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Does Vitamin D Help With Depression

Is There A Link Between Vitamin D Deficiency And Depression

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

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Described as the sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D has steadily drawn public interest as a potential treatment for depression.

Could this inexpensive supplement counteract the effects of this widespread and, often, debilitating disorder?

While some research indicates that people with depression have lower levels of vitamin D than their counterparts without depression, so far, no large-scale study has found that the vitamin cures the condition.

The causes and symptoms of depression are multifaceted, which means that often no one drug, vitamin, or identified treatment can make them disappear entirely.

Should I Start Taking Vitamin D For Depression

As of yet, there isnt sufficient evidence to suggest that taking vitamin D can treat depression.

However, it is true that many of us are likely to be deficient in this vitamin. In fact, in the UK, the NHS recommends that everyone should think about taking a vitamin D supplement during the winter months. This is because its unlikely that we get enough exposure to the sun to make all the vitamin D we need.

Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a number of health problems such as rickets and poor teeth, bone and muscle health.

Its also worth noting that your skin tone can make a difference to how much vitamin D you can make from sunlight. People with a light skin tone appear to be better able to produce vitamin D from sunlight exposure than those with darker skin tones.

In short, increasing your intake of vitamin D may be a very wise health decision in any case, even if its effects on mental health are not completely clear.

Does Vitamin D Help With Depression

Evidence suggests that vitamin D can help with depression, despite how some scientists feel. To clarify, most scientists refute the link between this vitamin and depression because there isnt enough research on it. However, some studies show promising results.

For example, one study found that some of the brain receptors are associated with vitamin D and depression. It went on to say that vitamin D may act on cells and stimulate cell growth. In theory, a vitamin D deficiency can limit this behavior and stunt cell growth. This might stunt brain function as a whole.

The Cambridge University Press lists a journal that aimed to find a link between vitamin D and depression. The meta-analysis and review found that people with depression seemed to have low levels of vitamin D. They concluded that depression is more likely to surface in people with vitamin D deficiencies than people with normal or high levels.

So, does vitamin D help with depression? Evidence shows that people struggling with depression have low levels of vitamin D. It might help, although there is limited research. Either way, its an essential nutrient for the following reasons:

  • Helps with bone health
  • It can prevent multiple sclerosis
  • Helps the body regular blood sugar levels

Its evident that vitamin D is crucial to overall health. Bad physical health can lead to bad mental health. Its important to get enough vitamin D to promote a healthy body and mind.

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Best Vitamins For Depression

B vitamins play an important role in helping the brain produce adequate levels of the chemicals required to manage mood and other functions, according to the Mayo Clinic. If someone has low levels of B-vitamins and in particular B-12, they may be more likely to experience symptoms of depression. B-vitamin deficiencies are often seen in people who have depression.

Even without a specific disorder, it can become increasingly difficult for a persons body to absorb enough vitamin B-12 as they age. Depression can often include symptoms of fatigue, and B-vitamins can help combat that. B-12, in particular, is known for being important to reduce fatigue.

Some of the foods that contain high levels of B-12 include fish, lean meats, eggs, poultry and milk. Certain breakfast cereals may be fortified with B-12 as well. B-12 supplementation can help if someone is a vegan or vegetarian or may not be getting enough of the vitamin for any reason.

Other B vitamins for depression, or vitamins that play a role in brain health include:

Vitamin D Can Help You Lose Weight

Increase your vitamin D for depression

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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Is Vitamin D Useful For Help With Anxiety And Depression

The use of vitamin D by doctors in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder is widespread. According to studies, the treatment may be as effective as light therapy. As a type of depression that is typically treated with light, light therapy has been used by the government in the 1980s. It is a common condition for people with seasonal affective disorder to lack vitamin D.

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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Assessment Of Publication Bias

Publication bias was examined by the construction of a funnel plot showing the relationship between the SMD and the SE of logarithmic SMD, the Begg’s rank correlation, and Egger’s regression tests. The symmetric funnel plot suggested no evidence of publication bias . Egger’s test and Begg’s test yielded similar results to the visual inspection for symmetry of funnel plot: Egger P = .258 Begg P = .546.

Vitamin D And Depression: A Loose Correlation

How Vitamin D helps fight depression and boost weight loss

What we know about the relationship of vitamin D to depression isnt much.

For instance, we know that vitamin D supplementation is not a cure for depressed people.

Clinical trials of dietary supplement treatment reported by the NIH did not find any statistically significant benefits or impact on depressed individuals from vitamin D supplementation.

But thats not the complete picture. A systematic review of 14 observational studies, accounting for a total of more than 30,000 adults, did find an association between vitamin D deficiency and depression.

Thats a statistically significant number of people without a statistically significant explanation.

What were left with are more questions. For instance, is it possible that the correlation between low vitamin D levels and depression is the result of inadequate sunlight? Possibly.

The explanation for that would be found in conditions like seasonal affective disorder, which can be treated with light therapy. This would suggest, however, that sunlight is a more significant element of depression than the vitamin D itself.

Likewise, its possible that low levels of vitamin D are a symptom of depression, but increasing serum levels of vitamin D is not a cure, and fails to yield results.

Still, other studies suggest the link should be investigated further.

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Habit And Lifestyle Changes

It doesnt just have to be about your vitamin D level or being worried about a vitamin D deficiency.

