. . . vitamin D beats depression year-round It’s not just in the winter that sufficient vitamin D beats the blues. Large amounts of vitamin D are found in areas in the brain (the hippocampus, amygdala and cerebellum) involved in emotion and cognition, so a deficiency could be expected to impact both emotional and cognitive function. A 2006 study in older adults found that it did just that. Those with vitamin D levels below 20 ng/DL were 11 times more likely to be depressed, and they also suffered from more cognitive impairments. This past June, Dr. Sonal Pathak, an endocrinologist, reported successfully treating three chronically depressed women, all on antidepressant medications, with high dose vitamin D. She had previously observed that many of her patients with depression were also deficient in vitamin D, and that when she corrected the deficiency, they “unanimously experienced an improvement in mood and energy.” So she decided to do a small formal study in hopes of winning financing for a larger study down the road. Dr. Pathak’s three patients (ages 42, 58 and 66) had 25(OH)D levels of 12, 8.9 and 14.5 ng/dL respectively at the beginning of the study. (See article above for explanation of the 25(OH)D test.) She gave them each 50,000 IU of prescription vitamin D2 once a week for 8 weeks and then 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 each day for an additional 4 weeks. At the end of the total 12 weeks, the patients’ 25(OH)D levels had risen to 32, 34.6 and 38 ng/dL. The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) scores levels of depression as “minimal,” “mild,” “moderate,” and “severe.” The three patient’s BDI scores declined from severe to moderate, moderate to minimal, and moderate to mild, respectively. Note that each of these patients experienced significant improvement even though their 25(OH)D levels were still in the “low normal” range. It would be interesting to see what further improvements they might experience if they got their levels up to a “high normal” range of 50-60 ng/dL or above and also followed the healthy lifestyle practices and complete supplement program recommended in my article The Depression Epidemic. Vitamin D is involved in the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and epinephrine – the same neurotransmitters manipulated by antidepressant drugs. It also combats inflammation, and depressed people tend to have higher levels of inflammation in their brains. Low intakes and low 25(OH)D levels of vitamin D have repeatedly been associated with higher levels of depression. Although studies on vitamin D and depression are all considered preliminary, it would behoove anyone suffering from a mood disorder to make sure their vitamin D levels were high-normal.
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