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Vitamin D for Muscle Strength

Vitamin D deficiencies are common in postmenopausal women and can lead to muscle weakness and an increased risk of falling, but new findings from Brazil suggest that women may be able to overcome both those problems by taking a daily supplement of 1000 IUs of vitamin D3. Researchers at Botucatu Medical School at Sao Paulo State University enrolled 160 women, ages 50 to 65, for the 9-month-long double blind, placebo-controlled trial. They estimated the women’s muscle mass via dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. They also tested handgrip strength as well as the ability of the women to rise from a chair. At the study’s end, the researchers reported that the women who received the D3 boosted their muscle strength by 25.3 percent while the women on the placebo actually lost an average of 6.8 percent of their muscle mass during the study period. The investigators also found that the women who took the placebo were nearly twice as likely to fall during the course of the investigation as the ones who were taking the supplement.

3 Reasons You May Need More Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient, and odds are you don’t get enough. Find out why you need it, and how much to take.

Vitamin D is an essential micronutrient with a central role in maintaining health. I recommend prudent daily sun exposure to support the natural production of vitamin D in our skin as one of the best ways to get enough of this vitamin. Be certain that prudent means sun exposure without getting burned. But if, like many these days, you have few opportunities to go outside due to work, school or for other reasons, you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Decreased or insufficient levels of vitamin D have been linked to:

  1. Suppressed immunity: Our innate systems of defense may not function efficiently without adequate vitamin D, allowing increased susceptibility to infectious agents.
  2. Increased risk of chronic disease: Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with a higher than normal risk of several health conditions.
  3. Heightened inflammation: Vitamin D is a key cofactor in regulating inflammation throughout the body.
  4. Speak with your doctor about checking your 25-hydroxy vitamin D level and find out if supplementing is recommended. I recommend 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day as a baseline level, more if you have depressed blood levels. Look for supplements that provide D3 (cholecalciferol) rather than D2 (ergocalciferol). The Weil Vitamin Advisor can help! QAA401588


Vitamin D and Women’s Cholesterol

Here’s more good news about vitamin D: it seems to help lower LDL, also known as “bad” cholesterol, in post-menopausal women. The reduction isn’t huge, but it is significant, according to study leader Peter F. Schnatz, a professor of internal medicine at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. The 576 women who participated in the study were randomly assigned to receive either a supplement containing 400 IU of vitamin D and 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily or a placebo. After three years, the women taking the supplement had higher blood levels of vitamin D and lower LDL than they had at the study’s start. In analyzing the results, the researchers controlled for the women’s vitamin D level when the study began, as well as smoking, alcohol consumption and more than 20 other variables. Because of the study’s small size, the researchers said no conclusions could be drawn about the effect of vitamin D on heart health, but they noted that among the women who took the calcium/vitamin D supplement, those whose vitamin D levels were higher also had high levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol, as well as lower triglyceride levels.

Peter F. Schnatz et al, “Calcium/vitamin D supplementation, serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations, and cholesterol profiles in the Women’s Health Initiative calcium/vitamin D randomized trial.” Menopause, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000188

Vitamin D: Are You Deficient?

Vitamin D deficiency is common in the developed world, and according to at least one study, people with very pale skin are most likely to be seriously deficient. Researchers at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom took the vitamin D levels of about 1,200 people. They found that 730 had lower than optimal levels, and those with fair skin had significantly lower levels. The possible reason? People with very fair skin tend to avoid the sun because they burn easily, making it difficult for their bodies to make sufficient "D" from sun exposure. This suggests that if you have fair skin and tend to avoid direct sunlight, supplementing may be especially important for you.

Regardless of your skin color, humans need vitamin D to facilitate bone mineralization, as well as for protection against a number of serious diseases. You can get vitamin D through foods such as full-fat cheeses and plain yogurt, eggs, salmon, tuna and mackerel. For people with pale skin, seniors (the ability to synthesize vitamin D decreases with age) and anyone who isn’t getting enough vitamin D through food and sun, I recommend 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily in the form of D3 (cholecalciferol) rather than D2 (ergocalciferol).

Is Your Brain Getting Enough Vitamin D?

The older you are, the better the chance that you’re running low on vitamin D. We’ve long known that “D” is essential for strong bones, and recent studies have linked low levels to Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, psoriasis, several autoimmune diseases (including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis), and as many as 18 different cancers. And now a new study from the University of Kentucky has found that a deficiency of vitamin D can damage the brain, at least in rats. The Kentucky research team found that middle-aged rats fed a diet deficient in vitamin D for several months developed damage from the formation of free radicals in the brain, altering many different brain proteins and leading to a significant decrease in cognitive performance on tests of learning and memory. Lead researcher Allan Butterfield noted that vitamin D deficiency is widespread worldwide, particularly among seniors. He advised having your vitamin D levels checked, and if the test reveals low levels, eating foods rich in “D (fortified foods, eggs, salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines), taking vitamin D supplements and getting at least 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure daily (without sunscreen and exposing as much of your body as weather permits).

D. Allan Butterfield et al, “Dietary vitamin D deficiency in rats from middle to old age leads to elevated tyrosine nitration and proteomics changes in levels of key proteins in brain: Implications for low vitamin D-dependent age-related cognitive decline”. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 2013; 65: 324 DOI: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2013.07.019