A high prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency/deficiency, which may impact on health and training ability, is evident among athletes worldwide. This observational study investigated the vitamin D status of elite Irish athletes and determined the effect of wintertime supplementation on status.
Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D], calcium, and plasma parathyroid hormone were analyzed in elite athletes in November 2010 (17 boxers, 33 paralympians) or March 2011 (34 Gaelic Athletic Association [GAA] players). A subset of boxers and paralympians (n = 27) were supplemented during the winter months with either 5,000 IU vitamin D3/d for 10–12 weeks or 50,000 IU on one or two occasions. Biochemical analysis was repeated following supplementation.
Median 25(OH)D of all athletes at baseline was 48.4 nmol/L. Vitamin D insufficiency/deficiency (serum 25(OH)D <50 nmol/L) was particularly evident among GAA players (94%) due to month of sampling. Wintertime supplementation (all doses) significantly increased 25(OH)D (median 62.8 nmol/L at baseline vs. 71.1 nmol/L in April or May; p = .001) and corrected any insufficiencies/deficiencies in this subset of athletes. In contrast, 25(OH)D significantly decreased in those that did not receive a vitamin D supplement, with 74% of athletes classed as vitamin D insufficient/deficient after winter, compared with only 35% at baseline.
This study has highlighted a high prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency/deficiency among elite Irish athletes and demonstrated that wintertime vitamin D3 supplementation is an appropriate regimen to ensure vitamin D sufficiency in athletes during winter and early spring.