Treating vitamin D deficiency may improve depression

Women with moderate to severe depression had substantial improvement in their symptoms of depression after they received treatment for their vitamin D deficiency, a new study finds. The case report series to be presented at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting in Houston.

Because the women did not change their or other environmental factors that relate to , the authors concluded that correction of the patients' underlying shortage of vitamin D might be responsible for the beneficial effect on depression.

"Vitamin D may have an as-yet-unproven effect on mood, and its deficiency may exacerbate depression," said Sonal Pathak, MD, an endocrinologist at Bayhealth Medical Center in Dover, Del. "If this association is confirmed, it may improve how we treat depression."

Pathak presented the research findings in three women, who ranged in age from 42 to 66. All had previously diagnosed , also called clinical depression, and were receiving antidepressant therapy. The patients also were being treated for either or an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).

Because the women had risk factors for vitamin D deficiency, such as low vitamin D intake and poor sun exposure, they each underwent a 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood test. For all three women, the test found low levels of vitamin D, ranging from 8.9 to 14.5 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL), Pathak reported. Levels below 21 ng/mL are considered vitamin D deficiency, and normal vitamin D levels are above 30 ng/mL, according to The Endocrine Society.

Over eight to 12 weeks, oral vitamin D replacement therapy restored the women's vitamin D status to normal. Their levels after treatment ranged from 32 to 38 ng/mL according to the study abstract.

After treatment, all three women reported significant improvement in their depression, as found using the Beck Depression Inventory. This 21-item questionnaire scores the severity of sadness and other symptoms of depression. A score of 0 to 9 indicates minimal depression; 10 to 18, mild depression; 19 to 29, moderate depression; and 30 to 63, .

One woman's depression score improved from 32 before vitamin D therapy to 12, a change from severe to mild depression. Another woman's score fell from 26 to 8, indicating she now had minimal symptoms of depression. The third patient's score of 21 improved after vitamin D treatment to 16, also in the mild range.

Other studies have suggested that vitamin D has an effect on mood and depression, but there is a need for large, good-quality, randomized controlled clinical trials to prove whether there is a real causal relationship, Dr Pathak said.

"Screening at-risk depressed patients for deficiency and treating it appropriately may be an easy and cost-effective adjunct to mainstream therapies for depression," she said.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Vitamin D lifts mood during cold weather months

Mar 03, 2010

A daily dose of vitamin D may just be what Chicagoans need to get through the long winter, according to researchers at Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing (MNSON). This nutrient lifts mood during ...

Tuna-eating teenagers less likely to suffer depression

Jan 20, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- New research from the Children of the 90s study at the University of Bristol, which has been charting the health of 14,500 children since their birth in the early 1990s, shows that the ...

Vitamin D may not be the answer to feeling SAD

Mar 17, 2009

A lack of Vitamin D, due to reduced sunlight, has been linked to depression and the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but research by the University of Warwick shows there is no clear link between the levels ...

'Let the sunshine in' to protect your heart this winter

Nov 17, 2008

The temperature might not be the only thing plummeting this winter. Many people also will experience a decrease in their vitamin D levels, which can play a role in heart disease, according to a new review article in Circulation.

Recommended for you

Older adults are at risk of financial abuse

4 hours ago

Nearly one in every twenty elderly American adults is being financially exploited – often by their own family members. This burgeoning public health crisis especially affects poor and black people. It merits the scrutiny ...

Medical internet could transform health care

4 hours ago

The medical Internet is not yet here, but the widespread availability of electronic medical records and enhanced data-storage capabilities are pushing it closer to reality. As now envisioned, this new cyberspace ...

User comments