Our weight is linked to our general overall health in so many ways. This week’s Nutrition New reports on the latest studies and research that evaluate the role weight management plays in keeping us healthy and the links between our weight and other nutrients and health outcomes.

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Low vitamin D levels associated with obesity in men

Vitamin D is well talked about at the moment due to its role in immune health but a recent study has suggested there may be a link between the so-called sunshine vitamin and weight management.

The Prospective Epidemiological Research Studies in Iran (PERSIAN) study, reported by MedScape, analysed data from 9,520 individuals, both men and women, in Guilan, Iran between 2014 and 2017.  These participants were then classed as either vitamin D deficient, < 12 ng/mL (< 30 nmol/L); insufficient,12 to < 20 ng/mL (30 to < 50 nmol/L); or sufficient, ≥ 20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L) as well as underweight (BMI < 18.5 kg/m2), normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9 kg/m2), overweight (BMI 25-29.9 kg/m2), or having obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2).

From this, researchers found that just under half of the entire test group had inadequate vitamin D levels that were either classed as insufficient or deficient. The study found that, when compared to men with normal weight, men who were overweight or had obesity were more likely to have vitamin D levels below sufficiency at adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.2; P = .03 and adjusted OR, 1.4; P = .001 respectively. While the results are interesting, it is important to note that this is a cross-sectional study, so it does not indicate causation, for which further research would be needed. Also worth noting is that no link between BMI and vitamin D levels was observed in women.

The health benefits of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a herb derived from the Ashwagandha, or Withania somnifera, shrub’s roots. It is considered to have a great many health benefits, which this Healthline video explores.

As well as being anti-inflammatory, it is also thought to lower blood sugar, reduce feelings of stress or anxiety, reduce cholesterol levels, support male fertility, and have an effect on sleep, memory and cognitive health.

Most commonly, people use ashwagandha as a stress support as, according to Healthline, it appears to help control mediators of stress, which includes heat shock proteins (Hsp70), cortisol, and stress-activated c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase (JNK-1) (4Trusted Source). It is also thought to reduce the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is a system in your body that regulates the stress response.

While further research on the health benefits of ashwagandha is needed to confirm such findings, studies are currently ongoing and the evidence is building in favour of this lesser known herb.

How sleep support can aid weight management

We all know that we should get enough sleep, roughly seven to eight hours a night, but it could have even further ramifications on our health than we first realised. Mayo Clinic, reported by Science Daily, has found that the amount of sleep we get could have a direct impact on our weight, suggesting that sleep support could help with weight management.

To explore the hypothesis, a randomised controlled crossover study was carried out, which involved 12 healthy participants of normal weight spending two 21-day sessions in the inpatient setting. These participants were then split between the control group, which were permitted nine hours of sleep as the normal sleep group, and the restricted sleep group, which were only permitted four hours of sleep per night, whilst both groups had access to free choice of food.

The study began with a four day acclimation period, in which both groups were permitted nine hours of sleep. The researchers found that those in the restricted sleep group consumed 300 calories more per day than they did during the acclimation period. What is most interesting is that these additional calories did not manifest themselves into significant weight gain, instead the impact on health was seen more clearly from a CT scan measuring an increase in visceral fat.

Further research is needed to assess how different groups may respond to reduced sleep, such as those who are already overweight or have diabetes, but the findings certainly highlight the need to consider behavioural interventions for some at risk groups, such as those who work shift patterns.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is the Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.