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Can Low Vitamin D Cause Depression

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Vitamin D deficiency and depression | What you NEED to know (symptoms, testing and dose)

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A lack of vitamin D common in the UK during the autumn and winter months has been associated with increased symptoms of depression, according to a new study.

Earlier this year everyone in Britain was recommended to take supplements of the vitamin during the darker months. While it is found in a few foods like oily fish, most people get vitamin D from a natural effect on the body caused by sunlight. Low levels are associated with bone conditions such as rickets and osteoporosis, but it can also affect muscle tissue and has been found to be associated with normal levels of dopamine, a chemical linked to mood, in the brain.

What Is Vitamin D Listed As On A Blood Test

Measuring the concentration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in your blood is the best way to identify a vitamin D deficiency.12 This is measured in in nanomoles/litre or nanograms/millilitre . A level of 20 ng/mL to 50 ng/mL is a healthy range. If less than 12 ng/mL is detected, it implies a vitamin D deficiency.13

How Vitamin D Status Diet And Lifestyle Habits And Mood Are Interconnected

Mood, diet and lifestyle habits, and vitamin D status are all closely connected. Low vitamin D may trigger low mood, making it more difficult to sleep, eat well, and exercise regularly, says Choukri. Yet, she adds, These difficulties may be due to the mood itself rather than vitamin D.

On the flip side, research suggests that not getting enough sleep, having a poor-quality diet, and inactivity can contribute to low mood independently, regardless of vitamin D status.

Heres a closer look at the relationship among vitamin D status, these habits, and mood and health.

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The Facts About Vitamin D

Vitamin D is naturally present in some foods such as fatty fishes and is also produced when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis.

Because older adults have spent more time in isolation, and likely inside, over the past year, there is a good chance that they have not been getting as much sunlight as they would in a normal year. Furthermore, studies show that older adults may need to spend more time outside than others to receive the same amount of vitamin D.

Impact Of Vitamin D Deficiency On Mental Health

Best Can Low Vitamin D Cause Anxiety And Depression

The body needs Vitamin D at the proper level for it to function as it should.

How Vitamin D Works In The Body

Your muscles, heart, brain, and immune system have vitamin D receptors. The body transports the vitamin to the kidneys and liver, where it converts into an active hormone. In this form, it assists the body in absorbing calcium.

Your body acquires vitamin D through sun exposure. Certain foods and supplements can also be sources of vitamin D. Dark-skinned people have a high level of melanin.

Itâs the component that determines coloring in the human and animal world. This pigmentation prevents the skin from absorbing vitamin D correctly.

How Vitamin D Deficiency Leads to Mental Health Effects

Low levels of the vitamin may contribute to schizophrenia in adults, depression, and seasonal affective disorder. Other health problems that can arise from the deficiency include:

  • Low bone density
  • Excessive weight loss or gain
  • Trouble sleepingââ

If you experience any of these symptoms similar to depression, have your vitamin D levels checked. Your doctor will do a test to determine the level of the vitamin in your blood.

For depression diagnosis, you may have to complete a self-assessment test. A blood test can’t diagnose depression but may test other conditions that cause depressive symptoms.

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How Is A Vitamin D Deficiency Diagnosed

Your doctor can order a blood test to measure your levels of vitamin D. There are two types of tests that might be ordered, but the most common is the 25-hydroxyvitamin D, known as 25D for short. For the blood test, a technician will use a needle to take blood from a vein. You do not need to fast or otherwise prepare for this type of test.

How Older Adults Can Increase Vitamin D Levels And Overall Health

Once an older adult is diagnosed with a Vitamin D deficiency, its important to find ways to increase levels.

Luckily, there are easy, non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as spending more time in the sunlight. Our time outside and with others has been limited over the past several months, but the benefit of getting fresh air and exposure to sunlight should not be forgotten, especially for older adults.

Eating a diet rich in fatty fish and seafood , as well as fortified foods like yogurts and cereals and supplements, is also important to raising Vitamin D levels.

Good food sources of vitamin D, as outlined by the National Institutes of Health are:

Food Vitamin D

Salmon, 3.5 ounces 360

Tuna, canned, 3.5 ounces 200

Orange juice, fortified, 8 ounces 100

Milk, fortified, 8 ounces 98

Breakfast cereals, fortified, 1 serving 40100

Find additional resources focused on the health and well-being of older adults.

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Can Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Depression

Although there is an apparent link between low vitamin D and depression, it is unclear whether one causes the other.

If vitamin D deficiency alone were responsible, theoretically, supplementation would help. However, research has proven this is not the case. In fact, multiple studies have found vitamin D supplements ineffective in the treatment of depression.

