Interest in vitamin D continues to rise as mounting evidence demonstrates its myriad incredible benefits. Often referred to as “the sunshine vitamin” because it can be obtained from sunlight, vitamin D it is now being linked to a yet another benefit. It could help boost muscle strength in the elderly.
Aging and Muscle Strength
As we age, we begin to lose active muscles and become weaker. Sarcopenia, the loss of muscle tissue as a natural aging process is of great concern and may affect many aspects – and quality – of life.
Researchers at Birmingham University found that increasing levels of active vitamin D may improve muscle strength. The researchers used cutting edge technology that allowed both active and inactive vitamin D to be assessed, as well as their effect on muscle.
Active vs. Inactive Vitamin D
Vitamin D from the diet or sunlight is biologically inactive. Activation requires enzymatic conversion (hydroxylation) in the liver and kidney. Active vitamin D circulates in the bloodstream as a hormone, promoting healthy growth and remodeling of bone , among other benefits.
The researchers found that increasing levels of active vitamin D improves muscle strength. Conversely, previous studies have linked inactive vitamin D to loss of muscle mass. The active form of the vitamin was associated with lean mass but not body fat.
Now, though we say the vitamin may boost strength in the elderly, young people may benefit as well. In fact the new study involved 116 participants aged between 20 and 74. Therefore, it wasn’t a study on older adults per se.
The vitamin has been shown to possibly improve mobility and stability in older adults.
Despite being “freely available” from sunlight and various foods such as fatty fish, eggs, and red meat, vitamin D deficiency is surprisingly common.
The study is published in PLOS ONE.