Vitamin D May Help Chase Blues Away

Vitamin D deficiencies may explain depression in certain patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Depression, as a result of a vitamin D deficiency, is easy to test for and easy to fix.  One major risk factor for a vitamin D deficiency is not getting enough exposure to sunlight.

A recent report looked into vitamin D deficiency as the cause of depression in three patients.  Vitamin D replenishment improved the study participants' depression significantly over time.

"If you’re experiencing depressive symptoms, talk to your doctor."

Sonal Pathak, MD, endocrinologist at Bayhealth Medical Center in Dover, Delaware, led an investigation into how vitamin D would affect depression in vitamin D deficient patients.

Dr. Pathak said what prompted this investigation was, “Vitamin D is associated with several metabolic, musculoskeletal and immunologic effects.” Meaning that vitamin D is necessary for the proper functioning of the body’s metabolism, physically moving parts like muscles, joints, bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and connective tissue, and immune system.

The most notable drawback to this report is its small sample size of only three patients with major depressive disorder.

Patient #1 was a 42 year-old female who had undergone treatment for hyperthyroidism (underactive thyroid) with obesity and depression for five years. She had been treated with antidepressants, but her depression had worsened over the last six months.

Patient #2 was a 58 year-old female that was being treated for type II diabetes.

Patient #3 was a 66 year-old female also being treated for type II diabetes.

Each of the patients took the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Patient #1 scored for severe depression, while patients #2 and #3 scored for moderate depression. All patients were tested for vitamin D deficiency.

The Endocrine Society states that a normal level of Vitamin D is over 30 ng/ml.

The three patients had levels that ranged from 8.9-14.5 ng/ml. Each of them clearly had a vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D replacement therapy was given to each woman through an oral dose for eight to 12 weeks.

When their vitamin D levels ranged from 32 to 38 ng/ml, the patients were tested for depression again using the BDI. Patient #1’s BDI score went from 32 to 12, patient #2 went from 26 to 8, and patient #3 went from 21 to 16, all qualifying as minimal to mild on the depression scale.

“Vitamin D may have an as-yet-unproven effect on mood, and its deficiency may exacerbate depression. If this association is confirmed, it may improve how we treat depression,” according to Dr. Pathak.

“Screening at-risk depressed patients for vitamin D deficiency and treating it appropriately may be an easy and cost-effective adjunct to mainstream therapies for depression.”

This case study was a preliminary investigation, and further research is needed to support these findings. 

This study was presented at The Endocrine Society’s 94th Annual Meeting in Houston, Texas, on June 23, 2012.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 23, 2012
Last Updated:
November 16, 2012