Vitamin D deficiency leads to obesity, stunted growth in new zebrafish study

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Using a zebrafish model, researchers from North Carolina State University found that vitamin D deficiency during early development can disrupt the metabolic balance between growth and fat accumulation, according to a new study published in the journal Nature.

For the study, the research team looked at groups of post-juvenile zebrafish on one of three diets: no vitamin D or vitamin D null) vitamin D enriched, and control. The zebrafish spent four months on their diet. The researchers then looked at their growth, bone density, triglyceride, lipid, cholesterol, and vitamin D levels. They also examined key metabolic pathways associated with fat production, storage and mobilization, and growth promotion.

The zebrafish in the vitamin D deficient group were, on average, 50 percent smaller than those in the other two groups, and they had significantly more fat reserves, according to the study.

After the initial testing, the vitamin D deficient zebrafish were given a vitamin D enriched diet for an additional six months, to see if the results could be reversed. While the fish did continue to grow and begin to utilize fat reserves, they never caught up in size with the other cohorts and they retained residual fat deposits.

The results suggest a linkage between vitamin D and metabolic homeostasis, or equilibrium, the researchers said. Future work will involve looking at the offspring of vitamin D deficient mothers, to determine whether this vitamin deficiency has epigenetic effects that can be passed down.