Vitamin D Deficiency And Depression
Theres a common belief that not getting enough vitamin D can contribute to major depressive disorders and other mental health conditions. Some experts point out the potential mental health benefits of taking vitamin D supplements, but they also note that the field still isnt sure whether low levels of vitamin D really cause depression.
Cleveland Clinic cites depressive symptoms among the potential outcomes of a vitamin D deficiency, in addition to other psychiatric symptoms including mood changes and physical symptoms such as fatigue, pain, and cramps.
Another point to consider is that vitamin D insufficiency is also associated with physical chronic conditions, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis. Having depression can make managing these conditions more difficult, research shows.
Some people experience changes in mood as a result of living in climates with limited sun exposure. Most people get 90 percent of their vitamin D from sunlight, so staying indoors for extended periods of time can significantly impact the amount of vitamin D a person gets. As one MyDepressionTeam member noted, When we lived in Oregon my vitamin D level dropped so low that my depression worsened. We are now back in sunny California and my depression is better. I try to get some sun at least three times per week.
How Does Vitamin D Improve Mental Health
Researchers say vitamin D regulates central nervous system disturbances associated with depression. Prior cross-sectional studies have linked vitamin D deficiency and symptoms of depression. However, previous meta-analyses on the effects of vitamin D supplementation on depression have been inconclusive, until now.
These findings will encourage new, high-level clinical trials in patients with depression in order to shed more light on the possible role of vitamin D supplementation in the treatment of depression, notes Mikola.
This new meta-analysis is the largest one published examining vitamin D and its impact on depression. Around 21 million Americans suffer from depression.
Underlying Mechanisms May Play A Role
When asked how vitamin D supplementation may be linked to inflammation and depression, Dr. Monique Aucoin, ND, MSc, naturopathic doctor and senior research fellow at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, not involved in the study, told Medical News Today:
The exact mechanism of how vitamin D impacts the brain and mental health is not entirely clear. There is evidence that vitamin D may modulate, or balance, parts of the immune system that are involved in inflammation.
Dr. Aucoin added that an emerging body of evidence suggests that mental health disorders may be related to increased inflammation in the body and that a reduction of inflammation levels may have a therapeutic benefit.
A 2019 meta-analysis, which combined the results of studies providing vitamin D supplements to participants with depression, reported significant decreases in several laboratory values related to inflammation. However, it is unclear if these changes were responsible for an antidepressant effect or were simply other benefits that occurred at the same time.
Dr. Monique Aucoin, ND, MSc, naturopathic doctor and senior research fellow at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine
Tuomas Mikola, a doctoral researcher at the Institute of Clinical Medicine at the University of Eastern Finland and lead author of the study, explained to MNT:
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People With Depression May Have A Poor Diet
Individuals grappling with depression also tend to have difficulty practicing self-cafe. This puts them at risk for not eating a balanced diet, as a depressed individual may not take the time to look for products fortified with vitamin D or to eat foods with naturally occurring amounts of the substance.
In short, individuals with the illness may unwittingly engage in behaviors that make them vitamin D deficient, but spending time outside with friends or practicing the self-care required to eat well can raise their levels of this valuable substance.
Can Vitamin D Affect Mood
Yes, vitamin D does appear to play a slight role in mood regulation, although the jury is still out regarding its effect on depression.
One study found that vitamin D supplements could improve anxiety but did not find that they affected depression (
However, its important to get your vitamin D levels checked before you begin taking high dose vitamin D supplements. You should also work closely with a healthcare professional to determine the right dosage for you.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it can build up in your fat cells. For this reason, taking high doses over time may lead to vitamin D toxicity, which can cause high calcium levels, kidney stones, digestive problems, and neurological changes .
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Is 1500 Mg Of Vitamin D Too Much
According to other experts, adults need much higher levels of vitamins D and E. The Endocrine Society recommends a daily intake of between 1,500 and 2,000 IU of vitamins D and D3. It is recommended that adults get at least 600 IU of the recommended daily allowance.
Does Vitamin D Help With Sad
Medical professionals often prescribe vitamin D to help with seasonal affective disorder . Studies show that it might be as effective as light therapy. Since the 1980s, light therapy is one of the main forms of treatment for this type of depression. People with SAD typically have a vitamin D deficiency.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health , seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that people get during certain seasons. They tend to get depressed during the fall from the winter months when there is less sunlight, but it can happen during spring and summer as well. This rarer kind of SAD is summer-pattern SAD or summer depression.
