RESEARCHERS in the North East say vitamin D is essential for boosting energy levels and making muscles work effectively.
A team from Newcastle University found that muscle function is improved with vitamin D supplements which are believed to enhance the activity of the mitochondria, the batteries of the body’s cells.
A hormone normally produced in the skin using energy from sunlight, vitamin D can also be found in foods such as fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks and fortified cereals. It can also be effectively boosted with supplements.
The study into the benefits of the vitamin was led by Dr Akash Sinha, who also works within Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. He said: “We have proved for the first time a link between vitamin D and mitochondria function.
“Of the patients I see, around 60% are vitamin D deficient and most people living north of Manchester will struggle to process enough vitamin D from sunlight alone, particularly during winter and spring. So a simple vitamin D tablet could help boost your energy levels – from within the cells.”
Vitamin D is obtained from sunlight on the skin. It has several important functions as it is needed to absorb calcium and form healthy bones.
It is estimated that around 60% of people in the UK are vitamin D deficient, with children under five, people with dark skin and the elderly being particularly at risk.
A deficiency in vitamin D causes rickets in children and osteomalacia – softening of the bones – in adults. Lower levels in the blood are also a risk factor for osteoporosis, impaired muscle function and an increased risk of falls and fractures.
The Tyneside study used non-invasive magnetic resonance scans to measure the response to exercise in 12 patients with severe deficiency before and after treatment with vitamin D.
All patients reported an improvement in symptoms of fatigue after having taken the supplements. In a parallel study, the group demonstrated that low vitamin D levels were associated with reduced mitochondrial function.
Dr Sinha said: “Examining this small group of patients with vitamin D deficiency who experienced symptoms of muscle fatigue, we found that those with very low vitamin D levels improved their muscle efficiency significantly when their vitamin D levels were improved.”
Alongside poor bone health, muscle fatigue is a common symptom in vitamin D deficient patients.
Meanwhile, a leading figure at Newcastle University has won a prestigious award for his outstanding work.
Prof Chris Day, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Newcastle University, was given the Association of Colleges gold award.
Those who receive the accolade are nominated by further education colleges for excellence in their chosen field.