Do you tend to experience more negative emotions during the winter than the summer? Not having enough vitamin D and exposure to certain kinds of light might be the solution to feeling better.
Studies suggest that locations distant from the equator may experience a higher rate of autoimmune afflictions, and this may be linked to deficiency of Vitamin D since it is primarily synthesized in the body through exposure to direct sunlight sans sunscreen.
In spite of the fact that inhabitants of hot climates tend to obtain more of the vitamin created by being in the sun, even citizens of places like Southern California, Florida, and Arizona have similar levels of Vitamin D deficiency to those residing in Wisconsin or Minnesota.
The reason for this is because the amount we obtain in our diet is minor, and is oftentimes hindered even more by digestive issues and intestinal circumstances that cause our body’s incapacity to absorb nutrients properly (for example, illnesses and an excess of bacteria).
Vitamin D is not as widely known of a deficiency as it should be, and it is likely that a large majority of Americans do not have enough of it in their systems. Estimates indicate that around 42% of people in the US has a deficiency.
Approximately 3000 to 30,000 genes in our bodies are influenced by Vitamin D. You are aware that calcium absorption and bone health are dependent on it, yet you may not be aware that Vitamin D also has a major role in maintaining the delicate balance of our immune system. Vitamin D has been suggested to have a role in stopping and controlling autoimmunity, and when there is too little of it, the immune system does not work correctly.
It is a common belief that low vitamin D levels can lead to several kinds of illnesses, such as coronary issues, autoimmune disorders, mental health issues, and more recently, several thyroid problems like Hashimoto’s.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a necessary nutrient and hormone precursor, having a major effect on numerous biochemical processes within the body. Cholesterol within the body is converted into vitamin D when we are exposed to the sun’s rays. Certain types of food, such as fatty fish and dairy with added Vitamin D, contain this nutrient. It is extremely hard to obtain the right amount of nutrients just through one’s diet.
Vitamin D is key to keeping the body functioning correctly and is responsible for controlling the uptake of calcium and phosphorus to promote the development of bones and teeth.
Research has suggested that taking this particular vitamin may reduce the chance of getting Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and heart disease. Its contribution to keeping the mood steady and avoiding depression is essential. Researchers who conducted a 2013 review of findings noted that, statistically, individuals with weak vitamin D levels had an increased chance of suffering from depression. A separate study discovered the presence of the vitamin D receptors in the same regions of the brain associated with depression, therefore concluding that the nutrient is essential for both brain activity and mental health.
It is noteworthy that vitamin D can help to strengthen the immune system. Vitamin D can be beneficial in boosting the strength of monocytes and macrophages, which are important components in immune defense, as well as decreasing inflammation. This may help lower the risk of catching viruses, like the seasonal flu, as there are vitamin D receptors and activating enzymes on the surfaces of all white blood cells.
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An examination of 10,933 people involved in a trial has provided reliable proof that vitamin D can help prevent respiratory ailments. The analysis showed that for those taking part in the experiment, taking supplements each day or each week decreased by half the chances of having an acute respiratory illness for individuals with baseline vitamin D levels of 25 nmol/L or under. Although people whose initial levels of vitamin D were higher gained a benefit too, the effect was not as great (a decrease of 10 percent in their risk). In conclusion, taking vitamin D was demonstrated to be effective in decreasing the chances of experiencing acute respiratory issues.
Researchers and the medical community have both discussed the importance of vitamin D for the good health of humans. Studies done recently have demonstrated that, with regards to how long people live, there is a direct relationship between what levels of vitamin D are present in the serum.
READ MORE: 9 Foods To Eat To Get More Vitamin D
Can Vitamin D Cure Depression?
What does the evidence say?
Two reviews of observational studies and intervention trials both found that individuals who had depression usually had low levels of vitamin D (≤20 ng/mL). Both analyses of the trial data revealed that there were advantages to supplementing, but the methods used were not very reliable and there was a high chance of distortion.
The results of a 2015 meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) revealed that taking vitamin D supplements did not significantly reduce depression, and two reviews discussing this information were published in the following two years – 2017 and 2016. The creators of the study noted that the majority of the research concentrated on people who had not yet developed serious depression and whose starting amount of vitamin D in the blood was appropriate. To put it another way, they didn’t reject the notion that vitamin D supplementation may be more useful for people exhibiting advanced cases of despondency or who have lower amounts of vitamin D.
This finding is supported by the results of a 2014 meta-analysis that showed that among those initially deficient in vitamin D (below 20 ng/mL) and given enough vitamin D to reach sufficiency, supplemental vitamin D was just as effective as antidepressant drugs. However, this meta-analysis did not account for publication bias.
There is a tendency to favour research that shows a positive outcome when it comes to treatments, as opposed to studies that show results that suggest a treatment is ineffective. Therefore, research papers indicating that a therapy is effective are more likely to be printed, thus giving an imbalanced view of the amount of positive experiments relative to the amount of unsuccessful ones. We can illustrate that out of 12 studies, four demonstrate that the treatment was advantageous while the other eight indicate either no effect or an unfavorable outcome. The proportion of positive to negative studies is 1:2, leading us to the conclusion (assuming we are able to conduct all the studies with the same protocol) that the treatment is either ineffective or rarely effective. However, out of the four survey results that were positive, only three were made public and out of the eight negative survey results, only one was released. It appears that there are three positive studies for every one negative study.
A 2018 study that examined data on major depression concluded that vitamin D can offer a moderate level of help. This text emphasizes the relative shortage of satisfactory studies (four trials) and, much like the inspections done in 2017 and 2016, expresses disappointment over the inadequate quality of some of the studies.