A healthcare professional may advise you to address health concerns related to weight, blood pressure, dietary habits and other issues that could be having negative effects on your health mental or otherwise.

Exercise, for example, has been found to be as effective as drugs in certain conditions.

How Is Vitamin D Linked To Depression

So far, nothing in our information about depression suggests that vitamin D might be a cause or a treatment. So, why has there been an upsurge of interest in using vitamin D to tackle depression?

To answer this question, its important to note that scientists have been interested in the role of diet in mental health for a very long time. Imagine if we could solve one of the worlds biggest health problems without the need for drugs or therapies, but simply by managing our diets? It would be brilliant news for sufferers of depression.

Research into this area has identified several nutrients that may be of interest, including iron, folate and vitamin B12. Scientists have noted that deficiencies in these nutrients might be associated with depression.

Similarly, early research has linked vitamin D deficiency with depression.

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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.

“It’s 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 you’re feeling low or not enjoying things like you used to, it’s important to reach out to a licensed therapist for help.”

Vitamin D Can Help Strengthen Muscles

Vitamin D Does Not Lower Depression Risk in Adults

Along with its bone-building abilities, vitamin D is also influential in strengthening muscles. Lack of vitamin D in the body can increase the risk of having weak muscles, which in turn increases the risk of falls, Lana Nasrallah, MPH, RD, clinical dietician at UNC Health, tells Health. This is especially important for the elderly. Vitamin D may help increase muscle strength thus preventing falls, which is a common problem that leads to substantial disability and death in older adults.

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Gaps In Understanding Of The Relationship Between Vitamin D And Depression

Gaps in understanding of the association between vitamin D and depression

Much of the evidence linking vitamin D with depression in adults comes from cross-sectional studies. Cohort or case-control studies are few and RCTs, considered superior for establishing causality, are even fewer.

As the bulk of the literature is from observational studies, several questions remain. Chief among them is the issue of small and unrepresentative samples, varying measures of depression , and the potential problem of reverse causality. Given that two of the important negative studies came from China and Hong Kong, the issue of latitude moderating the association between vitamin D and depression needs further examination.

Owing to several sources of bias in existing studies and the danger of publication bias impacting the literature on vitamin D and depression, the possibility of a meta-analysis answering this question with finality remains bleak. More RCTs are therefore needed to examine the efficacy of supplemental vitamin D on prevention and treatment of depression.

Knowledge gaps in biological underpinnings between vitamin D and depression

Gaps in understanding the effect of vitamin D supplementation in depression

Take Vitamin D Supplements

Regular sunshine and a healthy diet cant help everyone. A potent way to battle a vitamin D deficiency is through supplements. Vitamin D supplements are available in a liquid or pill form. Doctors can prescribe higher doses of this nutrient to be taken once a week. Most pharmacies and grocery stores carry everyday vitamin D supplements.

Taking one small pill might prevent anxiety and depression. Its worth a try because its cost-effective and has few side effects. Though, its best to talk to a medical professional when deciding to take supplements or address a nutritional deficiency. Vitamin D supplements can interact with other medications.

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Vitamins D And B Help With Depression

Insufficient Vitamin D can lower a persons ability to function well, and when vitamin D supplementation is taken, it may result in improved Depression symptoms. You can get vitamin D easily by taking supplements, going outside more frequently, adding rich foods in nutrient-rich amounts, and eating a balanced diet.

Are Vitamin D Depleted Vitamin D Is Extremely Low

Vitamin D Deficiency and Depression

Low levels of Vitamin D can interfere with a persons bone density, resulting in an increase risk of osteoporosis and broken bones . Other diseases can also be worsened by acute vitamin D deficiency. These babies may have rickets when exposed to the bacteria. In Rickets, the bones become soft and bend, which is very rare.

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What Is Vitamin D Anyway

Vitamin D deficiency is more than a bit player in the pro-milk ads of the 2000s so much more, really. And in addition to milk, we get it from other foods, supplements and sun exposure.

The right vitamin D level is good for you because it promotes calcium absorption, which among other things, is good for your bone density as you age. Its also necessary to prevent muscle cramps and spasms, and to avoid osteoporosis and other bone diseases.

Outside of the bones and muscles, the effects of vitamin D can reduce inflammation and aid in neuromuscular and immune function.

As for your brain? Levels of vitamin D are crucial there, as well.

Its necessary for certain brain functions, and there are neuron receptors for it that are thought to be involved in depression mitigation though that science is admittedly thin.

One study found that vitamin D status may play a role in moderating inflammatory cytokines, epinephrine production, norepinephrine production, and the regulation of dopamine and serotonin, all of which are crucial elements of mood regulation.

But the relationship between serum vitamin levels isnt fully understood, and we dont know for certain that depression can be caused by low vitamin D levels.

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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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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  • 1Postgraduate Program in Nutrition, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil
  • 2Translational Nutritional Neuroscience Working Group, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil
  • 3Nutrition Graduation Course, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil
  • 4Department of Nutrition, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil
  • 5Department of Psychiatry, Queens University, Kingston, ON, Canada
  • 6Inpatient Psychiatric Unit, Kingston General Hospital, Kingston Health Sciences Centre, Kingston, ON, Canada
  • 7Centre for Neuroscience Studies, Queens University, Kingston, ON, Canada

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