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Vitamin D is referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” since the body can generate it when the skin is in contact with sunlight.

This vital, fat-soluble vitamin assists in the maintenance of strong and healthy bones, facilitates the expansion of cells, and serves to enhance the workings of the immune system. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium which helps you maintain good bone health.  Vitamin D helps your nerves carry messages from your brain to your body.

Researchers have observed a correlation between lower levels of Vitamin D and depression, suggesting that Vitamin D could be a factor in the disorder.

This article looks into the possibility of there being a connection between Vitamin D and depression.


Vitamin D and Depression

Analysts have noted that a lot of individuals suffering from depression possess poor amounts of vitamin D circulating in their blood, thus it is probable that the two are linked.

Research has indicated that there may be a link between having insufficient amounts of vitamin D during pregnancy and postpartum depression, which is a type of depression experienced in the period after childbirth.

Studies have indicated that a link may exist between depression and low levels of vitamin D in individuals who suffer from gout.

Research has indicated that a few well-conducted studies have found that people from different backgrounds have observed an enhancement in their signs of depression after utilizing vitamin D supplements. However, this potential benefit isn’t completely clear.

In a major investigation with over 18,000 participants who had depression, consuming 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day for 5 years made no visible alteration in their depression levels when compared to taking a dummy pill.

Many researchers have reached different conclusions on the matter, so additional studies must be conducted to ascertain the relationship between low vitamin D levels and depression, as well as if taking vitamin D supplements can reduce symptoms of depression.


Risk Factors for Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is critical for good health.  It is important that you get the recommended amount of vitamin D, there are some risk factors and habits that can prevent you from getting  enough.  Let’s explore some of these risk factors.

Limited Sun Exposure

The majority of people obtain their vitamin D mainly from being out in the sun. If you avoid being in the sun or you are rarely outside, that can lead to vitamin D deficiency. The intensity of the sunlight will help determine how long you will need to have sun exposure.  A sunny day at the beach in Florida will require less sun time than a cloudy day in Maine.

People who live with extended months of winter also can be at risk for vitamin D deficiency.  There just may not be enough sunshine during those winter months to help your body synthesize the vitamin did required.


Few foods contain a high amount of vitamin D naturally. You can increase your intake by eating more of these great natural sources of vitamin D:

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Other fatty fish
  • Fish liver oils
  • Animal fats
  • Eggs
  • Vitamin D-fortified food products, such as orange juice and cereal

It is possible that individuals who eat a plant-based diet may not be receiving the sufficient amount of vitamin D. Vegan vitamin D sources include:

  • Fortified plant-based milks, fruit juices, and grain products
  • Mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light to increase their vitamin D content

READ MORE: 9 Food To Eat To Get More Vitamin D

Darker Skin Tone

It seems to be common for Black individuals in the United States to not have enough vitamin D compared to other groups. Those with paler complexions are generally more efficient at synthesizing Vitamin D than those with darker skin tones.

One study analyzing data from a prominent American health survey between 2011 and 2014 revealed that around 17.5% of African Americans were likely to be deficient in vitamin D, while Asian individuals were at 7.6%, Caucasians were at 2.1%, and Hispanics were at 5.9%.

The difference between skin colors might be because those with a darker complexion have larger amounts of melanin, the natural pigment that gives skin its hue. It appears that dark pigmentation of the skin, melanin, prevents the generation of vitamin D in the skin.

Living Farther Away from the Equator

Research indicates that inhabitants of northerly areas, for example, the upper part of the US, may have a greater possibility of having deficient Vitamin D amounts.

If you live in a place that doesn’t get too much sunlight, you may need to put in more effort to get enough sun exposure.


Individuals with a BMI of 30 or more have an association with not having sufficient vitamin D. Those with obesity may require a higher intake of vitamin D than those with a moderate weight to achieve the suggested nutritional amounts.

If your Body Mass Index is above 30, it would be beneficial to consult with a medical expert for having your Vitamin D levels checked. They can assist you in creating a strategy to improve your vitamin D levels if necessary.

Medical professionals typically advise patients to take a large amount of vitamin D supplements to correct a lack of vitamin D in their system.


Age can contribute to vitamin D deficiency. As you age, your skin’s ability to create vitamin D diminishes. Seniors also avoid being out in the sun for long periods of time, and may not have enough vitamin D in their diets.


Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency and Depression

Depression and a lack of vitamin D are two entirely different health problems, each having its own particular signs. If you have any indication of either symptom, reach out to a medical specialist.

If you have a vitamin D deficiency, you may experience:

  • aching bones
  • fatigue or drowsiness
  • weakness and pain in your muscles and joints

Symptoms of depression may include:

  • overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and helplessness
  • insomnia or excessive sleepiness, known as hypersomnia
  • loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • lethargy
  • excessive weight loss or weight gain
  • loss of appetite
  • problems concentrating
  • forgetfulness
  • loss of sexual interest
  • headaches or back pains
  • anxiety
  • thoughts of death or suicide

Click here to take Health Surgeon’s Depression Quiz

It is possible to be afflicted with both vitamin D deficiency and depression, despite the fact that they have separate symptoms. If you are showing the signs mentioned above, speak to a medical expert.


Vitamin D Dose for Depression

According to Dr. Angelos Halaris, professor of psychiatry at Loyola University School of Medicine in Chicago. “In my practice, what I have found is that when patients are not fully responding to antidepressants and their vitamin D blood levels are low, once we add vitamin D supplements the response to medication improves.”