One example is a 2019 randomized controlled trial investigating vitamin D for depression in 155 seniors. The participants were aged 6080, had clinically relevant depression symptoms, functional impairments, and low vitamin D. They took 1200IU of vitamin D3 or a placebo daily for a year. The results showed those who took the supplement had increased vitamin D levels by the end of the study. However, there were no remarkable differences between the groups in terms of depressive symptoms or functionality.

Why Is Vitamin D Important For Your Health

Low Vitamin D Linked to Depressed Teens

You might know about the link between vitamin D deficiency and rickets .

Rickets is a condition which affects the bones. It causes them to become soft and weak, often leading to deformities and fractures.

In fact, vitamin D3 was first recognised when scientists were trying to work out why cod liver oil was so effective in dealing with rickets.

But our bones are not the only parts of our bodies that rely on enough vitamin D.

Lack of vitamin D has also been linked to muscle weakness and fatigue. Studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency can contribute to an impaired immune system.

Vitamin D receptors in our brains help brain cells receive and understand chemical signals a lack of vitamin D is likely to affect the way our brain communicates.

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Signs And 6 Causes Of A Vitamin D Deficiency

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The benefits gained from spending time outside are boundless. Not only do the great outdoors help relieve stress, keep you active, and improve focus, but getting outside can also help you get your daily dose of vitamins, specifically vitamin D, and help prevent a vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D, a.k.a. the sunshine vitamin, is a steroid vitamin or fat-soluble prohormone produced when your skin is exposed to sunshine or, rather, the ultraviolet B radiation the sun emits.

The Truth About Vitamin D

No doubt you’ve seen the headlines promoting the negative side effects of low vitamin D levels. It’s important to read those stories carefully, since links don’t necessarily prove cause and effect. “There can be many other explanations for the associations observed,” says JoAnn Manson, MD, PhD, chief of the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Massachusetts.

That said, not getting enough vitamin D can lead to negative health consequences. The good news? It’s relatively easy to get enough vitamin D. Certain foods, including fatty fish, can help you increase your levels, as can sunlight. Specifically, 15 minutes of sunlight on your hands and face each day can do the trick, Donald Ford, MD, a family medicine doctor at Cleveland Clinic, previously told Health.

Here are 27 reasons you should consider spending more time outdoors if your doctor mentions that your vitamin D levels are low.

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Progress In Treating Postpartum Depression

A personal note here is that a local internist in my community started ordering vitamin D blood tests during routine physical exams. I know three of his patients who had a history of mild to moderate depression, though they were not taking meds. All three had low vitamin D levels, were started on replacement therapy and within three months reported a marked improvement in energy and mood and virtually no depression. Not a rigorous scientific study, but definitely more food for thought.

Vitamin D supplements can be found over the counter in just about any corner store. However, the high dose form, which contains 50,000 units of the vitamin and is taken once or twice a week, can only be obtained by prescription.

A prescription for 50,000 units of vitamin D could be a simple remedy if your level of the vitamin is low. Of course, this should be discussed with your doctor. Many new studies are in the works looking at this intriguing connection. But in the meantime, the potential benefits of vitamin D for depression should not be ignored.

Dietary Recommendations Of Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency symptoms: Depression is linked to low ...

The dietary recommendations are largely based on bone health and assuming a minimal sun exposure of an individual under study. While the safe upper limit is set at 4000 international unit/day for healthy adults, for pregnant women, doses are higher than 6000 IU/d. Based on limited data from randomized controlled trials, some authors suggest that pregnant women can be supplemented with 10002000 IU/d during the second and third trimesters, and a deficiency during pregnancy can be treated with daily doses of 4000 IU .

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What Causes Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency can be caused by specific medical conditions, such as:

  • Cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease: These diseases do not allow the intestines to absorb enough vitamin D through supplements.
  • Weight loss surgeries. Weight loss surgeries that reduce the size of the stomach and/or bypasses part of the small intestines make it very difficult to consume sufficient quantities of certain nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. These individuals need to be carefully monitored by their doctors and need to continue to take vitamin D and other supplements throughout their lives.
  • Obesity: A body mass index greater than 30 is associated with lower vitamin D levels. Fat cells keep vitamin D isolated so that it is not released. Vitamin D deficiency is more likely in obese people. Obesity often makes it necessary to take larger doses of vitamin D supplements in order to reach and maintain normal D levels.
  • Kidney and liver diseases: These diseases reduce the amount of an enzyme needed to change vitamin D to a form that is used in the body. Lack of this enzyme leads to an inadequate level of active vitamin D in the body.

Vitamin D Deficiency Prevalence And Association With Psychosis

Thirty-five adolescents were vitamin D deficient , and an additional 40 were vitamin D insufficient . Of those with vitamin D deficiency, 40% had psychotic features compared to only 16% of the sample who were not vitamin D deficient . Those with D deficiency were 3½ times more likely to have psychotic features . Of those with normal vitamin D status, 79% did not have psychotic features.

