Healthy Vitamin D Levels Required To Prevent Muscle Loss, New Study Says
There are plenty of reasons vitamin D is essential for your well-being. It supports gut health, mood, cognitive function, and even longevity (just to name a few incredible benefits). And with more studies focusing on this once-overlooked vitamin, researchers are continuing to discover ways this unique vitamin contributes to your physical and mental well-being.
The vitamin D study.
The study utilized the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, a representative cohort of English adults over 50, to conduct the first longitudinal study evaluating muscle strength and vitamin D levels in older adults.
The study began in 2012 when they measured the vitamin D levels and grip strength of 3,205 participants. Vitamin D levels were measured by serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or 25(OH)D, with 12 ng/ml representing deficiency and 20 ng/ml, representing insufficiency. It's worth noting that this categorization is a bit different from other clinical suggestions of vitamin D deficiency, which define 20 ng/ml as the cutoff for deficiency2.
Researchers focused on dynapenia, or the age-related loss of muscle strength, which is partially explained by muscle atrophy. None of the participants presented with dynapenia at the first evaluation in 2012. Participants were evaluated over four years to determine the relationship between vitamin D levels and dynapenia.
How vitamin D status influences muscle strength.
Researchers found that the risk of incidence of dynapenia increased by 70% for individuals with vitamin D levels under 12 ng/ml. They also found that great vitamin D deficiency (under 12 ng/ml) and deficiency (under 20 ng/ml) were risk factors for muscle strength loss for older adults without osteoporosis who also didn't take a vitamin D supplement. This indicates that deficient vitamin D levels could compromise muscle strength.
This finding becomes even more salient when considering the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and the growing aging population: You see, 29% 3of U.S. adults are already vitamin D deficient, and one in six people will be over 60 by 2030, according to the World Health Organization4.
The results of this study suggest that vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for the loss of muscle strength in older adults. In order to avoid the worst effects of vitamin D deficiency, it's crucial to check your vitamin D levels, either at home or at your doctor's office. In fact, you may want to recommend anyone in your life over 50 to do the same. To get ahead of it, consider taking a vitamin D supplement. You can find our favorites here.
Keeping your muscles strong becomes even more important as you age, as muscle mass and strength are massively beneficial in preventing falls and injuries. (It's so important that mindbodygreen even flagged strength training for longevity as a 2023 wellness trend.)
Healthy vitamin D levels are crucial for a number of reasons—including keeping your muscles strong as you age. Getting enough of this vitamin often means focusing on vitamin-D-rich foods (like UV-exposed mushrooms or fortified milks) and taking a high-quality vitamin D supplement.
Looking for a premium vitamin D to support healthy muscle strength? Check out mindbodygreen's top selections for the best vitamin D supplements here.
Josey Murray is a freelance writer focused on inclusive wellness, joyful movement, mental health, and the like. A graduate of Wellesley College, where she studied English and Creative Writing, her work appears in Women’s Health, Cook & Culture, and more. By expressing her own vulnerability, she writes with warmth and empathy to help readers find self-compassion and true wellness that’s sustainable for body, mind, and planet.