Vitamin D and Athletic Performance

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Vitamin D – Run Faster, Jump Higher!

A little-appreciated consequence of too little vitamin D is muscle soreness that can often result in sore legs and increased discomfort while walking or even standing up. Research findings presented at a June 2006 conference on bone health indicate that vitamin D is a powerful promoter of muscle health and function in older adults and the elderly. In this study, daily dietary supplementation with 3,000 IU of vitamin D for 6 months increased lower limb muscle strength in previously vitamin D deficient elderly men and women by an average of 20% – enough to restore mobility and improve their quality of life substantially.27 We do not know if this would be increased even further if they took 5,000 IU/day. In addition, none of the supplemented subjects exhibited any signs of vitamin D toxicity after the 6 months of vitamin D supplementation and all exhibited minimization of PTH secretion, a proposed measure of vitamin D adequacy.

Keeping with this line of thought, research over several decades points to the ability of vitamin D to influence athletic performance. A recent review highlights the results of numerous studies dating back to the 1950s showing that ultraviolet light exposure improves athletic performance.1 This interesting review also suggests that athletic performance has seasonal variations, peaking at times of the year when vitamin D concentrations are naturally higher and decreasing when vitamin D levels are seasonally lower. Vitamin D administration has also been found to increase muscle strength and the percentage of Type II (fast-twitch) muscle fibers in humans. Studies in the elderly have found that vitamin D can improve balance and reaction time. Given that vitamin D is known to affect the expression of more than 1,000 genes, these findings come as no surprise.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Vitamin D’s Helper Nutrients

27. Pedrosa MAC, Moreira LDF, Barros ER, Kunii I, Lazaretti-Castro M. Cholecalciferol supplementation reverts 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) insufficiency and increases lower limb muscle strength (LLMS) in elderly people living in long-stay geriatric care (LSGC) (abstract P367SA). Proceedings, International Osteoporosis Foundation World Congress on Osteoporosis, Toronto, Canada, June 2-6, 2006, pp. 132-133.
1. Cannell JJ, Hollis BW, Sorenson MB, Taft TN, Anderson JJ. Athletic Performance and Vitamin D. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009; 41(5):1102- 1110.

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