You do not want to take excess vitamin D.  If your levels are low check with your health care provider for what dosage they recommend.  The majority of people take a daily dosage of six hundred IU of vitamin D, while they can safely consume up to four thousand IU.

In research studies looking into the relationship between vitamin D and depression that are of a high standard, the doses of vitamin D they use differ significantly – e.g. one might be 4,000 IU every day for a period of 12 weeks, or a single dose of 300,000 IU.

It’s important to find out your vitamin D levels prior to consuming large amounts of vitamin D supplements. A simple blood test is all that is needed to find out your vitamin D levels.  Consult a medical professional to decide the proper amount of medication for you.

Fat-soluble Vitamin D is able to accumulate in fatty tissues. Therefore, utilizing sizable amounts for an extended period of time can result in an excessive intake of vitamin D, influencing high calcium levels, kidney stones, digestion problems, and cognitive alterations.


The Impact of Vitamin D Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms

In a study, the investigators looked over 41 randomized control trials (RCTs) which included a total of 53,235 people. They examined statistics such as age, initial and subsequent vitamin D amounts, and details related to depression.

They also included details of vitamin D supplementation, including:

  • duration
  • dose
  • type
  • frequency
  • possible calcium supplementation or add-on medications

The researchers concluded that taking a vitamin D supplement had a moderate to important impact on relieving depressive feelings.

The effects of the study seemed to have a stronger effect on individuals who had a lower baseline level of vitamin D (less than 50 nanomoles per liter) than on ones who had above that threshold of vitmain D at the beginning of the study.

The study that was conducted concluded that people who got up to 2,000 IU of daily intake had a mild to moderate consequence, but participants who ingested more than 4,000IU experienced more intensified results.

It looks like vitamin D can have a more significant impact when taken for a time period that is shorter than 12 weeks, opposed to taking it for a longer period of time.


Effects on Major Depressive Disorder

The researchers observed that intake of vitamin D had an effective impact on the 1,116 people with major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression. Consuming Vitamin D had a beneficial impact on the indicators of depression which were experienced by 407 individuals suffering from depression during childbirth.

The investigators also observed a slight but significant improvement in patients who combined antidepressant medicine with vitamin D supplementation.

Nevertheless, they concluded that a placebo was somewhat more advantageous than taking vitamin D capsules in groups of healthy individuals who are not suffering from clinical depression.

The researchers noticed that it might be more exhausting to notice when depression symptoms had been reduced in people who already had very low levels of symptoms at the start.

Research has indicated that taking Vitamin D supplements does not appear to have any real impact on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) based on the findings from three studies and does not seem to reduce depressive symptoms in elderly people.

The researchers also stated that their findings should not be taken as certain as 36.6% of examined studies had a potential for being biased, and general outcomes were greatly dissimilar.


Vitamin D and Inflammation

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 precise manner in which vitamin D affects the mind and psychological well-being is still undefined. It appears that vitamin D has the potential to adjust certain components of the immune system that are associated with inflammation.

Dr. Aucoin pointed out that growing proof implies that psychological health issues may be linked to heightened inflammation in the body and that lessening inflammation may prove to be beneficial as treatment.

A 2019 meta-analysis that pooled the outcomes of trials giving vitamin D to people suffering from depression uncovered substantial improvements in certain laboratory levels connected to inflammation. It is uncertain if the improvements were in consequence of an antidepressant effect or simply happened concurrently.

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:

It has been determined that depression is linked to a low intensity of inflammation, which is revealed by higher levels of cytokines. It has been demonstrated that the immune system’s natural and acquired reactions partly rely on the vitamin D levels in the blood. The activity and secretion of the hormones in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, as well as cortisol, are frequently overactive in individuals suffering from depression. Vitamin D could oversee the output of cytokines in the immune system and bring the production of cortisol back to a normal level.

The researchers proposed that further research ought to be done to determine whether supplementing the usual treatment for depression with vitamin D could be of help.

When queried about the restrictions of the study, Dr. Aucoin noted that one of the hindrances of the fresh research is that among the investigations with a low likelihood of prejudice, no antidepressant outcome was seen.

The studies in question being mentioned only make up a portion of the research, and she remarked that additional, high quality research must be conducted before any clinic suggestions can be put forth.

The writers of this study examined the information in multiple manners to distinguish which components (for example, patient analysis, vitamin D status, or vitamin D dosage) had an effect on the findings. It was complex for the researchers to accurately identify who would gain the most advantage and what dosage of vitamin D therapy would be the most effective, due to the many different combinations of factors in the majority of studies.

Dr. Mikola has pointed out another shortcoming of the new research, which is that the meta-analyses solely concentrated on the transformation in depression symptom scores instead of investigating the connections between vitamin D amounts in the blood and depression indications.

The amount of vitamin D that is taken may not have the same effect of increasing levels of vitamin D for all individuals in diverse populations.


Implications for Depression Treatment 

Most researchers agree that there is some sort of correlation between low levels of vitamin D and depression.  How specifically that works is still in question.  Is it possible vitamin D supplementation can help?  Yes.  Has it been conclusively scientifically proven?  Not at this time.

Low levels of vitamin D are a risk factor for many health issues not just depression.  Schizophrenia is a rare mental disorder it affects 1 percent of global population and it is linked to vitamin B3 niacin and vitamin D.

Having your vitamin d levels checked with a simple blood test is a good idea.  Vitamin D supplements are not expensive and are readily available in most drug stores or grocery stores.



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