Vitamin D is frequently called “the sunshine vitamin” because it is naturally synthesized by the body after skin exposure to sunlight. However, the body’s ability to do that diminishes with age, as does outdoor activity in general. And this is a big problem.
Having low levels of vitamin D is a threat to overall health and can weaken you in many ways. It can lead to a compromised immune system, brittle, easily fractured bones, a greater risk of depression, and rapid muscle loss.
Muscle loss is not just an issue if you’re a body builder. With loss of muscle tissue also comes a lack of balance, poor physical performance, and less mobility. Unfortunately, it is fairly common, affecting over 20 percent of older adults. One of the major reasons for this slow-moving epidemic is a lack of vitamin D.
This clinical study found that blood levels of the nutrient were key for maintaining muscles. In fact, poor physical performance was almost three times worse in those with low vitamin D. The good news is that boosting vitamin D and physical activity – and one helps the other – is an excellent way to avoid muscle loss and renew vitality and strength.
Aspell N, Laird E, Healy M, Lawlor B, O’Sullivan M. Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated With Impaired Muscle Strength And Physical Performance In Community-Dwelling Older Adults: Findings From The English Longitudinal Study Of Ageing. Clin Interv Aging. 2019;14:1751‐1761. Published 2019 Oct 15. doi:10.2147/CIA.S222143
Purpose: Maintaining skeletal muscle function throughout life is a crucial component of successful ageing. Adequate vitamin D status may be important in preserving muscle function. We aimed to determine the association between impaired muscle function and serum vitamin D status in community-dwelling older adults. Falls were explored as a secondary aim.
Methods: Data were analyzed from adults aged ≥60 years, from Wave 6 of the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA). Handgrip strength (HGS) and the short physical performance battery (SPPB) were employed as measures of muscle strength and physical function, respectively. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] was assessed with concentration <30 nmol/L classed as vitamin D deficient.
Results: The study comprised 4157 community-dwelling adults with a mean age of 69.8 (SD 6.9). Overall, 30.6% had low HGS and 12.7% had low SPPB (≤6). Participants with the lowest serum 25(OH)D (<30 nmol/L) had the highest prevalence of impaired muscle strength and performance (40.4% and 25.2%) compared with participants with levels ≥50 nmol/L (21.6% and 7.9%). Consistent with this, vitamin D deficiency (<30 nmol/L) was a significant determinant of low HGS (OR 1.44 [1.22, 1.71], p<0.001) and poor physical performance (OR 1.65 [1.31, 2.09], p<0.001) in the logistic regression models. Older adults partaking in regular moderate physical activity had significantly lower odds of impaired muscle strength (OR 0.65 [0.58, 0.79]) and physical function (OR 0.30 [0.24, 0.38]), p <0.001, respectively. Single or multiple falls (15.8% and 10.5% in past year) were not associated with vitamin D status.
Conclusion: Vitamin D deficiency was associated with impaired muscle strength and performance in a large study of community-dwelling older people. It is generally accepted that vitamin D deficiency at the <30 nmol/L cut-off should be reversed to prevent bone disease, a strategy that may also protect skeletal muscle function in ageing.
Here is the link to the complete study: Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated With Impaired Muscle Strength And Physical Performance In Community-Dwelling Older Adults: Findings From The English Longitudinal Study Of Ageing