaining healthy body weight. A study found that retinoic acid, a derivative of vitamin A, helped boost metabolism and limit the development of fat cells in mice. Vitamin A can be found in foods such as carrots, sweet potato, kale, spinach, and broccoli.
  • Vitamin D may be involved in the release of leptin, the hormone that signals the brain when it’s time to stop eating and helps control how much fat is stored in the body. Studies have found that obese and overweight individuals who followed a low-carb diet and supplemented with vitamin D lost more weight. Vitamin D is obtained when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Deficiencies are common, especially in winter months and in the northern hemisphere. Supplementation may be necessary to maintain optimal levels.
  • A review published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that individuals with low vitamin C levels were more resistant to fat loss. Sufficient vitamin C intake increases the breakdown of fatty acids during moderate exercise. Vitamin C is found in foods such as oranges, bell peppers, kale, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli.
  • Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps the body use vitamin K and produce red blood cells. Studies show that overweight individuals need higher levels of vitamin E to help combat increased oxidative stress, which contributes to health conditions such as cancer, dementia, inflammatory disease, and atherosclerosis. Effective use of vitamin E is impaired in overweight individuals, which further compounds the effects of diseases associated with metabolic syndrome. Good sources of vitamin E include almonds, sweet potato, spinach, avocado, and sunflower seeds.
  • Magnesium plays an important role in regulating blood sugar levels. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that higher magnesium intake was associated lower fasting glucose levels and improved insulin sensitivity. Foods rich in magnesium include spinach, pumpkin seeds, almonds, black beans, avocado, and bananas.
  • Calcium may help boost metabolism, which helps the body burn more fat. Studies show that calcium stored in fat cells helps regulate how fat is processed and stored in the body. The more calcium found in the fat cell, the more fat the cell burns. In a study using mice, overweight mice who were put on a calorie-restricted diet and given supplemental calcium experienced a 42 percent decrease in body fat, compared to an 8 percent body fat loss in mice who did not receive calcium. Aside from dairy products, calcium can be found in greens such as spinach and kale, some fish, and legumes.

Certain genetic variants can make you predisposed to vitamin deficiencies. Your personalized genetic report from Vivaliti DNA can tell you if you are at risk of low levels of any of these important vitamins so that you can adjust your diet or take supplements as needed. Download a free sample of our 49-page DNA report to find out exactly what you get with your personalized genetic report!