With Super Bowl 51 upon us, one thing that some of the NFC and AFC champions – Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots – may share in common, other than going head to head in the big game game, is a low Vitamin D status.
Why is that important?
According to the National Institutes of Health, “Vitamin D, the (fat soluble) sunshine vitamin, is now recognized not only for its importance in promoting bone health in children and adults, but also for other health benefits, including reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as autoimmune diseases, common cancer, and cardiovascular disease.”
From a sports performance standpoint, in January 2016, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that, “a study of the Pittsburgh Steelers published in 2015 in the American Journal of Sports Medicine was especially striking. It found that vitamin D levels were significantly lower in players with at least one bone fracture. Players who were released during the preseason due to injury or poor performance also had significantly lower D levels than those who made the team, the study found.”
Not to be out done, in 2011 a study of the New York Giants, which was presented at an American Orthopaedic Society meeting for sports medicine, found an association with low Vitamin D levels and injuries. The study was undertaken, according to the WSJ, to determine whether levels of vitamin D, might be connected to soft-tissue injuries such as muscle strains.
Vitamin D is obtained from sun exposure, food, and supplements. In the human body, it must undergo two steps to be activated. The first occurs in the liver and converts vitamin D to 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] – Calcidiol, while the second step occurs primarily in the kidney and forms the physiologically active 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D – Calcitriol.
The Mayo Clinic Proceeding in 2010 noted that, “Vitamin D adequacy is best determined by measurement of the 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration in the blood.” According to Mayo, “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that the percentage of adults achieving vitamin D sufficiency as defined by 25(OH)D of at least 30 ng/mL (nonograms per milliliter) has declined from about 60% in 1988-1994 to approximately 30% in 2001-2004 in whites and from about 10% to approximately 5% in African Americans during this same time.”
New evidence – Compromised Vitamin D Status Negatively Affects Muscular Strength and Power of College athletes – reported in the December 2016 issue of the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, states that, “findings revealed that ~1 in 3 athletes residing in the southern U.S. did not meet adequate serum 25-OH D levels and ~9% were vitamin D deficient.”
The researchers, from the University of Tulsa and Oklahoma State, concluded that, “this study provides evidence that even in a region where UVB (sun) exposure should meet recommendations, vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency is a concern for as much as 30% of the collegiate athletes. The athletes with lower 25-OH D demonstrated compromised muscular strength and power.”
To reach these conclusions, the investigators performed a cross-sectional study utilizing male and female athletes (113) from Division 1 and 2 programs, in which the athlete sample, “varied by sport, sex, and training season,” – with data collection primarily taking place between September and October.
With appropriate exclusion criteria, demographic, health history forms, food frequency questionnaires, calcium intake, and sun exposure were assessed. Anthropometric (body composition) measurements were recorded, along with the Vertical Jump Test, Shuttle Run Test, Triple Hop for Distance Test and a 1 Repetition Maximum Squat Test. Then venous blood was collected, and serum was separated.
Here’s the recommendation: “These findings support that vitamin D should be considered a component of an optimal training regimen designed to maximize performance in sports requiring muscular strength and anaerobic power.”
It makes sense to check your Vitamin D.
Mackie Shilstone, a regular contributor to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, has been involved in the wellness sports performance industry for nearly 40 years. He is currently a fitness consultant to Serena Williams and has trained numerous other professional athletes and consulted a litany of professional sports franchises. Contact him at mackieshilstone.com.