Other forms of treatment for SAD include:
- Difficulty making decisions
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How Can Vitamin D Deficiency Lead To Depression
A vitamin D deficiency can potentially lead to depression in a few critical ways. First, vitamin D can inhibit specific proteins associated with emotional health issues. These proteins are called cytokines and are involved in cell-to-cell communication in the body.
A 2014 study in Sweden discovered that people who have attempted suicide had high levels of these pro-inflammatory cytokines. Vitamin D is known to reduce the level of these cytokines. Some researchers believe that by maintaining healthy levels of these proteins, Vitamin D may prevent depression from progressing to suicidal thoughts.
Second, serotonin levels are affected by Vitamin D. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps brain cells relay messages to each other. Serotonin is involved in the regulation of mood, sleep, appetite, memory, and learning. Many scientists believe there is a connection between low levels of serotonin and depression.
There are many theories to explain this connection. Some researchers believe that depression occurs when the brain fails to regenerate cells. Since serotonin seems to play a role in this regeneration process, low levels of the neurotransmitter may help inhibit the production of new brain cells. This could then pave the way for depressions onset.
Studies have found that exposure to sunlight can increase dopamine levels in the body. This is likely due to increased vitamin D levels that come from sunlight exposure.
Can You Get Too Much Vitamin D3
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin these types of vitamins remain in your body, in fatty tissue and in your liver.
Because your body stores vitamin D, you can consume too much of it. Daily doses that exceed 50,000 IU more than 80 times the RDA may cause hypercalcemia, a buildup of calcium in the body.
- Kidney stones
Very high levels of vitamin D can cause moresevere side effects like kidney failure, irregular heartbeat, and even death.
If you suspect you may have consumed too much vitamin D, check in with your doctor they can order a blood test to check your vitamin D levels.
Important: Make sure to talk with your provider before taking vitamin D if you take statin medications or thiazide diuretics. Vitamin D can reduce statin’s effectiveness, and it may cause hypercalcemia when taken with thiazide diuretics.
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Depression In Women: Is There A Role For Vitamin D
Production generally occurs with natural sun exposure some might occur from tanning beds, although tanning beds emit primarily UV A . Light boxes filter out UV rays to deliver bright white light, and their mechanism of action is not thought to be related to ultraviolet light exposure .
Over the last decade, there has been increasing concern than many children and adults may not have sufficient levels of vitamin D. For example, one study of childbearing women in the Northern U.S. found insufficient vitamin D levels in 54% of black women and in 42% of white women. Certain people may be more vulnerable to being vitamin D deficiency, including those with greater skin pigmentation and those with less sun exposure .
Blood tests used to check vitamin D levels assay the active metabolite, 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Different laboratories use different reference ranges, as well as different units of measurement. In order to provide clearer guidelines regarding vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency, the Institute of Medicine recently published new reference ranges for vitamin D levels. A normal vitamin D level is greater than 75 nmol/L . Less than 30 nmol/L is considered deficient. The IOM committee also notes that some, but not all, people may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency at levels from 30 nmol/L to 50 nmol/L .
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Can Vitamin D Cure Depression
Many people get depressed during the winter months, when we produce less vitamin D. So, can supplemental vitamin D cure seasonal depression, and maybe other types of depression? No, alas but it may help.
The ever-popular vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin, and sunshine is implicated in mood. So it makes sense that researchers have intently explored vitamin D supplementation for depression supplemental vitamin D is relatively inexpensive and safe, and may provide a variety of health benefits beside brightening your mood.
But depression is complex. There are many possible causes, and no magic bullet. While you may not expect vitamin D to be a magic bullet per se, you may want to understand the current state of the evidence: what do trial results show, and how exactly exactly does vitamin D impact mood-related pathways?
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Vitamin D And Depression
Depression is a medical condition that changes the thoughts, feelings, or behaviors of an individual. Symptoms include:
- Loss of interest in activities the individual previously liked
- Isolation and withdrawal
What Research Shows
Studies on vitamin D supplementation and depression show a relationship between the two.
The only limitation of the studies is that they donât prove that vitamin D deficiency causes depression. People with depression may have lower vitamin D levels, but the deficiency did not cause the illness.
How Vitamin D Deficiency is Linked to Depression
If the cause of depression was a lack of the vitamin, then supplementation would help reduce the signs and symptoms. An increase in the levels of the vitamin would also prevent depression from occurring, but this is not the case.
There is another possible explanation of the correlation between vitamin D deficiency and depression. Many groups at a high risk of depression are also likely to have vitamin D deficiency.
Adolescents, people with obesity, the elderly, and those with chronic illnesses are the most prone to having vitamin D deficiency. They are also at a higher risk of depression.
