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Vitamin D3 Improves Muscle Strength and Immune Health

Dr. Chris D. Meletis

Vitamin D is uniquely special, as it is the only vitamin that can be made by the body by merely being exposed to sunlight.  One would think that no one should be low in vitamin D with it being so readily available.  But there is a catch, using SPF sunscreen and cosmetics with SPF in them blocks upwards of 90 percent of our ability to make vitamin D from sunlight. Combine this with the fact that modern life is largely spent more indoors than not it has left the vast majority of us falling far too short on sustaining year around optimal vitamin D levels.  My patients target a minimal vitamin D level of 55 ng/ml, which falls firmly in the mid-range for laboratory reference range.

During the autumn and winter vitamin D levels drop in a free-fall from whatever levels the body has achieved during the summer months.  This has been shown to increase the risk for susceptibility to illnesses including the flu.

In June 2016, another aspect of vitamin D3 supplementation and strengthening body was reported in the literature when it comes to muscle strength. I found this study particularly powerful, as many of my patients during the Oregon winters in North America end up going indoors to gyms to work out and stay fit. Thus my years of vitamin D recommendations for immune strengthen just got stronger knowing my patients were also supporting their muscles as well.

Three of six research studies that were reviewed used supplement vitamin D3, the form I recommend for my patients to use.  The research studies generally showed an improvement in muscle strength after supplementation with vitamin D3.

One study showed that quadriceps strength increased by approximately 19 percent after supplementation. The general recommendation of the researchers was that “Coaches, sports dietitians, trainers, and/or medical staff should monitor athletes’ serum levels of vitamin D throughout the year, especially during winter months. Specifically, it seems that serum concentrations of 25(OH)D should be raised over 40 ng/mL for optimal muscular performance. Routine testing for adequacy should be incorporated into sports teams’ programs. If an athlete displays a 25(OH)D concentration below 20 ng/mL, he or she should be put on a sufficient dosage of at least 2000 IU/day of vitamin D3 for 8 to 12 weeks or until levels are normalized.”

As a clinician, I find it essential to have vitamin D levels measured at least once per year.  Generally, I like to test both my athletic and general patient base at the end of summer, with a goal of seeing at least 55 ng/ml; remembering that
without regular supplementation both immune and muscle strength will drop during the colder, darker and wetter seasons.

Reference:
Schwalfenberg GK. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2011;55(1):96–108.
Chiang CM, et al. J Strength Cond Res. 2016 Jun 28.

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