What does Vitamin D have to do with muscle development and functionality? Can taking vitamin D supplements help improve muscle strength? Recent research shows that vitamin D can be effective in improving muscle strength and reducing muscle fatigue.
HOW DOES THE BODY RECEIVE AND USE VITAMIN D? Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is produced in the body using the energy we receive from sunlight, and also found in some foods such as milk, salmon or cod liver oil and other fish, and vitamin-fortified foods, such as cereals. Vitamin D and calcium are important for good bone health and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and protect older adults from osteoporosis. Muscles need vitamin D in order to move and nerves need it to carry messages between the brain and every part of the body, and vitamin D helps our immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses.
WHAT IS VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY? A diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency is rapidly on the rise and becoming a significant public health problem world-wide. Fatigue is frequently found to be the cause of vitamin D deficiency. The mitochondria within the cells, take fats and sugars and make them into energy. When the mitochondria are not working properly, people have symptoms of fatigue. Vitamin D deficiency is a well-recognized cause of fatigue and myopathy (a muscular disease resulting in muscular weakness). Bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen without sufficient vitamin D. Vitamin D can prevent rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. In the 1930’s milk was fortified with vitamin D making rickets almost unheard of in the United States, although it is still occurs occasionally. It is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food and therefore sunlight is the primary source. This means that elderly people who are home-bound, those who spend most of their days working inside, or women or men who wear long robes and cover their heads for religious reasons, will most likely not receive enough vitamin D and will need supplementation. Dark-skinned and obese people, those whose wear sun-block, and those who have tinted windows are also at risk of not getting enough vitamin D. Doctors are discovering that patients with somewhat elusive or undiagnosed symptoms of fatigue and muscle weakness are suffering from a vitamin D deficiency.
WHAT RESEARCH HAS BEEN CONDUCTED?
Several research studies have been conducted on vitamin D. Bischoff-Ferrari (2009) and other researchers investigated vitamin D and its effects on preventing falls among older individuals. They concluded, “Supplemental vitamin D in a dose of 700-1000 IU a day reduced the risk of falling among older individuals by 19% and to a similar degree as active forms of vitamin D. Doses of supplemental vitamin D of less than 700 IU or serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations of less than 60 nmol/l may not reduce the risk of falling among older individuals.”
Holick and Chen (2008) conclude that, “Vitamin D deficiency is now recognized as a pandemic.” They state that “A circulating level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D of >75 nmol/L, or 30 ng/mL, is required to maximize vitamin D’s beneficial effects for health. In the absence of adequate sun exposure, at least 800-1000 IU vitamin D3/d may be needed to achieve this in children and adults.” Vieth R, Bischoff-Ferrari and others (2007) in a study on dietary and lifestyle predictors with British adults, found an “urgent need” to recommend an efficient dose of vitamin D.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (2010) summarized 165 primary articles and 11 systematic reviews that incorporated over 200 additional primary articles, in “Vitamin D and Calcium: Systematic Review of Health Outcomes.” They concluded that “The majority of the findings concerning vitamin D, calcium, or a combination of both nutrients on the different health outcomes were inconsistent. Synthesizing a dose-response relation between intake of either vitamin D, calcium, or both nutrients and health outcomes in this heterogeneous body of literature proved challenging.”
Dr. Anna Dorothea Hoeck, MD (2009), estimates that over a billion people worldwide are vitamin D deficient or insufficient and that there appears to be a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and chronic fatigue syndrome or multi-system syndromes. She states that “Severe vitamin D deficiency with levels below 10 ng/ml (25 nm ol/L) causes severe fatigue and personality changes, depression-like symptoms, chronic sleep disorder, multiple intolerances,obvious immune dysfunctions and in the long time, multi-system symptoms and multi-system diseases”
Dr. Zahid Naeem (2010), MBBS, MCPS, DPH, FCPS, Professor, states that “Vitamin D deficiency is a global health problem. With all the medical advances of the century, vitamin D deficiency is still epidemic. Over a billion people worldwide are vitamin D deficient or insufficient. Yet no international health organization or governmental body has declared a health emergency to warn the public about the urgent need of achieving sufficient vitamin D blood levels.”
A recent research study was presented at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference in Harrogate, UK., and supported by the British Society of Paediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes (BSPED). Dr Akash Sinha (2013), research team leader, and researchers from Newcastle University Endocrinology, GNCH, Institute of Genetic Medicine, investigated the effects of cholecalciferol therapy (vitamin D3) on skeletal mitochondrial oxidative function in symptomatic, vitamin D deficient individuals. The researchers studied the phosphocreatine (a compound of phosphoric acid and creatine found in vertebrate muscle) recovery time in patients with vitamin D deficiency. Twelve patients were used in the study. They each were diagnosed with severe vitamin D deficiency before and after treatment with vitamin D. A non-invasive magnetic resonance scan (MRI) called phosphorus-31 magnetic resonance spectroscopy was used to measure phosphocreatine movement in response to exercise in the calf muscles of all 12 patients. Serum assays were performed before and after cholecalciferol therapy to document serum 25OHD and bone profiles. Ten to twelve (10-12) weeks after treatment, the researchers found phosphocreatine recovery significantly improved. After receiving vitamin D supplementation, all patients reported improvement in fatigue symptoms. According to Dr Akash Sinha research team leader,
“This is the first time a link has been shown between vitamin D status and muscle aerobic function.”
“Patients with vitamin D deficiency often experience symptoms of muscle fatigue. Our findings in a small group of patients with very low vitamin D levels show that muscle efficiency significantly improves when vitamin D status is improved.”
Vitamin D deficiency is becoming a world-wide problem. This may be due to our technological advances and cultural changes with more people choosing to spend long hours working and relaxing indoors. Researchers conclude that vitamin D deficiency may be the cause of multiple physical ailments with symptoms of muscle fatigue, atrophy and bone loss. Vitamin D is not easily found in many foods, therefore many researchers and health professionals are determining that it may be necessary or urgent for people to alter their lifestyle to receive adequate doses of vitamin D from sunshine or from supplementation. The recent study by Akash and others (2013) showed significant improvement in muscle efficiency after increasing vitamin D supplementation with patients who were vitamin D deficient. This was ground-breaking documentation. More research, like this is needed with more subject to determine how and why this is happening and if people who are not vitamin D deficient can also benefit from using vitamin D.
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This article is written by Jean Voice Dart, M.S. Special Education from Illinois State University. Jean is a published author and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.” She is a Registered Music Therapist, Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.