Possible Causes for This Correlation
As noted above, some symptoms of clinical depression include withdrawal and social isolation. Since these individuals spend less time outside, they lack the much-needed exposure to process enough vitamin D.
Spend More Time Outside
Every person has vitamin D receptor cells. These receptors convert cholesterol in the skin after its exposed to the ultraviolet B rays from the sun. In turn, it produces vitamin D3. Too much sun can damage skin and lead to cancer. Yet, its still important to get regular amounts of sunlight.
Some medical professionals recommend getting around 15-30 minutes of direct sunlight each day . People with darker skin will need to spend more time in the sun than those with pale complexions. Apply sunscreen right after to avoid a sunburn or serious health complications in the future.
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Vitamin D And Anxiety
It seems that more scientists agree about the link between vitamin D deficiency and anxiety than depression. Though, some members of the scientific community are skeptical about how much it helps with anxiety. Regardless, multiple studies find that a vitamin D deficiency may increase anxiety.
One study gave participants with vitamin D deficiencies supplements for six months. They used a test called the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale14 to rate participants level of anxiety. One group didnt receive any vitamin D supplements. Ultimately, vitamin D supplements significantly helped lessen symptoms of anxiety in the group as opposed to the group that didnt take any. Further studies the link between a vitamin d deficiency and anxiety.
How Much Vitamin D Should You Take For Optimal Health
Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, RDN Jared Meacham, Ph.D., RD, PMP, MBA, CSCS
Vitamin D is essential for good health.
Its often referred to as the sunshine vitamin and is made in your skin when exposed to sunlight.
Despite that, vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world.
Up to 42% of the American adult population has low vitamin D levels, which can cause health problems (
Vitamin D is crucial for bone health and immune system function.
This article discusses how much vitamin D you need.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin thats involved in many essential body functions.
There are two forms of vitamin D in the diet and supplements:
- Vitamin D2 : found in some mushrooms.
- Vitamin D3 : found in oily fish, fish liver oil, and egg yolks.
D3 is the more powerful of the two types and raises vitamin D levels almost twice as much as D2 .
Significant amounts of vitamin D can also be made in your skin when exposed to UV rays from sunlight. Any excess vitamin D is stored in your body fat for later use.
Almost every cell in your body has a receptor for vitamin D. Its essential to many processes, including bone health, immune system function, and can help protect against cancer (
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How Does It Work
Vitamin D receptors can be found pretty much everywhere in the human body, so the ways in which vitamin D might affect your mood are innumerable. One of those mechanisms could be hormonal, since vitamin D helps regulate testosterone levels and since low testosterone can impair the mood of men and women.
We should remember, however, that correlation is not causation. The observational data, we said, suggests a correlation between depression and low levels of vitamin D, but that doesnt mean that low levels of vitamin D cause the depression. It might be that depressed people go outside less, thus getting less sunlight, thus producing less vitamin D: the depression would then be the cause of the low vitamin D levels, rather than its consequence.
Even if depression is a consequence, not a cause, it doesnt mean that low levels of vitamin D arent also a consequence. People who go outside less get less sunlight but also probably less exercise and we know that exercise benefits mood, both directly and .
The findings on vitamin D are less consistent. One study found an association between depression and seasonal changes in vitamin D, but another study found no effect of supplemental vitamin D on SAD. And compounding the uncertainty, the researchers of both studies stressed that potential confounders were numerous.
How Much Vitamin D Should I Take For Optimal Health
Your need for vitamin D goes up if any of these factors apply to you:
- You know youre already deficient in vitamin D
- You have dark skin
- Youre an older adult over 70 . Infants, children and older adults are all at risk for low vitamin D.
- You spend little time outdoors or always wear sunscreen when exposed to sunlight
- Youre a shift worker, health care worker or another indoor worker, which means you get little outdoor time and sunlight exposure
- Youre overweight or obese
- You are a nursing home resident or hospitalized patient
- You have a health condition, such as celiac disease, Crohns disease or cystic fibrosis, that interferes with absorption and processing of vitamin D in the intestines, kidneys or liver
- Breast-fed infants are also at risk for vitamin D deficiency, which is why supplementing is recommended
How much vitamin D should women take per day?
According to the USDA and National Institutes of Health, the standard recommendation of vitamin D that adult women should take in order to prevent deficiency is between 600 to 800 international units per day, depending on age. The exact number is debatable, and some experts feel that a higher dose of vitamin D, around 2,ooo to 5,000 IU per day, may be more beneficial.
How much vitamin D should men take per day?
The standard recommendation for adult men is also between 600 to 800 IU of vitamin D per day. Adults over 70 should supplement with more, at least 800 IU per day, while younger adults need at least 600 IU daily.
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