Vitamin and mineral supplements took another blow this week.

A large review of multiple studies found there was no tangible benefit in taking them when it came to warding off cognitive decline or dementia.

The study, published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, featured over 83,000 people and is one of many recent studies that have doused water on the nutritional supplements industry and those who take regular vitamins and minerals for health reasons. But, is all hope lost when it comes to vitamins and mineral supplementation?

Turns out, there still may be some benefit when it comes to athletic performance and vitamin D.

A recent Wall Street Journal article noted many professional American teams including the National Football League are now regularly testing their athletes’ vitamin D levels and supplementing accordingly.

This is on the heels of a 2017 study by the Hospital for Special Surgery in the US that found that more than half of all college football players who took part in the NFL Combine had “inadequate” levels of vitamin D.

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There was also a study that came out in 2015 which looked at 80 Pittsburgh Steelers during the preseason and found a correlation between adequate levels of vitamin D and players who made the roster and had less instances of bone fracture injuries.

A 2011 study published in the United States National Library of Medicine found there is a direct link between vitamin D deficiency and muscle and bone structure and thus athletic performance. The study recommended athletes and regular people get their vitamin D levels tested and supplement accordingly. Most studies believe that around two-thirds of the general population have some level of vitamin D deficiency.

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Another study out of Central Washington University found that some athletes experience high levels of Vitamin D deficiency more so than others, largely related to a lack of sun exposure. The study looked at various groups of specific athletes and found some very interesting results.

The highest was a group of Israeli athletes and dancers, who experienced a 73 per cent insufficiency compared to other groups. The study also found that UK professional athletes such as jockeys, rugby and soccer players experienced a 62 per cent deficiency and Middle Eastern sportsmen experienced a 58 per cent insufficiency.

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The study attributed most of the vitamin D deficiency to high levels of training combined with a lack of sun exposure given there is not a lot of sunlight in England and most Middle Eastern athletes are forced to train indoors because of the heat.

Sun exposure is well known as the best natural way to get vitamin D as the body makes it via cholesterol in your skin when it is exposed to sunlight.

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The study, which looked at athletes who do not get a lot of sunlight or are forced to train indoors, recommended athletes get their Vitamin D levels tested and thus possible supplementation, as well as noting, “athlete or not, optimal vitamin D status is essential to countless fundamental body functions, making it important for all individuals to obtain appropriate levels”.

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It concluded that while “there is still limited evidence to support vitamin D as a performance enhancer, sports physicians should consider the importance of optimal vitamin D status to prevent stress fractures and muscle injury”.

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Another study, co-authored out of Liverpool John Moores University that came out in 2018, found low levels of vitamin D in basketball players during the winter months given they play their sports largely indoors, and also that race and skin colour play a part in vitamin D levels concerning sun exposure. The study also warned of potential excessive vitamin D supplementation that could be detrimental to an athlete’s health due to toxicity.