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Study Reveals How Vitamin D Boosts Energy from Within Cells

Update Date: Apr 05, 2013 04:10 PM EDT

Vitamin D supplements may improve muscle function by enhancing the activity of the mitochondria, the "power houses" of cells that convert energy into forms that the body can use.

Vitamin D is a hormone produced by the skin using energy from sunlight.  The vitamin, which is vital for making our muscles work efficiently and boosting our energy levels, can also be found in fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks and fortified cereals.  However, it can also be effectively boosted with Vitamin D supplements.

Lead author Dr. Akash Sinha of Newcastle University in UK used non-invasive magnetic resonance scans to measure the response to exercise in 12 patients with severe vitamin D deficiency before and after treatment with vitamin D.

"The scans provided a unique window into what is really going on in the muscle as it works," Sinha explained in a statement

"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."

Sinha and his team believe that muscle fatigue experienced by people with vitamin deficiency could be due to the reduced efficiency of the mitochondria within each cell of the body.

Mitochondria use glucose and oxygen to turn energy into ATP, an energy-rich molecule that can be used to power the cell.  Muscle cells need a lot of ATP for movement and they use phosphocreatine as a ready and available energy source to make ATP.

The body's phosphocreatine store is replenished by the mitochondria after muscle contraction.  Researchers can determine mitochondrial efficiency by measuring the time it takes to replenish phosphocreatine store. The more efficient the mitochondrial function, the shorter the phosphocreatine recovery times.

Researchers found that phosphocreatine recovery rates significantly improved after the patients took a fixed dose of oral vitamin D for 10 to 12 weeks. The study revealed that the average phosphocreatine recovery half time decreased from 34.4 sec to 27.8 sec, and all patients reported an improvement in symptoms of fatigue after having taken the supplements. In another study, Sinha and his team also demonstrated that low Vitamin D levels were associated with reduced mitochondrial function.

"We have proved for the first time a link between vitamin D and mitochondria function," Sinha said, adding that a simple vitamin D tablet could help boost energy levels from within the cells.

The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

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