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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

Is cell function linked to vitamin D status?

Mitochondria are your power plants. They generate adenosine triphosphate or ATP. ATP is often called the “molecular unit of currency of intracellular energy.” If you have fatigue, or are easily fatigued, it may be that your mitochondria are not making enough ATP.

I have written before about the effects of vitamin D on mitochondrial function, but in rats not humans.

Vitamin D3 reduces metabolic stress in the liver? Posted on October 17, 2012 by John Cannell, MD

George N, Peeyush Kumar T, Antony S, Jayanarayanan S, Paulose CS.  Effect of vitamin D3 in reducing metabolic and oxidative stress in the liver of streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Br J Nutr. 2012 Jan 6:1-9.

Now, Doctor Akash Sinha working under the supervision of senior author Professor Tim Cheetham, just released a remarkable human study.

Sinha A, Hollingsworth KG, Ball S, Cheetham T.  Improving the vitamin D status of vitamin D deficient adults is associated with improved mitochondrial oxidative function in skeletal muscle. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Mar;98(3):E509-13.

Twelve individuals with severe vitamin D deficiency (< 6 ng/ml) who presented with fatigue and/or muscle cramps underwent mitochondrial testing at baseline and then again after vitamin D supplementation. They administered, 20,000 IU every other day for 12 weeks. Their mean vitamin D levels increased from about 4 ng/ml to about 45 ng/ml in 12 weeks.

The mitochondrial test they used (31P-MRS ) is a test of multiple mitochondrial functions. Their test of oxidative phosphorylation (a measure of ATP production) improved significantly (p=.001), achieving the same 31P-MRS as normal controls.

The authors concluded:

“In conclusion, these data show that cholecalciferol therapy in symptomatic, vitamin D-deficient individuals results in improved mitochondrial oxidative function as measured by 31P-MRS.”

I admire the dose they used, essentially 10,000 IU/day. In order to prevent under dosing in scientific studies, such doses are needed lest the scientists miss a treatment effect.

  About: John Cannell, MD

Dr. John Cannell is founder of the Vitamin D Council. He has written many peer-reviewed papers on vitamin D and speaks frequently across the United States on the subject. Dr. Cannell holds an M.D. and has served the medical field as a general practitioner, emergency physician, and psychiatrist.

4 Responses to Is cell function linked to vitamin D status?

  1. Rita and Misty says:

    Yes, the dose used in the above study is a great step in the right direction!

    I contemplate the day that a study will use 25(OH)D level rather than dose, and aim for 50 ng/ml (or higher)…imagine the wonderful treatment effects we’ll see then….

    Progress is so extraordinarily slow, but at least we are moving in the right direction.

  2. roger.rolfe@sympatico.ca says:

    I was waiting for this study to come along. When I started supplementing in 2010, what I noticed after 3 months was my improved energy level. Fatigue had been a big problem for me, especially during the after lunch period. That simply disappeared as a problem after these 3 months. I remember it well. It was during the month of March and I hadn’t been tired after lunch for a few weeks. I found that surprising and wondered what that was all about. Then it donned on me that the only thing I had been doing differently was taking 4000IU of D3 since January. I knew it was the vitamin D I was taking. Up to then, I wasn’t really sold on its benefits. I hadn’t done much research and was just thinking it might help. From that moment on, I was sold and I’ve never looked back. Now I keep my blood levels up around 65 ng/ml testing twice a year. I take 5000IU in summer and 7000IU in winter to maintain that level. And the fatigue is completely gone.

  3. Rita and Misty says:


    I found the attached article in Science News. And, I thought that it may hold interest for you. Hope you enjoy it!

    Significant Link Found Between Daytime Sleepiness and Vitamin D


  4. From the study’s text: “This finding suggests that changes in mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation in skeletal muscle could at least be partly responsible for the fatigue experienced by these patients. For the first time, we demonstrate a link between vitamin D and the mitochondria in human skeletal muscle.”