Vitamin D and Depression:
We all feel fed up, miserable and sad at certain times in our lives. Most of the time, these feelings last for a few days, or maybe a week, but don’t really interfere with our day to day lives. Often times, speaking with a friend or family member will help ease these feelings. However, if you develop clinical depression, also called major depression, these feelings don’t improve and may carry on for weeks, months or even years.
In persons with a chronic medical disease, depression often makes the management of chronic illness more difficult. Recently, vitamin D has been reported in the scientific and lay press as an important factor that may have significant health benefits in the prevention and the treatment of many chronic illnesses. Most individuals in this country have insufficient levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is defined as a level less than 20 ng/mL and vitamin D insufficiency is a level less than 30 ng/mL.
Vitamin D is a unique neurosteroid hormone that may have an important role in the development of depression. Receptors for vitamin D are present on neurons and glia in many areas of the brain including the cingulate cortex and hippocampus, which have been implicated in the pathophysiology of depression.4 Vitamin D is involved in numerous brain processes including neuroimmunomodulation, regulation of neurotrophic factors, neuroprotection, neuroplasticity and brain development,5 making it biologically plausible that this vitamin might be associated with depression and that its supplementation might play an important part in the treatment of depression.
Dozens of studies have shown a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in depressed patients, and some studies have shown high-dose vitamin D is helpful in decreasing some symptoms of depression. As vitamin D is remarkably safe, and depression is remarkably dangerous (about 36,000 suicides/year in US), it seems reasonable to ensure those suffering from this disorder should maintain a high normal vitamin D status.
The researchers believe that because vitamin D is important to brain function, insufficient nutrient levels may play a role in depression and other mental illnesses. An earlier 2005 study identified vitamin D receptors in the same areas of the brain associated with depression.
Dietary intake of vitamin D is necessary to reach adequate levels of vitamin D and the best natural sources of vitamin D (include fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel whereas smaller amount may be provided by cheese, beef liver, and egg yolks.
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References: Penckofer S, Kouba J, Bym M, Ferrans CE. Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine?. Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2010 Jun; 31(6): 385–39. -Eyles, D.W., Smith, S., Kinobe, R., et al. Distribution of the vitamin D receptor and 1 alpha-hydroxylase in human brain. J Chem Neuroanat, 2005. 29(1): p. 21-30. -Kjaergaard, M., Waterloo, K., Wang, C.E, et al., Effect of vitamin D supplement on depression scores in people with low levels of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D: nested case-control study and randomised clinical trial. Br J Psychiatry, 2012. 201(5): p. 360-8. -Anglin, R.E., Samaan, Z., Walter, S.Det al., Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Psychiatry, 2013. 202: p. 100-7. Milaneschi Y, Hoogendijk W, Lips P, et al. The association between low vitamin D and depressive disorders. Mol Psychiatry. 2014 Apr;19(4):444-51.