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Does Vitamin D Help Depression

Should You Take A Vitamin D Supplement

Ask Dr. Doreen: Do You Believe that Vitamin D can Help Depression?

The ODS recommends that adults age 19 to 70 get 15 micrograms daily. But before you take anything, be sure to speak with your doctor.

I like for people to get a blood test to see where they are before making a recommendation about supplementation, notes Moore. If you do need extra vitamin D, either D2 or D3 will work, and you may need 1,500 to 2,000 IU daily. In cases of extreme deficiency, your doctor may give you a vitamin D injection of 50,000 IU once a week for eight weeks to bring your levels up.

Start by getting more D from sunlight and fortified foods, such as milk alternatives and cereals, if you can. In order for vitamin D to be well absorbed, it needs to be taken with a source of fat, Moore notes.

When it comes to increasing your time in the sun, the ODS says theres no clear answer about how to balance exposure with cancer risk but points out that most people dont need much sunlight exposure to make enough vitamin D. And while sunscreen is essential in helping prevent skin cancer, keep in mind that it also blocks some of the suns UVB rays, which your body needs to make vitamin D.

What Foods Have Vitamin D

Even if Vitamin D won’t fix your depression on its own, it’s still important to incorporate more Vitamin D into your diet if you have a deficiency.

Vitamin D is found in few foods naturally, and in relatively small amounts. The best sources include:

  • Salmon and other fatty fish

Some foods are also fortified with vitamin D, meaning that more is added in. These commonly include:

  • Breakfast cereals

Moreover, if you’re interested in taking a vitamin D supplement, your doctor can check your vitamin D levels and determine the proper dose you may need.

Vitamin D And Depression: Biological Underpinnings

The exact biological mechanisms linking vitamin D and depression are not fully understood. However, possible pathways include an imbalance in the calcium homeostasis of intracellular and extracellular compartments and a possible fallout of disequilibrium between glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter, and GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This, in turn, affects cellular signalling. Vitamin D may have a potential role in restoring this calcium and neurotransmitter imbalance by regulating intracellular calcium stores and cellular signalling and impacting the onset of depression favourably.

Research has uncovered a possible neurotrophic and immunomodulatory role for vitamin D, leading many researchers to label it as a neurosteroid hormone. Preclinical studies have shown that administration of vitamin D modulates the levels of inflammatory cytokines in the animal models of multiple sclerosis, a neurodegenerative condition with an inflammatory basis. This is important because evidence suggests that depression is also a condition with elevated levels of systemic inflammation. Increased region-specific expression of VDRs has been noted in the prefrontal and cingulate cortices, thalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus, all key brain areas implicated in the pathophysiology of depression.

Postulated biological links between vitamin D and depression. HPA: Hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical

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Treatment Of Depressive Symptoms Using Vitamin D Supplement

Vitamin D Supplements

While more research needs to be done to definitively answer the question: does vitamin D help with depression, we do know enough to understand that low levels of vitamin D can lead to depression-like symptoms.

We can also determine that people who live with depression have a higher chance of experiencing vitamin D deficiency. As a result of the research we do have, getting enough vitamin D-rich foods in your diet and sun exposure might be two helpful ways you can treat some of the symptoms of depression.

Its not yet known if vitamin D is a direct cause of depression, so its important to be comprehensive in the approach to treat it. Vitamin D supplements have myriad health benefits, including bone and heart health. Still, working with a therapist and psychiatrist can be the best approach for understanding all treatment options. These can include antidepressants, any supplements, and your personal medical and health profile.

If a simple blood test shows that your vitamin D levels are lower than they should be, and youre also experiencing some symptoms of depression, you can:

  • Take vitamin D supplements depending on your levels, you can take a daily over-the-counter supplement, or if your deficiency is extreme, your doctor might suggest a high-dose prescription to take once a week over the course of several weeks
  • Add vitamin D-rich foods to your diet, or eat foods that are fortified with vitamin D

Reviewed On: April 22, 2022

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No Consensus Among Researchers

Although some clinical studies have indicated that vitamin D may be useful for the management of symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders, there are also research studies that found no effects of vitamin D supplementation in relieving depression symptoms.

Moreover, many studies found vitamin supplementation is associated with reductions in depression symptoms, but researchers are not certain about the nature and direction of the causal relationship between vitamin D levels and anxiety and depression.

As an example, fibromyalgia is a complex problem in which symptoms of anxiety and depression feature prominently. Low levels of vitamin D have been frequently reported in fibromyalgia.

Researchers say that fibromyalgia patients with high levels of anxiety and depression are less exposed to sunlight and take less vitamin D in the diet therefore, it may be the fibromyalgia which causes the low levels of the vitamin.

Geng, Chunmei, et al. Vitamin D and depression: mechanisms, determination and application. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 28, no. 4, 2019, pp. 689-694.

Casseb, Gleicilaine A. S., et al. “Potential Role of Vitamin D for the Management of Depression and Anxiety.”CNS Drugs, vol. 33, 2019, pp. 619637.

