Muscle Traits, Sarcopenia, and Sarcopenic Obesity: A Vitamin D Mendelian Randomization Study

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Sutherland, Joshua P.; orcid: 0000-0003-4102-3164; email:; email: 
Zhou, Ang; email:; email: 
Hyppönen, Elina; orcid: 0000-0003-3670-9399; email:; email:; email: 

(1) Background: Observational studies associate vitamin D deficiency with muscle disorders, while some clinical trial data support a minor association between the vitamin and skeletal muscle performance in healthy subjects. Vitamin D receptor knockout mice studies confirm the relationship between vitamin D and skeletal muscle; however, causal inference in humans is challenging due to the ethical implications of including vitamin D-deficient participants in randomized trials. This study uses genetic methods to safely explore causal underpinnings for the relationship between 25(OH)D concentrations and skeletal muscle-related traits, including grip strength and combined arm skeletal muscle mass, and extends this analysis to suspected pathophysiology in the form of probable sarcopenia and sarcopenic obesity. (2) Methods: We conducted Mendelian randomization (MR) analyses in up to 307,281 participants from the UK Biobank of whom 25,414 had probable sarcopenia and 16,520 had sarcopenic obesity. In total, 35 variants were used to instrument 25(OH)D and MR analyses conducted using multiple approaches. (3) Results: Genetic analyses provided support for a relationship between genetically predicted higher 25(OH)D and skeletal muscle traits, with linear MR analyses for grip strength showing 0.11 kg (95% CI 0.04, 0.19) greater contractile force per 10 unit higher 25(OH)D, while there was a modest association with skeletal muscle mass (0.01 kg (95% CI 0.003, 0.02) greater muscle mass). For probable sarcopenia risk, there was suggestive evidence for lower odds by higher 25(OH)D (OR 0.96 (95% CI 0.92, 1.00)); however, this did not reflect an association with sarcopenic obesity (OR 0.97 (95% CI 0.93, 1.02)), but was seen in probable sarcopenia cases who were not obese (OR 0.92 (95% CI 0.86, 0.98)). Results were similar across multiple MR approaches. (4) Conclusions: Our study supports a causal relationship between 25(OH)D and skeletal muscle health. While evidence for benefit did not extend to lower risk of sarcopenic obesity, effective vitamin D-deficiency prevention strategies may help reduce age-related muscle weakness.


Peer reviewed: True

Funder: Australian Research Training Program Scholarship

vitamin D, nutritional status, vitamin D deficiency, sarcopenic obesity, grip strength, sarcopenia, skeletal muscle, public health
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National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (11123603)