Vitamin D is vital for making our muscles work efficiently and boosting energy levels, new research from Newcastle University has shown.
A study led by Dr Akash Sinha has shown that muscle function improves with Vitamin D supplements which are thought to enhance the activity of the mitochondria, the batteries of the cell. (Full Image: whfoods.com)
A hormone normally produced in the skin using energy from sunlight, Vitamin D can also be found in a few foods — including fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks and fortified cereals but it can also be effectively boosted with Vitamin D supplements.
It is thought around 60% of people in the UK are vitamin D deficient, with children under five, people with dark skin and the elderly being particularly vulnerable. While it has a well-established association with helping in bone formation and a deficiency can lead to rickets, its role in other health issues is just emerging.
The researchers used non-invasive magnetic resonance scans to measure the response to exercise in 12 patients with severe deficiency before and after treatment with vitamin D.
Lead author Dr Akash Sinha who also works within the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “The scans provided a unique window into what is really going on in the muscle as it works.
“Examining this small group of patients with vitamin D deficiency who experienced symptoms of muscle fatigue, we found that those with very low vitamin D levels improved their muscle efficiency significantly when their vitamin D levels were improved.”
Alongside poor bone health, muscle fatigue is a common symptom in vitamin D deficient patients. This fatigue could be due to reduced efficiency of the mitochondria: the ‘power stations’ within each cell of the body.
Mitochondria use glucose and oxygen to make energy in a form that can be used to run the cell – an energy-rich molecule called ATP. Muscle cells need large amounts of ATP for movement and they use phosphocreatine as a ready and available energy source to make ATP. The mitochondria also replenish this phosphocreatine store after muscle contraction and measuring the time taken to replenish these stores is a measure of mitochondrial efficiency: better mitochondrial function is associated with shorter phosphocreatine recovery times.
The team found that these recovery rates significantly improved after the patients took a fixed dose of oral vitamin D for 10-12 weeks. The average phosphocreatine recovery half time decreased from 34.4 sec to 27.8 sec. All patients reported an improvement in symptoms of fatigue after having taken the supplements. In a parallel study, the group demonstrated that low Vitamin D levels were associated with reduced mitochondrial function.
Dr Sinha added: “We have proved for the first time a link between vitamin D and mitochondria function.
“Of the patients I see, around 60% are vitamin D deficient and most people living north of Manchester will struggle to process enough vitamin D from sunlight alone, particularly during winter and spring. So a simple vitamin D tablet could help boost your energy levels — from within the cells.”
I take vitamin D3 regularly and do have some muscle tremors.
Recent studies have also linked vitamin D deficiency to Parkinson’s disease and muscle tremors. … Numerous studies have begun to see a connection with vitamin D deficiency, tremors and diseases such as Parkinson’s. A 2007 publication in “Movement Disorders” stated the hypothesis that vitamin D may play a role in Parkinson’s disease, and that dietary and supplemental changes may aid in the prevention and therapy of Parkinson’s. A 2010 study published in “Neuropsychobiology” showed a connection between vitamin D deficiency and neurological functions such as tremors. The researchers concluded that correcting vitamin D deficiency may reduce the number of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and neuromuscular disorders that are diagnosed.
This sounds good, but it isn’t working for me. Can too much vitamin D cause a calcium imbalance?
… researchers also found that the proportion of people with high vitamin D levels increased considerably during the study period — from 9 per 100,000 people in 2002 to 233 per 100,000 people in 2011. This spike is likely due to an increase in people taking vitamin D supplements, either because a doctor prescribed them or because they decided on their own to take them, the researchers said.
Despite this increase, the people in the study rarely experienced hypercalcemia, or high blood calcium levels that can occur as a result of high vitamin D levels. The condition can cause weakness, vomiting and kidney problems, and is the main side effect of high vitamin D levels.
In fact, there was no link between people’s vitamin D levels and their blood calcium levels.
“We found that, even in those with high levels of vitamin D over 50 ng/mL, there was not an increased risk of hypercalcemia, or elevated serum calcium, with increasing levels of vitamin D,” study co-author Dr. Thomas D. Thacher, a family medicine expert at Mayo Clinic, said in a statement. …
There was just one case of true vitamin D toxicity, in a 51-year-old woman who had vitamin D levels of 364 ng/mL. The woman had taken 50,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day for three months, along with calcium supplements, and went to the doctor with weight loss, vomiting and confusion. (The recommended upper limit for vitamin D supplementation is 4,000 IU per day.) The woman turned out to have kidney damage.
Well, I’ve taken less than 50,000 IU per day, certainly.