Vitamin D deficiency linked to 70 per cent loss of strength in seniors

Dec 20, 2022
Following the findings, researchers stressed the importance of taking vitamin D in order to avoid loss of muscle strength in older age. Source: Getty Images.

The health benefits of vitamin D for improving cognitive function have long been touted, however, now it appears that the vitamin has another added benefit after researchers discovered that it can reduce the risk of dynapenia in older people by 70 per cent.

Dynapenia is the loss of muscle strength associated with old age and can be a major risk factor for falls in older age and as part of the Are Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Deficiency and Insufficiency Risk Factors for the Incidence of Dynapenia? study, researchers looked at the impact of Vitamin D on preventing such strength loss.

Last author of the study, Professor of Gerontology at USFCar, Tiago da Silva Alexandre explained that “Vitamin D is known to participate in various functions of the organism.”

“Actually, it’s a hormone and its many roles include helping to repair muscles and releasing calcium for muscle contraction kinetics. It was therefore expected to cause muscle alterations of some kind. That’s exactly what our study proved,” Alexandre said.

As part of the study, researchers analysed data for 3,205 non-dynapenic individuals aged 50 and over who were followed for four years by the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA).

Participants’ grip strength was measured at 26 kg or more for men and 16 kg or more for women.

Researchers found that individuals with vitamin D deficiency, defined as less than 30 nanomoles per litre in the blood, had a 70 per cent greater risk of developing dynapenia by the conclusion of the four-year study period than those with normal levels of vitamin D, defined as more than 50 nmol/L.

“The results proved that the risk of muscle weakness is heightened by both vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency,” Alexandre said.

First author of the study, Maicon Luís Bicigo Delinocente spoke of the importance of the findings

“This is itself an important finding as it shows that vitamin D deficiency heightens the risk of muscle weakness by 70%,” Delinocente said.

Following the findings, Alexandre stressed the importance of taking vitamin D in order to avoid loss of muscle strength in older age.

“Another conclusion to be derived from the results of the study is that it’s important to take vitamin D if you have a deficiency or insufficiency,” he added.

“The study analysed data for people who live in the UK. There are many more days of sunlight per year in Brazil, and yet we’re known to have a high incidence of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency, especially among older people. Indeed, this is the case worldwide.

“Our body only synthesises vitamin D when large areas of skin are exposed to sunlight.

“It’s necessary to explain to people that they risk losing muscle strength if they don’t get enough vitamin D. They need to expose themselves to the sun, eat food rich in vitamin D or take a supplement, and do resistance training exercises to maintain muscle strength.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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