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A poor vitamin D status may increase muscle mass loss

Published on

29 August 2014

A new study from China reports that lower blood vitamin D concentrations seem to be linked to greater age-related muscle mass loss independent of other risk factors.

The prospective cohort study measured blood vitamin D concentrations and body compositions of 568 par- ticipants, aged 50 to 70, over six years (1). The study results showed that participants with the lowest vi- tamin D levels lost significantly more absolute muscle mass over time compared to participants with the highest blood levels. The association was independent of bone mineral density, markers of liver and renal dysfunctions, inflammation, protein intake and other risk factors for muscle mass loss.

The researchers noted that several observational studies have suggested that poor vitamin D status was associated with reduced muscle strength (2) and muscle mass (3) among older people. In addition, a few prospective studies have generated contradicting results, which might be due to different vitamin D statuses between the study populations (4–6). Chronic low-grade inflammation has been recognized to play an impor- tant role in the aging process and in aged-related tissue damage and muscle loss, while vitamin D was found to potentially having an anti-inflammatory efficacy (7). Aging populations are known to be especially vulner- able to vitamin D deficiency because of the lower yield of vitamin D in skin and age-related body fat mass accumulation, which in turn could reduce the bioavailability of vitamin D. Among American and European aged populations, a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency has been documented (8) and a similarly high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency was also observed in the aged Chinese population (9).


  1. Liu G. et al. Poor Vitamin D Status Is Prospectively Associated with Greater Muscle Mass Loss in Middle-Aged and Elderly Chinese Individuals. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Published online July 2014.
  2. Holick M. F. Vitamin D: The other steroid hormone for muscle function and strength. Menopause. 2009; 16(6):1077–1078.
  3. Lee S. G. et al. Additive association of vitamin D insufficiency and sarcopenia with low femoral bone mineral density in noninstitutionalized elderly population: The Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys 2009-2010. Osteoporos Int. 2013; 24(11):2789–2799.
  4. Chan R. et al. Not all elderly people benefit from vitamin D supplementation with respect to physical function: Results from the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Study, Hong Kong. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2012; 60(2):290–295.
  5. Scott D. et al. A prospective study of the associations between 25-hydroxyvitamin D, sarcopenia progression and physical activity in older adults. Clin Endocrinol. 2010; 73(5):581–587.
  6. Visser M. et al. Low vitamin D and high parathyroid hormone levels as determinants of loss of muscle strength and muscle mass (sarcopenia): The Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam. J Clin Endocr Metab. 2003; 88(12):5766–5772.
  7. Zittermann A. et al. Vitamin D supplementation enhances the beneficial effects of weight loss on cardiovascular disease risk markers. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009; 89(5):1321–1327.
  8. Holick M. F. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007; 357(3):266–281.
  9. Zhang W. et al. A glimpse of vitamin D status in Mainland China. Nutrition. 2013; 29(7):953–957.

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