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Depressed? Think Vitamin D

After reviewing data gathered during a four-year study involving nearly 12,600 participants, researchers have reported a clear link between low levels of vitamin D and depression. A team from UT Southwestern Medical Center and the Cooper Institute found that higher levels of vitamin D were associated with a significantly decreased risk of depression, particularly among individuals with a history of the illness. The opposite proved true as well: low levels of “D” were linked to symptoms of depression, again particularly among those who had a history of depression. The researchers suggested that, based on these findings, doctors may want to screen depressed patients for vitamin D levels and, perhaps, screen patients with low levels of “D” for depression. The study did not investigate whether taking vitamin D supplements relieved depression, nor did the researchers determine whether low levels of “D” contribute to depression or whether depression somehow leads to low levels of “D”. However, they noted that vitamin D may affect neurotransmitters, inflammatory markers and other factors that could explain the link to depression. The study, the largest of its kind, was published in the November 2011 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

My take? I’m not surprised at these findings. In my new book Spontaneous Happiness, I wrote about the relationship between vitamin D, brain health, and emotional well-being. Receptors for vitamin D occur throughout the brain, and it appears to play an important role in the development and function of that organ, including the activity of neurotransmitters that affect mood. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with seasonal affective disorder and depression, as well as with impaired cognitive function, especially in the elderly. The benefits of vitamin D for both physical and mental health are so numerous and deficiencies are so common that I recommend taking at least 2,000 IU per day.

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Reader Comments (6)

It's also important to take the vitamin D supplement with a high fat meal to better absorb it.

Reference:Fabiana Viegas Raimundo, Gustavo Adolpho Moreira Faulhaber, Paula Kalinka Menegatti, Leonardo da Silva Marques, and Tania Weber Furlanetto, “Effect of High- versus Low-Fat Meal on Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels after a Single Oral Dose of Vitamin D: A Single-Blind, Parallel, Randomized Trial,” International Journal of Endocrinology, vol. 2011, Article ID 809069, 5 pages, 2011. doi:10.1155/2011/809069

I can attest to this research. In October I started taking 5000 IU of vitamin D daily (2x2000 IU + 1000 in a mulivitamin), combined with 1200mg fish oil (360mg of Omega-3) and my seasonal depression has completely vanished. Other factors, such as work, relationships or physical activity have not changed from prior years, so I attribute the mood change to increased dosage of Vitamin D & Omega-3 supplements.

Also, I cook 90% of what I eat - much of which is low fat - so I don't often have high-fat meals to pair with the vitamins. Because of this, I take my Vitamin D with about 1oz of dark chocolate or 1/4 cup almonds.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Gunzenhauser

I wonder if you could discuss co-factors such as magnesium. I was taking about 4000 units of Vitamin D daily, and I credit it with helping me through menopause and definitely reducing moodiness and depression. But I started having problems with muscle cramps in my legs (charley-horse cramps). At the time I didn't know that magnesium was an important cofactor for vitamin D and that I should be supplementing with that as well - is that your recommendation also?

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElaine

It's especially important in northern climes where people don't get that much sunlight. I don't think its toxic at even 5000 units, correct?

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbob mullins

Indeed interesting find and the same for me am not surprise at these findings neither we should all be aware of the vast benefits of Vitamin D.Especially on the topic of bone health and cardiovascular and skin conditions ,vitamin d is very essential towards all this.Juices,meats and some other foods not to mention what we also get from sunlight in fact they say majority the body gets is from sun light.

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdohealthyhabits

This is such a fascinating article. I have suffered from depression for many years and always am looking for ways to treat my depression without drugs. Vitamin D is definitely something I will look into. I also found a lot of alternative treatment information for depression at http://onlineceucredit/edu/social-work-ceus-dy. I hope this is helpful to other depression sufferers.

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Biggs
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