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Vitamin D Depressive Symptoms And Covid

  • 1Postgraduate Program in Nutrition, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil
  • 2Translational Nutritional Neuroscience Working Group, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil
  • 3Nutrition Graduation Course, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil
  • 4Department of Nutrition, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil
  • 5Department of Psychiatry, Queens University, Kingston, ON, Canada
  • 6Inpatient Psychiatric Unit, Kingston General Hospital, Kingston Health Sciences Centre, Kingston, ON, Canada
  • 7Centre for Neuroscience Studies, Queens University, Kingston, ON, Canada

Get Out In The Sunshine More

Low Vitamin D Levels Might Be Linked To Dementia

Most people can make enough vitamin D by simply being out in the sun every day for short periods of time with their hands, forearms or lower legs uncovered and without sun protection you dont have to go and sun it up in a bikini .

However, there is no definitive answer to how long you have to stay out in the sun for because everyone is different.

Skin colour and skin exposure play a big part in how much vitamin D your skin will absorb, e.g. people with dark skin such as those from an African, Caribbean or South Asian origin will need to spend longer exposed in the sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D as somebody with lighter skin.

You also need to make sure you dont burn in the sun, so make sure you always have sun protection and sunglasses handy for when it gets super sunny and you can feel your skin getting red or burnt.

Please seek shade if you plan to be out in the sun for a long time the longer you stay in the sun unprotected, the greater your risk of skin cancer is.

Myth busting:

Your body cannot make vitamin D with sunlight that shines through a window the glass will block the ultraviolet B rays from getting to your skin.15

If you think you are at risk, seek advice from a medical professional or ask your Doctor for a blood test to assess your Vitamin D levels. With your Doctors support, start taking a quality vitamin D3 supplement to meet UK Government guidelines.

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Broken Bones And Stress Fractures

Bone fractures that don’t heal quickly are another sign , Gittleman says.

Thats because one of the critical roles of vitamin D is to help the body absorb calcium, which supports bone health, according to the NIH. Research indicates that adequate vitamin D and calcium levels can promote healthy bones and help prevent osteoporosis, according to the Mayo Clinic.

A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials published August 2020 in Medicine found that supplementing with vitamin D and calcium reduced the incidence of both falls and fractures in the study participants.

According to the National Institute on Aging, people tend to stop building bone mass around age 30, so adequate vitamin D intake is important to keep the bones in good condition as you age.

What Are The Long Term Effects Of Mental Illness

Effects on the Mind You may lose sleep, which starts a domino effect for chronic fatigue, irritability, decreased libido, and more. Those with untreated depression are also at higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse and reckless or abusive behavior. Untreated depression can also increase the chances of suicide.

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Knowing When And How To Supplement With Vitamin D To Boost Mood

A vitamin D deficiency may cause a number of symptoms, beyond a low mood and depression. According to the Cleveland Clinic, someone with a vitamin D deficiency may also experience, for example:

  • Bone pain
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches, cramps, or weakness

Children with a vitamin D deficiency may develop rickets, which can cause bone pain and joint deformities, the Cleveland Clinic notes.

There are certain groups known to be at a higher risk for vitamin D deficiency, which may necessitate supplementation. According to Medline Plus, risk factors for vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Lack of sunshine
  • Having an underlying health condition
  • Being overweight

But simply having low mood may be enough cause to pick up a box of vitamin D pills next time youre out. We are all dealing with a lot of stress right now, and for some people more vulnerable to mood disorders, Greenblatt says, it might be helpful for a physician to look at your vitamin D levels.

Can You Check Vitamin D Levels At Home

Vitamin D Deficiency and Depression â Whatâs the ...

If you suspect your fatigue and aching muscles could be down to dwindling D levels, the only accurate way to reliably diagnose a deficiency is to take a vitamin D test. Your doctor can arrange a simple blood test for vitamin deficiency to make the diagnosis. Vitamin D home tests are also available. These rely on a finger prick blood sample.

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Vitamin D Deficiency In People Who Are Depressed

Collectively, the research on vitamin D supplementation and depression indicate that theres a correlation between the two but not a causation. In other words, while depressed individuals may have lower levels of vitamin D, that occurrence did not cause them to develop the illness.

If vitamin D deficiency were the cause, then supplementation to increase levels would likely have reduced the signs and symptoms of depression or prevented it.

The fact many of the groups vulnerable to depression are also prone to vitamin D deficiency may be responsible for the correlation between the two.

According to a study called Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine?, the groups at risk for vitamin D deficiency include the elderly, adolescents, obese individuals, and those with chronic illnesses.” The researchers also stated that it is these same groups that have also been reported to be at risk for depression.

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