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Vitamin D, impulsivity and eating behaviors in the obese: Is there a connection?

Posted on: July 20, 2018   by  Rachel Namery & John Cannell, MD


Obesity is a widespread problem in the United States as well as many other countries. Although there are a variety of factors that can lead to this issue, unhealthy eating habits and a lack of physical activity are primary contributors to unintentional weight gain.

Impulsivity and unhealthy eating habits

Most of us have heard of the term “comfort food”, but few consider the psychological component that drives our food choices. For instance, snacking on processed foods that are calorie dense and nutrient poor is usually a result of impulsive behavior in response to emotions or boredom, and is not because of hunger. Impulsivity is defined as acting in an unplanned manner without considering possible consequences. Over time, impulse driven dietary habits leads to obesity and weight gain.

The relationship between vitamin D and obesity

There is increasing evidence that vitamin D status is imperative for supporting a healthy nervous system, brain function and energy metabolism. Past studies have shown a connection between obesity and vitamin D status, and this can even start at a young age. One study showed that many obese children were vitamin D deficient.Another study found that patients who supplemented with 100,000 IU per month lost nearly 12 pounds and 5.48 cm around the waist.

Vitamin D has also been linked to mental health. One study found that vitamin D deficiency was correlated with emotional, behavioral and peer relationships among adolescents. Another study showed that vitamin D supplementation helped improved strategic and analytical thought, planning and decision making in adolescents. This suggests that vitamin D deficiency may affect the ability to make sound decisions about food intake.

New research on vitamin D, impulsivity and obesity

A recent study researched whether there is an association between serum 25(OH)D levels and impulsive behavior in bariatric surgery candidates. The researchers hypothesized that vitamin D levels may be associated with impulsive behavior and that impulsivity is associated with poor eating habits.

The sample included 322 bariatric surgery candidates who completed a questionnaire on their health and eating habits and filled out the Eating Disorders Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q). Impulsiveness was rated using the Baratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11).

They found that higher impulsivity scores on the BIS-11 were found in participants who reported eating in response to certain emotions. There was no correlation between impulsivity level and BMI (p=0.206), nor was there a significant correlation between impulsivity and certain blood markers, such as cholesterol markers or blood glucose levels (p=0.229).

The majority of the participants had serum 25(OH)D levels <20 ng/ml (68%) while only 3% of the study group had vitamin D levels >30ng/ml. The researchers found that the percentage of the sample with <10 ng/ml vitamin D levels (18%) had significantly higher impulsivity levels than those with vitamin D levels higher than 30 ng/ml ( p = 0.046)

The researchers concluded,

“Our results indicate that, among the bariatric surgery candidates, an enhanced level of impulsivity is associated with unhealthy eating habits, and support the hypothesis that vitamin D deficiency may contribute to impulsiveness. However, further studies are needed to make a final conclusion.”

The Vitamin D Council’s recommendations:

Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a wide variety of negative health outcomes, including impulsivity and obesity. We recommend getting your 25(OH)D levels tested to ensure your vitamin D needs are being met (between 40 and 80 ng/ml). In addition, we recommend supplementing with 5,000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day. The Vitamin D Council has partnered with Bio-Tech Pharmacal for a safe and high quality vitamin D supplement. Use discount “VDCBiotech20” for 20% of your next supplement order.


Namery, R & Cannell JJ. Vitamin D, impulsivity and eating behaviors in the obese: Is there a connection?, The VItamin D Council Blog & Newsletter, 7/15/2018.


Wrzosek, M. et al. Impulsvity and vitamin D in bariatric surgery candidates. Pharmacological reports, 2018.

1 Response to Vitamin D, impulsivity and eating behaviors in the obese: Is there a connection?

  1. lindamaryk

    I love this,,,Ive heard of the Vitamin K connection with D…Would love to know more…Ill see if I can find anything else on the blog.

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