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This Common Vitamin Deficiency May Weaken Muscles as We Age, New Study Finds

Vitamin D has an abundance of benefits, like boosting our immune system and helping to reverse hair loss. If you’re already taking the nutrient, we have more good news, and if not, it may be time to start. A new study has found that vitamin D also plays a vital role in supporting muscle strength as we get older.

The study recently published in the Journal of Endocrinology came to that conclusion after observing mice for a period of three months. One group was fed a daily diet containing 2200 IU/kg of vitamin D compared to another group who didn’t receive the nutrient at all, causing a deficiency. Once the study period was over, researchers found that skeletal muscle mitochondrial function was weakened by 35 to 37 percent in the mice who didn’t have any vitamin D in their diet. Mitochondria plays an important role in regulating things within your muscles, like their energy supply and cell metabolism, in order to keep them strong and healthy.

“Our results show there is a clear link between vitamin D deficiency and oxidative capacity in skeletal muscle. They suggest that vitamin D deficiency decreases mitochondrial function, as opposed to reducing the number of mitochondria in skeletal muscle,” Andrew Philp, PhD, BSc, said in a press release. “We are particularly interested to examine whether this reduction in mitochondrial function may be a cause of age related loss in skeletal muscle mass and function.”

Essentially, when you’re not getting enough vitamin D, it can cause your muscles to weaken or become damaged over time. In addition to the findings in this study, the National Institute of Health (NIH) warns that this nutrient deficiency can lead to a condition known as osteomalacia, which causes bones to soften and weaken. Some symptoms of this condition include dental abnormalities, bone pain, and muscle spams.

Along with your bone and muscle function being impaired, signs that you’re not getting enough vitamin D include feeling aches, weakness, and fatigue. Hair loss is another symptom that could indicate low levels of the nutrient. To prevent this, the NIH recommends that adults ages 51 to 70 should get 15 mcg (600 IU) of vitamin D a day and those older should be aiming to get 20 mcg (800 IU) daily.

The vitamin is commonly found in supplement form, which is a convenient way to ensure you get the recommended amount each day. If you’re shopping around for the best one to buy, we have a list of vitamin D supplements that are perfect for women over 50.

You can also get the nutrient from food sources, such as fatty fish including trout, salmon, and tuna. According to Healthline, these types of fish have moderate levels of vitamin D per serving: Three ounces of cooked salmon can provide 11 mcg (447 IU) and three ounces of canned tuna has 4 mcg (154 IU). They recommend consuming something like cod liver oil (Buy on Amazon, $15.99), since one tablespoon of this oil contains 34 mcg (1,360 IU) — almost twice the recommended daily intake.

If a spoonful of cod liver oil doesn’t sound appetizing, another alternative is enjoying a half a cup of sliced white mushrooms. It will not only make for a yummy side dish, but also deliver 366 IU of this vitamin.

Lastly, you can never go wrong with some sun exposure to deliver this nutrient to your body! Spending about 15 minutes in the sun can prompt your skin to make its own vitamin D. So take advantage of those warm weather days to boost your health, too.

However you chose to get your daily dose of this necessary vitamin, it will definitely help with retaining strong muscle function as you age!

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