Vitamin D for Muscle Maintenance

Did You Know…that supplementing with vitamin D may help build and maintain muscle strength as we age? 

Vitamin D deficiency can strike at any age, but it’s particularly prevalent among older adults.  As we age, our bodies have a harder time absorbing and metabolizing vitamin D, and the health consequences can be disastrous.

     Vitamin D deficiency has been implicated in…

  • An increased risk for falls and fractures
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Difficulties with walking
  • Central nervous system malfunction and weakened cognitive function

Vitamin D is vital for proper bone health and may also help protect against heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis.  Recent studies single out vitamin D as a potential nutrient for strengthening muscles and improving balance as we grow older. 

Vitamin D3 for Muscle Boosting 

Findings from a double-blind, placebo-controlled study out of Botucatu Medical School at Sao Paulo State University in Brazil suggest that taking 1000 International Units (IUs) of vitamin D a day may help reverse some symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.  Researchers studied 160 women 50-65 years old for 9 months, testing for:

  • Estimated muscle mass using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry
  • Hand grip
  • Ability to get out of a chair

Results showed that women who supplemented with vitamin D3 every day for 9 months improved muscle strength by 25.3%, while women taking a placebo lost an average of 6.8% muscle mass and were nearly twice as likely to suffer a fall.

Vitamin D3 for Balance 

     Researchers at the University of Western Ontario examined 13 studies conducted over a 30-year period to gain a better idea of how vitamin D influences muscle strength, balance, and gait in older adults.  Their analysis revealed that when adults ages 63 to 99 took 800-1000 IUs of vitamin D each day they enjoyed improvements in strength and balance.  Of the 13 studies, 9 were statistically significant, which indicates reliability in the findings.

The Low-Down on Vitamin D 

Our bodies cannot make vitamin D, so we have to make sure we’re spending enough time in the sun.  Ten to fifteen minutes of SPF-free sun exposure should ensure you are meeting your daily vitamin D requirements.  The most recent research suggests that we need a minimum of 2000 IUs a day of vitamin D.  It’s also important to eat vitamin D-rich foods such as fish and dairy, although these foods will only give you a boost in the range of about 200-400 IUs.  In contrast, spending as little as 30 minutes in the sun without wearing sunblock can produce 10 to 20,000 IUs.

You’re in the danger zone if your vitamin D levels are less than 40 ng/ml.  If you fall below that marker, you’ll want to boost your levels with a high potency vitamin D supplement.  It’s also a good idea to supplement in the winter when the sun is shy, depending on where you live and how much time you spend indoors.

Two types of vitamin D supplements are available:  the synthetic form D2 (ergocalciferol) and the non-synthetic and preferable form D3 (cholecalciferol).  Research shows that vitamin D3 is 87% more effective at raising and maintaining vitamin D levels and can also be converted into active form at a 500% faster rate.