Maintaining muscle function throughout life is critical for healthy ageing. Although in vitro studies consistently indicate beneficial effects of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OHD) on muscle function, findings from population-based studies remain inconclusive. We therefore aimed to examine the association between 25-OHD concentration and handgrip strength across a wide age range and assess potential modifying effects of age, sex and season.
We analysed cross-sectional baseline data of 2576 eligible participants out of the first 3000 participants (recruited from March 2016 to March 2019) of the Rhineland Study, a community-based cohort study in Bonn, Germany. Multivariate linear regression models were used to assess the relation between 25-OHD levels and grip strength while adjusting for age, sex, education, smoking, season, body mass index, physical activity levels, osteoporosis and vitamin D supplementation.
Compared to participants with deficient 25-OHD levels (<30 nmol/L), grip strength was higher in those with inadequate (30 to <50 nmol/L) and adequate (≥50 to ≤125 nmol/L) levels (ß inadequate = 1.222, 95% CI: 0.377; 2.067, P = 0.005; ß adequate = 1.228, 95% CI: 0.437; 2.019, P = 0.002). Modelling on a continuous scale revealed grip strength to increase with higher 25-OHD levels up to ~100 nmol/L, after which the direction reversed (ß linear = 0.505, 95% CI: 0.179; 0.830, P = 0.002; ß quadratic = –0.153, 95% CI: –0.269; -0.038, P = 0.009). Older adults showed weaker effects of 25-OHD levels on grip strength than younger adults (ß 25OHDxAge = –0.309, 95% CI: –0.594; –0.024, P = 0.033).
Our findings highlight the importance of sufficient 25-OHD levels for optimal muscle function across the adult life span. However, vitamin D supplementation should be closely monitored to avoid detrimental effects.