Vitamin D Deficiency Correlated with Ankle and Foot Injuries

Vitamin D, ankle injury, foot injury, vitamin defficiency

In a recent correlation study, people that suffer from ankle and foot injuries are more likely to also be deficient in vitamin D. This correlation between vitamin D deficiency and risk for foot and ankle injuries might serve to offer some dietary advice to athletes, the elderly, and others who are at higher risk of bone damage.

Vitamin D can act as both a nutrient and a hormone in the human body. Traditionally it has been touted as one of the main actors in helping to build and repair bone. However other research has indicated that this vitamin is also useful for reducing the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancers, multiple sclerosis, and infectious diseases.

In practice vitamin D can be relatively difficult to acquire in the doses necessary for promoting health. While dairy products and fatty fishes contain vitamin D, many Americans do not consume these foods regularly enough to meet their daily intake requirements. In an effort to address this, some foods such as breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin D. In addition, though it is indeed possible to gain vitamin D from sun exposure, this requires at least 15 minutes a day of being outside with skin exposed to the sun.

Because of the difficulty in incorporating enough vitamin D into the diet, most people are recommended to take a vitamin supplement. However will be discussed below, some will contend that even that is not sufficient.

In attempting to try and understand the human body’s nutritional needs, one must think of health and illness as a continuum, not as set levels. In general there is no such thing as a magic cut-off number that delineates the boundary between health and illness. To be sure, people that are severely deficient in vitamin D will suffer from rickets and other bone-weakening diseases. However, the absence of such diseases does not imply health. In fact an individual may seem healthy, but due to less-than-optimal levels of vitamins be at a greater long-term risk for chronic diseases.

Currently there is a scientific debate about how much vitamin D a person ought to acquire in a single day. A 2010 study recommended tripling the USDA guidelines for vitamin D uptake to 600 IU per day. Such a level is higher than the 400 IU that many multivitamins contain. Though it is still unclear how much vitamin D is needed to promote health, at the very least the margin for error is forgiving. Even at doses as high as 4,000 IU of vitamin D per day, no evidence of bodily harm has been detected.

In a recent study published in Foot and Ankle International, the correlation between vitamin D deficiency and foot and ankle injuries was examined. The study examined a cohort of 75 patients, all of whom suffered from foot and ankle injuries. Of these patients, 47 percent had levels of vitamin D that would be considered “insufficient” (less than 30 ng/mL), and 13 percent were found to be vitamin D “deficient” (less than 20 ng/mL). It was also found that patients that had suffered from a fracture had significantly less vitamin D than patients that only had experienced a sprain.

As with interpreting any study, it is imperative not to jump to a conclusion of causation. Because this was only a correlation study, there is no evidence to support either the claim that ankle and foot injuries cause vitamin D deficiency or that vitamin D deficiency causes foot and ankle injuries. However interpreting this in the context of what is already known about the role that vitamin D plays in growing bones does make sense. Therefore the elderly, athletes in high-impact sports, and people already suffering from ankle and foot injuries might be advised to increase the levels of vitamin D in their diets.

By Sarah Takushi


Food and Ankle International

Harvard School of Public Health

Australian Family Physician