"D" is for Depression

Depressive symptoms linked to low levels of Vitamin D

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) As the United States finds itself in the middle of winter, many individuals fight seasonal depression, and a new study suggests potential causation.

According to UT Southwestern Medical Center psychiatrists, low levels of vitamin D, synthesized from calcium through sunlight, have been linked to depression.

"Spend time outside and increase levels of vitamin D."

“Findings suggest that screening for vitamin D levels in depressed patients – and perhaps screening for depression in people with low vitamin D levels – might be useful," notes corresponding author, E. Sherwood Brown, Ph.D, professor of psychiatry. "But we don't have enough information yet to recommend going out and taking supplements."

The scientists do not yet understand whether a vitamin D deficiency contributes toward depression or vice versa. Nonetheless, the research suggests vitamin D could influence the actions of neurotransmitters, inflammatory processes, and other biological markers alike.

The largest investigation of its kind, the study analyzed nearly 12,600 individuals over a four year time period. Measuring for vitamin D, the research found participants with higher levels of the micronutrient were less likely to be depressed, even in cases of prior depression. Moreover, findings suggest targeting patients with a history of depression to assess potential vitamin D deficits.

Currently, vitamin D deficiency is associated with a number of ailments, according to Dr. Brown, including heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, as well as neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Levels are typically tested in routine physical examinations.

The Vitamin D Council, a nonprofit focused on righting “needless” cases of vitamin D deficiency, reports similar findings.  The nonprofit notes, “an increased risk of depression may be related to several vitamin D–sensitive diseases.” Nonetheless, the organization realizes this evidence only proves linkage and not cause.

Speak with a healthcare professional regarding the effects of vitamin D on depression and how to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D in daily life.  

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 11, 2012
Last Updated:
January 11, 2012