Are you getting enough of the sunshine vitamin? Vitamin D deficiencies are common even among healthy young people, and low levels of this vitamin may play a role in a variety of chronic diseases including heart disease, autoimmune diseases, infections, depression, and osteoporosis. Now, a study shows low vitamin D levels may also contribute to weak, flabby muscles.
Can Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Flabby Muscles?
When researchers at the University of California measured vitamin D blood levels in ninety healthy young women between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two, they found that six out of ten of these women had levels that were too low. (less than 29 nanograms per millimeter). They also took measurements to assess the size of their muscles and how much fat their muscles contained. To their surprise, they found that there was a correlation between vitamin D levels and muscle fat in these women. The lower their vitamin D levels, the more muscle fat they had.
It's not clear how or why a deficiency in vitamin D would lead to weak, flabby muscles. Deficiencies in vitamin D may cause muscle weakness and an increased risk of falling, especially among older people who often have inadequate levels of this vitamin due to poor absorption. People with vitamin D deficiencies can also have muscle pain and generalized muscle aches, but this is the first study to correlate vitamin D levels and muscle fat.
A Deficiency of Vitamin D May Contribute to Sarcopenia
When muscle tissue is replaced with fat, it leads to a condition called sarcopenia which is common even among people of normal weight - especially older people who are sedentary. With sarcopenia, muscle fibers are gradually replaced with fat. This leads to loss of muscle strength and untoned, flabby muscles - a condition that some refer to as "flabby thin". Exercise - especially resistance training - can offset some of the sarcopenic effect that occurs as people grow older. As it turns out, a deficiency in vitamin D may play a role too.
Will Vitamin D Supplements Build Stronger Muscles?
Can taking a vitamin D supplement reduce the effects of sarcopenia and build stronger muscles? More research is needed to see whether vitamin D in supplement form really helps. It's a good idea for everyone to get their vitamin D level checked and take supplements to boost levels into the normal range - if necessary. On the other hand, no one should take vitamin D supplements for the sole purpose of building stronger muscles.
The best way to prevent sarcopenia and fat, flabby muscles is to do regular resistance training exercise and eat a balanced diet that contains sufficient protein, although people who have a deficiency in vitamin D may benefit from a supplement.