Weight loss: How exercise and vitamin D can help fight inflammation and cancer

Exercise and vitamin D go well together, helping you both lose weight and see off harmful diseases

Woman running sunshine vitamin D
(Image credit: Nathalie Desiree/Unsplash)

We all know carrying too much weight means we're at risk of a wide variety of health problems. Obesity leads to inflammation in our bodies, which is a predicator for a number of diseases – especially different kinds of cancer. For those suffering from obesity-related issues, losing weight is a very important part of tackling that inflammation.

However, we can speed up this process. One study says by combining weight loss with increased vitamin D consumption, we can tackle inflammation more easily and help increase our chances of living longer. 

The study, conducted by researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, sought to identify why vitamin D and weight loss work so well in tandem. Looking at more than 200 overweight, postmenopausal women who had insufficient levels of vitamin D, the study took place over the course of 12 months. Half of these women underwent a weight loss programme and took vitamin D supplements, while the other underwent the same programme without the extra vitamin D. 

Those who took vitamin D and lost 5 to 10 percent of their baseline weight had nearly 40% less inflammatory cytokines, a protein in the body which causes inflammation. People who lost the weight but didn't have enough vitamin D couldn't get near the same rate of reduction. 

If all that's sounding complicated, the end result was this: people who had more vitamin D and lost weight over the course of the year were less likely to suffer from inflammation, and all the health problems associated with it.


(Image credit: Getty)

Now much of the world is getting ready for winter, you might feel much less inclined to go outside, especially if you are working from home as a result of the global health crisis. However, make time to do it a couple of times a week: one Harvard University report found 10 to 15 minutes of sun on our arms and legs three times a week can generate almost all the vitamin D we need.

However, if that's a tall order, one unexpected vitamin D warrior can help: mushrooms

“Mushrooms are neglected at our peril in the fruit and veg rainbow we are encouraged to eat," says author and nutritionist Amelia Freer. "High in antioxidants, they’re commonly overlooked as a significant source of the sunshine vitamin D."

 If you can’t find already vitamin D-enriched mushrooms, just place them on the window sill on a sunny day for an hour or two. This will allow the mushrooms to absorb vitamin D from sunlight, just like we do. 

Of course, the other part of this one-two punch to knock out inflammation is weight loss, and we've got plenty of resources to help you get started. Whether you're looking to start walking to lose weight or you want to take part in a four-week shape-up plan, you can find everything you need right here. 

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Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.