Vitamin D charges our cellular batteries, giving our muscles and energy level a significant boost. A new study from England's Newcastle University suggests that muscle function improves with vitamin D supplementation, even over a relatively short period of time.
Vitamin D is actually a hormone our body produces when energy from the sun hits our skin. Its major biologic function is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, according to the Mayo Clinic. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones. The vitamin can be consumed in a few fishy food sources like mackerel, herring, sardines and tuna, as well as in a host of “vitamin D-fortified” options like cereal and dairy products for those averse to eating Nemo.
The NIH estimates, however, that 80-90 percent of the vitamin D in our bodies comes from sun exposure. Maintaining healthy vitamin D levels, therefore, can pose a problem for those who rarely spend time outdoors (and vampires.) Case in point: our friends in soggy olde England, home of Newcastle University, where the study was conducted. About 60 percent of Brits are vitamin D deficient. Estimates vary as to how many Americans suffer from the same condition, though it is known that people with darker skin are more likely to be vitamin D deficient. In fact, experts suggested to forbes.com that a lack of vitamin D might account for the gruesome double compound fracture suffered last week on the court by Louisville basketball player Kevin Ware. (Regardless of how fascinated you are by vitamin D deficiency, do not google footage of the incident unless you have a strong stomach).
Researchers studied 12 patients with severe vitamin D deficiency, giving them daily D supplements for 10 to 12 weeks. They used magnetic resonance to measure the subjects' response to exercise before and after supplementation. "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," said lead author Akash Sinha in a release.
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. 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.
"We have proved for the first time a link between vitamin D and mitochondria function,” said Sinha. "Of the patients I see, around 60 percent 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."