Vitamin D deficiency is higher among certain demographic segments, including women, the elderly, and the obese. All three groups also share an increased risk of pelvic floor problems, including urinary incontinence. Could there be a connection? Perhaps so, according to recent research.

study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology compared vitamin D levels with incidence of various forms of pelvic floor disorder among 1,881 women, average age 48. Those with low levels of vitamin D (characterized as less than 30 nanograms per milliliter, or ng/ml) had a 170% increased risk of urinary incontinence, compared to those with higher blood levels. Why might this be? As a hormone, vitamin D supports a myriad of bodily functions, including maintenance of muscle and bone. As a result, deficiency could undermine the muscular infrastructure of the pelvis needed for urinary control.

Related research suggests that losing weight could result in as much as a 47% decrease in episodes of incontinence, perhaps by reducing the pressure that excess adipose tissue places on the pelvis — and by increasing levels of vitamin D: Maintaining levels of vitamin D may lower your risk of other ailments, including fractures, tooth loss, depression, chronic pain, and even certain cancers. Winter’s shorter, colder days make it harder to get enough vitamin D from the sun — but you can boost your “D” by eating canned salmon and canned sardines.

Published December 1, 2011