Armstrong, D. J., et al. “Vitamin D deficiency is associated with anxiety and depression in fibromyalgia.”Clinical Rheumatology, vol. 26, 2007, pp. 551554.

Depression And Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D is associated with depression, but increasing serum levels of this substance in patients does not curb symptoms.
  • Similar groups, such as the elderly, the young, and people with chronic illness, are vulnerable to both depression and vitamin D deficiency.
  • Social withdrawal and a lack of self-care may cause people with depression to have lower vitamin D levels than others.
  • Social interaction and a better diet may improve depression symptoms and raise vitamin D levels.

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Assessment Of Depressive Symptoms

Depressive symptoms were measured by a short eight-item version of the validated Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. The CES-D scale is not a diagnostic instrument for clinical depression but can be used to identify people at risk of depression in population-based studies. This short version had good internal consistency at each wave and comparable psychometric properties to the full 20-item CES-D. Respondents were asked whether they had experienced any depressive symptoms, such as restless sleep or being unhappy in the week prior to interview. Respondents who reported four or more depressive symptoms in the week prior to the interview were classified as reporting elevated depressive symptoms,.

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Depression And Vitamin D Profile Of Subjects Between 21 And 60 Years

Vitamin D deficiency and depression | What you NEED to know (symptoms, testing and dose)

Table discusses the statistics of all the 70 normal subjects. The mean±SEM of the age of 40 normal subjects determined was 39.18±5.83 with a 14.9% CV. The mean±SEM of vitamin D level of the 40 normal subjects was calculated as 44.51±4.21 ng/mL, and the CV was 79.16%.

Table 5 Age vitamin D level of normal and depressed subjects of age 21 to 60 years of both sexes belonging to given as the mean±SEM

For the group of age 2160 years, the mean±SEM of ages of all 80 subjects with depression were statistically determined as 39.35±1.09, and the CV was calculated as 24.85%. The mean±SEM of vitamin D level of all subjects was statistically calculated as 24.1±1.44 ng/mL. The CV was determined as 32.1%, respectively, while 26.78±0.96 as the mean±SEM of depression . The p value of age is non-significant and p value of vitamin D is significant.

Among all the depressed subjects, the vitamin D levels of 16 subjects were found normal, while vitamin D of 40 subjects was mildly deficient, and 24 subjects with depression were severely deficient in vitamin D level.

The relations between vitamin D and depression level in subjects with depression of age group 21 to 60 years of age have been summarized in Table . A total of 80 subjects were selected which were declared as depressed after examining them on the BDI scale.

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How Is Vitamin D Produced In The Body

During exposure to sunlight, the UV-B rays convert a chemical called 7-dehydrocholesterol in the skin into previtamin D3.

Previtamin D3 then travels to the liver and picks up oxygen and hydrogen molecules to become 23-hydroxyvitamin D or 25D, the active form.

Even though its active, 25D cannot function till it reaches the kidney to acquire the final pair of oxygen and hydrogen.

This forms 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D/1,232D or calcitriol.

The Link Between A Vitamin D Deficiency And Anxiety

Multiple studies illuminate the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and anxiety. The Journal of Diabetes research conducted a study to see if supplements could improve mental health and type 2 diabetes. Forty-six women participated in the study for six months and completed a survey about their mental health. The study found that taking vitamin D supplements significantly decreased anxiety levels in women suffering from type 2 diabetes.

Another study found that those suffering from anxiety had lower levels of calcidiol. Broken down vitamin D produces the byproduct, calcidiol. The study notes that low levels of vitamin D are thought to increase the chances of depression, diabetes, and cancer. The study also notes that literature from thousands of years ago hints at the link between vitamin D deficiency and anxiety. An ancient text writes about poor mental health after lack of sun exposure.

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Vitamin D Supplements Do Not Reduce Depression

Past studies have suggested that vitamin D deficiency may lead to depression. In response, other studies propose that increasing vitamin D levels with supplements may reduce depressive symptoms. But new research, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, has found no evidence that vitamin D supplements reduce depression.

The research team, led by Dr. Jonathan A. Schaffer of the Columbia University Medical Center in New York, NY, conducted a systematic review of clinical trials that looked at how vitamin D supplementation affected depression.

The team identified seven trials involving 3,191 participants that looked at the effects of vitamin D supplementation against depression and compared this with no vitamin D supplementation.

The investigators say that almost all trials were characterized by methodological limitations and only two studies included participants who had clinical depression at study baseline.

The researchers found that vitamin D supplementation itself had no overall impact on depression.

However, further investigation revealed that for patients with clinical depression, particularly those who were taking standard antidepressant medication, vitamin D supplementation may help reduce depressive symptoms.

But Dr. Schaffer says that before this association can be confirmed, new trials that monitor the effects of vitamin D supplements in these patients need to be conducted.

