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Vitamin D deficiency in the over 60's impairs muscle strength

2 min read

If you're over the age of 60, not having enough vitamin D could have a significant impact on how well your skeletal muscle functions. These findings come from an analysis of 4000 older adults that showed low blood markers of vitamin D impaired muscle strength and performance.

The research term, led by Maria O'Sullivan from Trinity College Dublin, suggests that ensuring skeletal muscle function through out life is key to preserving it well during the aging process. This makes for better mobility, higher independence, increased quality of life and a reduction in rate of falls and frailty.

Maintaining muscle function is incredibly important in promoting healthy ageing

Previous research has proven the effectiveness of resistance exercise in preserving muscle function and this latest research adds to the growing evidence that vitamin D may also be protective.

O'Sullivan writes:

"Maintaining muscle function is incredibly important, and often overlooked, in promoting healthy ageing. Addressing this through multimodal approaches that incorporate physical activity, reversing vitamin D deficiency and other modifiable diet and lifestyle components require further investigation."

The study was published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Ageing and included data from 4,157 adults aged over 60 living in communities. Muscle function was assessed via hand grip strength and a test known as the Short Physical Performance Battery ( SPBB). The SPPB is a group of measures that combines the results of gait speed, chair stand and balance tests. It has been used as a predictive tool for possible disability and can aid in the monitoring of function in older people. It has also been shown to have predictive validity showing a gradient of risk for mortality, nursing home admission, and disability. 

Results of the data analysis showed that the prevalence of muscle weakness was twice as high among the adults with vitamin D deficiency compared with those with vitamin D adequacy. Just over 40% of those with the lowest levels of vitamin D also suffered from muscle weakness while only 21% of those with the highest vitamin D levels suffered.

In addition to this the 'muscle performance' was 3 times higher in older adults with vitamin D deficiency compared with vitamin D adequacy.

What's the solution?

The authors write that the study's findings give further support to the evidence in favour of public health strategies to deal with vitamin D deficiency in the older populations.

Dr Eamon Laird, co-author of the study added:

"Some countries, for example Finland, have successfully implemented a vitamin D food fortification policy which has all but eliminated deficiency in the population. Such a policy could similarly be implemented in the UK and Ireland for older populations."

A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.