Nutrition Bytes: October 2023

Vitamin D Deficiency Associated with Poor Metabolic Health

Largely due to our indoor lifestyles, vitamin D deficiency has become increasingly prevalent; this is concerning because vitamin D deficiency is associated with a variety of chronic diseases, including diabetes and obesity, which are associated with poor metabolic health (high blood sugar, inflammation, and increased body mass index (BMI)). To better understand the connection between vitamin D and chronic disease, a recent study examined vitamin D levels in relation to several clinical markers of metabolic health.1

The study included a total of 290 men and 125 women, all over the age of 50, and included people with and without sarcopenia, a type of muscle loss. Their vitamin D status was defined based on the Institute of Medicine deficiency level of <20ng/mL, which the researchers compared to blood sugar levels, inflammation markers, and BMI. 

The researchers found vitamin D deficiency was associated with higher average blood sugar, inflammatory markers, and BMI in women. In men, vitamin D deficiency was associated with higher average blood sugar, lower muscle strength, and worse physical performance. The study highlighted several ways vitamin D may influence metabolic health, including vitamin Dā€™s role in insulin secretion, glucose uptake, and insulin resistance.

Image of a person holding a vitamin D capsule up to the sunPrevious studies have also shown vitamin D levels are significantly correlated with BMI, fat mass, and muscle strength. Additionally, vitamin D has been shown to modulate our immune response, which is responsible for regulating inflammation levels in the body. This study highlights the importance of maintaining optimal vitamin D levels for metabolic health and the prevention of chronic disease.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Can They Undo Microbiome Damage from Opioid Use Disorder?

A recent study published in the journal Nutrients showed that opioid withdrawal led to a depletion of specific microbiota in the gut, and that supplementation with the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA could restore microbial richness and diversity. The research also revealed that by altering the composition of the gut microbiome, EPA and DHA reduced anxiety and ameliorated the opioid-seeking behaviors that occur in the absence of drug availability.2

Image of a spoon with vitamin capsules

Previous research has established that disruption of the gut microbiome may be a consequence of chronic opioid use. Furthermore, the gut-brain connection helps explain the role that gut dysbiosis plays in the pathogenesis of mental health issues, including substance abuse disorders like opioid-use disorder, and may offer a promising avenue for future therapeutic development. Thus, manipulating the microbiome is being explored as a means of reducing the negative emotions influencing the behaviors contributing to opioid-use disorder.

While this has not yet been studied in humans, this mouse study suggests that a diet enriched in omega-3 fatty acids (specifically EPA and DHA) could be used as a treatment to alleviate anxiety-induced opioid-seeking behavior and relapse in opioid addiction.


  1. Lee, J. H., Kim, Y. A., Kim, Y. S., Lee, Y., & Seo, J. H. (2023). Association between Vitamin D Deficiency and Clinical Parameters in Men and Women Aged 50 Years or Older: A Cross-Sectional Cohort Study. Nutrients, 15(13), 3043.
  2. Hakimian JK, Dong TS, Barahona JA, et al. Dietary Supplementation with Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Reduces Opioid-Seeking Behaviors and Alters the Gut Microbiome. Nutrients. 2019;11(8):1900. Published 2019 Aug 14. doi:10.3390/nu11081900