Dr. Schaffer adds:

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Vitamin D Can Help You Lose Weight

Vitamin D Supplement Dose For Depression / Psych News Alert: High

Dr. Boyd points out that obesity is a known risk factor for low vitamin D levelswhich means more vitamin D may help with weight loss. One 2009 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that, in overweight or obese women with low calcium levels, those who took a daily dose of calcium paired with vitamin D were more successful shedding pounds than those who took a placebo supplement, due to an appetite-suppressing effect of the combination.

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How Often Do You Need To Get Your Vitamin D Levels Checked

Doctors do not usually order routine checks of vitamin D levels, but they might need to check your levels if you have certain medical conditions or risk factors for vitamin D deficiency. Sometimes vitamin D levels can be checked as a cause of symptoms such as long-lasting body aches, a history of falls or bone fractures without significant trauma.

Can Vitamin D Help With Seasonal Depression

People who experience depression have lower levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. According to a 2015 study, vitamin D can activate serotonin in the brain. It would make sense then that taking a supplement could help ease depression, especially at times when you may struggle to get vitamin D naturally. But while boosting your levels of vitamin D can be beneficial, supplements alone are not a proper treatment for SAD.

Its not recommended to treat seasonal depression solely with vitamin D,Anisha Patel-Dunn, DO, chief medical officer of LifeStance Health, told POPSUGAR. If you recognize that something is off, or if youre feeling low or not enjoying things like you used to, its important to reach out to a licensed therapist for help.

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Depression And Vitamin D Profile Of Subjects Of 20 Years And Below

In Group-I , subjects of 20 years and below comprising of 10 normal and 4 subjects with depression were evaluated for their vitamin D and depression level. For the 10 normal subjects, the mean±SEM of age found was 15.9±0.6 with a 12.01% CV. For vitamin D level, the mean±SEM was calculated as 17.67±0.56, and the CV was found as 9.91%.

Table 4 Age vitamin D level of normal and depressed along with BDI score of subjects 20 years of age and below of given as the mean±SEM

The depression and vitamin D profile of the 4 depressed subjects of this group showed mean±SEM of vitamin D level as 23.2±1.06, and 9.14% was recorded as the CV. The mean±SEM of BDI score was calculated as 19±3.1, and of age was calculated as17.75±1.43. The p value of age and p value of vitamin D are non-significant.

How Can You Get Enough Vitamin D In The Winter

Can a vitamin D deficiency cause depression?

During winter, many people spend more time indoors, and it gets dark earlier in the day.

Additionally, people are more bundled up when theyre outside, so less skin is exposed to the sunlight. This can lead to inadequate vitamin D levels through the winter for some people.

This may also be one factor that plays into seasonal affective disorder , a type of depression that typically occurs only during the winter months .

However, there are several ways to get more vitamin D during the winter:

  • Supplements. Taking a vitamin D supplement throughout the winter can help maintain your blood vitamin D levels even if you get less sun exposure.
  • Vitamin D foods. You can also choose more vitamin D-rich foods during the winter, such as vitamin-D fortified dairy or plant-based milk, fish like trout or salmon, or UV-exposed mushrooms (

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Evidence For The Association Between Vitamin D And Depression

Several cross-sectional studies, few cohort studies, and one case-control study have examined the association. All the studies found that depressed subjects had lower levels of vitamin D compared to controls, and those with the lowest vitamin D levels had the greatest risk of depression . These values, though statistically significant, do not establish clinical relevance beyond doubt.

While both hospital-based and community-based trials show a link between low vitamin D levels and presence and severity of depressive symptoms, it is important to examine if these associations hold good after controlling for relevant demographic, lifestyle, and geographical factors. Encouragingly, community-based trials that controlled for age, gender, smoking, and body mass index have also found an inverse correlation between serum levels of 25D and levels of depression.

These findings are partly tempered by the conclusions from two negative studies among the elderly one a large Chinese epidemiologic study of men and women aged 5070 years that did not show any association between vitamin D and depression and the other, a cohort study from Hong Kong , where no relationship was observed between baseline vitamin D level and depression status at four-year follow-up. Notably, both these studies showed that the odds ratios turned insignificant after adjusting for several key confounders.

Taking Vitamin D For Depression

Taking vitamin D for depression may help cheer you up especially if vitamin D levels in your body are low. However if you do suffer from depression it’s important to see a qualified health care provider in addition to getting plenty of vitamin D.

Vitamin D for depression

While getting enough vitamin D isn’t a guarantee that you’ll avoid depression it may significantly reduce your risk of depressive symptoms. Low concentrations of vitamin D in your body are associated with depression and the lower your vitamin D levels the higher your risk according to a review published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. The widespread distribution of vitamin D receptors in the brain may play a role in vitamin D’s effects on your mood.

Vitamin D deficiency

Many people in the United States get too little vitamin D including people with depression and other mental disorders according to an article in Issues in Mental Health and Nursing. The article suggests that specific groups of people are at particular risk of developing vitamin D deficiency and depression including teenagers the elderly people who are obese and individuals with chronic illnesses such as diabetes.

Ways to boost vitamin D

Treating depression

For more information or if you have concerns about depression visit Reid Psychiatric Services for more information or call 983-3050.

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