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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


What do Maintaining Muscle, Being Strong and Healthy Aging Share? Vitamin D!

By Michael McBurney

Vitamin D is most commonly associated with bone metabolism. Did you know low vitamin D status also affects muscle?

Liu and colleagues report that lower 25(OH)D concentrations are linked with greater muscle mass loss in middle-aged people. Using a subset of 3,289 community-dwelling residents from the Nutrition and Health of Aging Population in China Project living in Beijing and Shanghai, they report muscle mass obtained with dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans at baseline and 6 years later in 568 participants. Mean plasma 25(OH)D was 20 nmol/L and 53.7% had levels below 50 nmol/L. Lower vitamin D concentrations were associated with significantly greater loss of appendicular skeletal muscle mass (ASMM).  

These results confirm findings from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam where men and women having serum 25(OH)D concentrations < 50 nmol/L were twice as likely to experience ASSM loss during 3 years.  Low serum 25(OH)D levels are associated with muscle weakness in elderly people (Smit et al, 2012). Vitamin D supplementation in healthy men and women 70y and older with mean serum 25(OH)D levels of ~55 nmol/L increased these levels to ~85 nmol/L and significantly improved quadriceps strength (Pfeifer et al, 2009). 4000 IU vitamin D daily for 4 months in women ≥65y (mean baseline serum 25(OH)D levels ~47 nmol/L) significantly increased intramyonuclear VDR concentration 30% and muscle fiber size by 10% (Ceglia et al., 2013).

Still, we don’t have all the answers on the mechanisms whereby  vitamin D acts muscle. More research is needed. In the meantime, maintain serum 25(OH)D concentrations above 50 nmol/L.

Main Citation

Liu G, Lu L, Sun Q, Ye X, Sun L, Liu X, Zong G, Li H, Lin X. Poor vitamin D status is prospectively associated with greater muscle mass loss in middle-aged and elderly Chinese individuals. 2014 J Acad Nutr Diet doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2014.05.012

Other Citations

Visser M, Deeg DJH, Lips P. Low vitamin D and high parathyroid hormone levels as determinants of loss of muscle strength and muscle mass (sarcopenia): The Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam. 2003 JCEM doi: 10.1210/jc.2003-030604

Smit E, Crespo CJ, Michael Y, Ramirez-Marrero FA, Brodowicz GR, Bartlett S, Andersen RE. The effect of vitamin D and frailty on mortality among non-institutionalized US older adults. 2012 EJCN

Pfeiffer M, Begerow B, Minne HW, Suppan K, Fahrleitner-Pammer A, Dobnig H. Effects of long-term vitamin D and calcium supplementation on falls and parameters of muscle function in community-dwelling older individuals.

Ceglia L, Niramitmahapanya S, d Silva Morais M, Rivas DA, Harris SS, Bischoff-Ferrari H, Fielding RA, Dawson-Hughes B. A randomized study on the effect of vitamin D3 supplementation on skeletal muscle morphology and vitamin D receptor concentration in older women. 2013 JCEM