Finally, it is worth noting that a 2016 Clinical Trial reported that supplementation with Vitamin D3 late in pregnancy may reduce the incidence of perinatal depression. This sole experiment looked into a specific form of depression, and it was conducted according to great standards. Furthermore, the amount of Vitamin D that was supplemented, 2,000 IU/day, is considered safe for continuous usage.
It is not unusual for research on supplements to assess doses that are too large for individual use, which restricts how practical they become in a real-world setting. In the United States, the recommended maximum amount of vitamin D one can take each day is 100 mcg, or 4,000 International Units. It is unlikely that you will be able to get the full amount needed through diet alone, but you can easily reach it by taking a dietary supplement. It is unlikely that you would reach the vitamin D limit through being out in the sun for too long, since your body will regulate the amount of vitamin D it produces. However, there is one known case of a person who got too much vitamin D from using a tanning bed, not from being in the sun.
Not having enough Vitamin D (under 20 ng/mL) has been linked to depression. If your depression is serious, you are likely to gain the most benefit from replacing a deficit. If your vitamin D levels are adequate, then taking supplements will not likely improve the symptoms of depression, regardless of how intense the problem is.
How does it work?
Vitamin D has an impact on practically all parts of the human body, making the potential means by which it could affect a person’s mood nearly endless. Possibly, a hormonal factor is involved in the impaired mood, because Vitamin D plays a role in governing hormone levels, particularly testosterone, and when testosterone is low in either gender, it can have a negative effect on the disposition of people.
We should remember, however, that correlation is not causation. We declared that the available data seems to demonstrate a link between depression and a lack of vitamin D, but this does not automatically mean that a lack of vitamin D triggers the depression. It is possible that depressed individuals stay indoors more often than usual, leading to lower levels of sunlight exposure, which then results in lower Vitamin D levels in the body. In other words, depression could be the trigger rather than the result of low Vitamin D.
Although depression may be a result instead of an origin, that does not imply that vitamin D deficiency isn’t an aftermath as well. Individuals who spend less time in the outdoors are exposed to less sunlight as well as likely doing less physical activity – something that has been shown to have a positive impact on mood and to help with improving the quality of one’s sleep.
A result can be attributed to multiple sources. For example, reduced vitamin D levels due to winter weather may be a contributing element in SAD, but less daylight is also a factor. Studies, including a detailed review of already existing research and a recent clinical trial, both come to the conclusion that light therapy (using light, but not UVB rays that produce Vitamin D) can have effects similar to medication in improving the signs of SAD.
The findings on vitamin D are less consistent. Studies have linked depression to fluctuations in vitamin D levels throughout the seasons, while the use of supplementary vitamin D had no influence over Seasonal Affective Disorder. The researchers involved with both studies underscored the fact that there were a variety of possible explanations for the results which could be adding to the uncertainty.
There is a relationship between having low levels of vitamin D and experiencing depression, however, one cannot simply conclude that having low vitamin D is the cause of the depression. Diminishing levels of light may be a contributing factor to seasonal depression, but there are a variety of other elements that also play a role.
Who’s at Risk for Deficiency?
As more individuals have become aware of the dangers of skin cancer and have adopted the practice of wearing sunscreen, many are not consuming the proper amounts of vitamin D from exposure to the sun’s rays. A study released in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association has estimated that close to 1 billion people around the world may have inadequate levels of vitamin D due to wearing sunscreen. The investigation additionally discovered that certain communities may possess a greater degree of vitamin D shortfall due to disparities in complexion. Approximately 95% of African American adults might be lacking in vitamin D.
People in northern areas are particularly prone to be deficient in vitamin D in the wintertime when their body is mostly enclosed.
Those who reside in regions with hot climates might still have vitamin D deficiencies. A Spanish research study indicates that even though plenty of sunlight reaches Spain, it is still hard to get the prescribed amount of vitamin D in the winter because the northern latitude of the country affects how much sunlight is exposed. The research also suggested that the amount of absorption could vary depending on what time of the day it is and the angle of the sun. It would take around 10 hours of sunshine at 10am in order to get enough vitamin D, yet many people do not get 10 hours of that kind of sunlight. Even if they did, it would be too much.
Testing for Vitamin D Deficiency
Have you been pondering over how much vitamin D your body requires?
The generally accepted lower limits of vitamin D levels are 30 ng/mL, yet it is best for thyroid receptor and immune system effectiveness if those levels are between 60 and 80 ng/mL.
There are two common forms of vitamin D:
- Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol)– This form is found in some fortified foods and certain supplements.
- Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)– This is the most biologically active form and is found in some high-quality supplements.
Vitamin D2 and D3 can be changed in the liver and kidney into the operational 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D form.
Two different tests can be done to determine the amount of vitamin D in your body: 1,25 (OH)D, which measures the active form of the vitamin, and 25(OH)D, which evaluates the levels of both D2 and D3. The 25(OH)D examination is the preferred way to go, as it assesses both vitamin D2 and D3 concentrations and reflects an individual’s vitamin D status more precisely.
The Bottom Line
Experts estimate that roughly half of the global population, including over 40% of people in the United States, have an insufficient intake of vitamin D (≤20 ng/mL).
It has been suggested that having a shortage of vitamin D may lead to depression. A potential cause of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may be the lack of vitamin D production due to fewer hours of sunlight during the winter season.
If your vitamin D levels are not low, taking a supplement is unlikely to have a positive effect on your emotional state. If your levels of certain nutrients are too low, taking supplements might give relief to those who suffer from major depression.
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