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More research linking vitamin D with muscle health

Vitamin D is linked to building better bone and muscle health, boosting immunity and aiding weight loss, as well as protecting against diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease and depression, and it doesn’t end there. The Vitamin D Council’s website has pages of research and news, with links of how vitamin D can help with a total of 45 different health conditions, from acne to tuberculosis.

It’s estimated that around one in five adults may have low vitamin D status – an estimated 10 million people across England(1). New research from Trinity College, Dublin, published in the international journal, Clinical Interventions in Aging (2), has found that vitamin D deficiency plays a vital role in the skeletal muscle function and health of older adults, with growing evidence showing that adequate levels of vitamin D can protect skeletal muscle.

The study looked at the muscle health of 4,157 community-dwelling adults aged 60 years and over from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA), and found that muscle weakness was almost twice as high in those with a vitamin D deficiency than those with adequate levels. The study findings also reinforced the importance of resistance exercise in older adults, as those partaking in regular moderate physical activity had significantly lower likelihood of poor muscle strength and physical performance.

Other research has shown that vitamin D plays a crucial role in muscle function, recovery and repair. A study in the Journal of Physiology(3) showed that supplementing with 4,000 IU/day of vitamin D had a positive effect on recovery following a bout of damaging eccentric exercise. Another study of ballet dancers found that supplementation helped to improve muscular strength in vitamin D-deficient dancers; they were able to jump higher and had fewer injuries.(4) In addition, in 2009, researchers found vitamin D was positively related to muscle power, force and velocity among adolescent girls.(5)

Vitamin D is normally obtained through exposure of the skin to UVB through sunlight. This is great in the summer months but, during the winter when days are shorter and exposure to sun is limited, we all run the risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency.

This essential vitamin exists in very few foods, but mainly oily fish, red meat, liver, egg yolks, and fortified foods such as cereal and spreads. As a result, it’s very hard to meet daily requirements through food consumption alone. The Department of Health recommends taking a daily supplement of 10 micrograms (400 IU) though the winter months and all year round if you are not outside very often or you wear clothes that cover you up when outdoors.

If you are deficient, you may need to supplement with more; however, as there are no clear signs to look out for, it is hard to judge. General signs such as recurrent injury, fatigue and muscle soreness can be warning signals but hard to identify, so a blood test is the best way to check your levels.

About the Author

Fiona Bugler is a fitness specialist with a background in journalism, PR and marketing. She is also a PT, group X instructor, and a running coach.

In 2012, Fiona co-founded the Fitness Writers’ Association and began working with fitness brands as a content marketing and social media consultant. Now she works with individuals and brands, and offers a one-to-one coaching service for those who want to get their story and brand known. She’s the creator of the online community which celebrates ordinary women being extraordinary, and shares stories, blogs, and training tips.