More than 150 professional Dutch athletes are helping the division of Human Nutrition at Wageningen University, part of Wageningen UR, with research into vitamin D. Vitamin D is an essential element of our diet.
Fatty fish and sunlight are the best natural sources of vitamin D. People in countries like the Netherlands, where daily sunshine is not a regular occurrence, can easily develop a vitamin D shortage. It is important to prevent this as vitamin D, together with calcium, ensures strong bones. Scientists recently discovered that vitamin D also plays a role in muscle function. As this may have an impact on performance in sports, research among athletes is essential.
Vitamin D research
A lot of research into the link between vitamin D and muscle function is currently underway across the globe. Wageningen University has launched a project known as D-status, which will try to find out how many Dutch athletes have a vitamin D shortage and how this can be improved.
Researcher Evelien Backx explains: ‘We are studying athletes because previous research into the elderly showed a link between vitamin D and muscle function. The aim of the D-status project is to discover how much vitamin D professional athletes should be consuming. Very little is known about this subject. Some athletes already consume vast amounts of vitamin D without knowing why, while others have a shortage. Once we have found the optimum status, the next step will be to study the impact this has on their muscle strength and performance.’
More than 150 professional athletes were willing to take part in the project. They include footballers, swimmers, volleyball players and judokas from a range of sports clubs throughout the Netherlands. Backx: ‘The decision about participating largely depends on the people close to the athlete. If the coach, physician or dietician sees the benefits, the athlete is usually happy to participate.’