You’ve probably heard a lot about the benefits of Vitamin D lately. And for good reason. Ongoing research is uncovering a positive link between calcium, vitamin D, the prevention of osteoporosis, and improved bone health. This research is of special interest for women in military training.
Increased stress to bones during military bootcamp and the possibility of reduced exposure to sunlight (which would help generate Vitamin D) can spell disaster and increase stress bone fractures for women in the military.
Could Vitamin D be the essential nutrient that today’s military need?
A recent study of female soldiers in a US Army basic combat training (BCT) program revealed some important links between Vitamin D and increased bone turnover. This super nutrient, coupled with adequate calcium intake, may play a crucial role in protection against stress fracture during intense physical training. Like what you experience in bootcamp.
Over the past few years, there’s been a buzz around the numerous health benefits of Vitamin D.
Its’ benefits have ranged from immune boosting to promoting heart health and maintaining skeletal calcium balance. There seems to be no end to its positive effects.
Vitamin D is also an endocrine regulator of calcium, aiding the body’s absorption of calcium and phosphate in the intestine. It regulates calcium homeostasis, directly impacting bone mineral density and overall bone strength. Ultimately, optimal Vitamin D intake contributes to fewer injuries and falls, and is a key preventative measure against osteoporosis too.
What the Research Says: Benefits of Vitamin D
This study took place in Southeastern US over a 10 week BCT course and involved 91 female soldiers whose anthropometric, dietary intake and biological data were analyzed in 3 week intervals.
One week before the study, body composition and demographic data were obtained. During the study, participants endured rigorous outdoor aerobic and strength training. Researchers focused on key variables including race, time, and type of physical exertion. Models were mixed and incorporated fixed and random variables.
Results showed that biomarkers of bone formation and bone resorption increased during the training period, leading to increased bone turnover.
Importantly, while Serum 25(OH)D levels during the training did fluctuate among whites and non-whites, markers of bone formation and resorption increased.
This research and the positive results are not limited to this study. Findings published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research concluded that using a dietary supplement regimen of calcium and Vitamin D resulted in fewer stress fractures.
This should be of special interest for anybody entering military bootcamp who wants to succeed since 40% of men and 60% of women who suffer from stress fractures during military bootcamp training don’t finish.
Bottom line: You need Vitamin D for bone health!
Does Vitamin D Do Anything Else?
Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption. It also plays a part in immune function, reduction of inflammation, cell growth, and neuromuscular function.
Vitamin D daily requirements are set by the Food and Nutrition Board. The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) are 600 IU for men and women aged 19–50 years old.
It’s important to be aware that these RDA’s are set at minimum standards that would supply 97%-98% of health people. And, it accounts for a minimal level of sun exposure.
Because of the increased awareness of skin cancer more people use sunblock. Especially during military training. Just like a stress fracture, a bad burn could affect your success in bootcamp.
What are the other factors that inhibit natural sun exposure which reduces how well your body converts sunlight to Vitamin D?
- The season
- Time of day
- Hours of available daylight
- Cloud coverage
- Skin melanin content.