Depression and Vitamin D

October 25, 2012

Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because our bodies produce it when exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to numerous illnesses and conditions, from heart disease and diabetes to softening of the bones and certain types of cancer. Recently new research has indicated that it may protect against and reduce depression. This is a good time to look at vitamin D and  depression. Seasonal depression begins to show up at the first signs of winter, it is more common in here in the North and other climates with extremely cold, dark winters, where the days become shorter and cold weather keeps us inside.  Sunlight, our main source of vitamin D is very helpful for seasonal depression sufferers, but getting adequate amounts in the winter can be difficult. Research presented at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting in Houston suggests that vitamin D deficiency and depression may be lined, and that maintaining good vitamin D levels may help relieve some of the symptoms. A small study of followed women aged 42 to 66 with depression who were taking antidepressants. All three were deficient in vitamin D. The women received vitamin D therapy for eight to 12 weeks to replenish their blood levels. The women reported improvements in symptoms of depression following the vitamin D therapy, resulting in the women's depression scores changing from severe depression to mild depression or just minimal symptoms of depression. Whether vitamin D deficiency causes depression, makes it worse or is a symptom of the underlying depression has yet to be defined. Large studies are currently underway. Additionally, it was noted in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology that vitamin D acts on neurons, and modulates production of chemicals in the brain that regulate the survival and growth of neurons. It also notes that vitamin D imbalances may play a role in depression, Parkinson's and epilepsy. The possiblity of a vitamin D deficiency's role in depression is in addition to already accepted links to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. The deficiency is found in more than half of the teens who are being evaluated for weight loss surgery. Adults at risk of diabetes improved their triglycerides, triglyceride-HDL ratio and E-selectin levels with the use of vitamin D supplements. The Institute of Medicine recently raised the recommended daily intake to 600 IU for people aged 1-70 and to 800 IU for adults older than 70, other groups have recommended even higher daily intakes. Adding vitamin D through diet is difficult, although it is foundin fortified milk, and is present  in small amounts in egg yolks and fatty fish like tuna, salmon, sardines, and mackerel. Be careful! It is possible that combining vitamin D and supplements could lead more calcium in the blood and urine and a higher risk of kidney stones, so stay at the FDA-recommended dose of 800 international units of vitamin D, and 800-1,200 milligrams per day of calcium. Talk to your doctor for more information! Vitamin D -- it could make those grey skies blue!  

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