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Higher vitamin D intake may improve athletes’ muscle strength and performance

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A new review article in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS) highlights the benefits of vitamin D in athletes.

According to the article, vitamin D supplements help to increase muscle strength in athletes who are vitamin D deficient. Higher vitamin D levels have also been linked to lower injury risk and improved athletic performance, the authors said.

“Vitamin D deficiency commonly affects many people around the world,” commented lead study author and orthopaedic surgeon Dr Geoffrey D. Abrams. “With higher serum levels of vitamin D playing a role in muscle strength, injury prevention, and sports performance, it’s essential for individuals to take necessary steps to ensure they’re getting an adequate amount of vitamin D intake, whether through direct sunlight or other sources including fish, eggs, fortified dairy products, and dietary supplements. Studies also have shown that daily vitamin D supplements are proven to be more effective than weekly or monthly doses.”

People with very low vitamin D blood levels may be more likely to experience muscle cramps, bone pain or joint pain, the authors noted.

Amongst the studies reviewed, one found that vitamin D supplementation in a group of athletes resulted in increased upper and lower body strength.

Another study found a statistically significant correlation between lower vitamin D levels and an athlete’s release from a team due to poor performance or injury before the start of the regular season, and a third study showed that a group receiving vitamin D supplementation had increased vertical jump heights, while others who took a placebo experienced no change.

A UK study involving 1,000 Royal Marine recruits revealed that recruits with lower vitamin D levels had a 60% higher incidence of stress fractures than recruits with greater vitamin D concentrations.

“While vitamin D supplementation improves function and decreases fracture risk in people who are vitamin D deficient, it’s important for individuals to be aware of the safe dosage amount, which varies with age and the status of an individual’s current vitamin D level,” explained Dr Abrams. “We are not advocating for athletes to take additional vitamin D without first speaking with a doctor.”