One of the less-than-settled areas of science regards the use of vitamin D supplements for women experiencing menopause. Vitamin D deficiency is a known problem for postmenopausal women around the world, but how much supplementation can help reduce things such as muscle weakness and the risk of falling is less than clear.
A study from Sao Paulo, Brazil, that makes use of science’s gold standard—the double-blind, placebo-controlled trial—has added a bit more evidence to the “pro-D” side of things. The findings show that vitamin D3 supplements can reduce the loss of muscle mass in women and help improve muscle strength after menopause.
The study used 160 postmenopausal Brazilian women as subjects. They were randomized into a group that received 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day and a placebo group, and were observed for nine months. Total muscle mass was estimated by an X-ray absorption test and muscle strength was evaluated using handgrip strength and a chair-rising test. Measurements were taken at the start and end of the observation period.
Among the vitamin D group, muscle strength showed a 25.3% increase as measured by the chair-rising test. Within the placebo group, a 6.8% loss in muscle mass was observed. The placebo group was also twice as likely to experience a fall. No other significant differences in muscle mass or strength were observed.
Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that vitamin D3 supplementation could help protect against sarcopenia, the term used for age-related loss of muscle tissue. Also useful is the fact that some of the women who showed benefits from using D3 supplements had been postmenopausal for 12 years or more. This suggests that women would not necessarily need to begin supplementation immediately after menopause in order to see improvements.
While the researchers admit that their findings are not likely to provide a definitive answer to the vitamin D question, they are confident that it has contributed valuable evidence supporting the use of the supplement among women experiencing menopause.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“Vitamin D3 supplementation helps women build muscle even after menopause,” EurekAlert web site, September 30, 2015; http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-09/tnam-vds091715.php, last accessed June 24, 2016.