Posted on Wed, 12 Aug 09
Does winter get you down? Seasonal affective disorder, or depression during the winter months, is a common condition that is thought to be related to low levels of the sunlight vitamin, vitamin D. However with vitamin D deficiency affecting approximately 50% of people throughout the year D-pression may be more common than is realised.
Shedding light on mental health
Reduced sun exposure and low vitamin D levels have been linked to a wide range of mental health complaints including schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, cognitive decline with age and the development of dementia [1-3]. Although the reason low levels of vitamin D are linked to depression is still being explored it is known that vitamin D plays an important role in areas of the brain that affect mood and behaviour [4,5].
Boosting mood with vitamin D
A number of recent reports have suggested that vitamin D is a simple and safe way to improve mood and relieve depression. In December 2008 a study from Norway found that vitamin D supplementation lifted depression after one year of treatment and more recently a research group from Washington State University published the results of a study showing an improvement in depressive symptoms in women taking vitamin D for just 8 weeks during winter [6,7]. These reports add to growing evidence that vitamin D can improve mood during the winter months .
Taking a vitamin D supplement containing 800-1000IU leading into winter and considering a blood test to check your vitamin D levels if you suffer from depression is advisable as much higher doses may be needed in the short-term to correct vitamin D deficiency.
1. McGrath J, Selten JP, Chant D. Long-term trends in sunshine duration and its association with schizophrenia birth rates and age at first registration – data from Australia and the Netherlands. Schizophr Res. 2002;54:199–212.
2. Murphy PK, Wagner CL. Vitamin D and mood disorders among women: an integrative review. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2008 Sep-Oct;53(5):440-6.
3. Cherniack EP, Troen BR, Florez HJ, Roos BA, Levis S. Some new food for thought: the role of vitamin D in the mental health of older adults. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2009 Feb;11(1):12-9
4. Berk M et al. Vitamin D deficiency may play a role in depression Medical Hypotheses (2007) 69, 1316–1319.
5. Perez-Fernandez R et al. (1997) Vitamin D receptor gene expression in human pituitary gland. Life Sci 60:35–42
6. Jorde R, Sneve M, Figenschau Y, Svartberg J, Waterloo K. Effects of vitamin D supplementation on symptoms of depression in overweight and obese subjects: randomized double blind trial. J Intern Med. 2008 Dec;264(6):599-609.
7. Shipowick CD, Moore CB, Corbett C, Bindler R. Vitamin D and depressive symptoms in women during the winter: a pilot study. Appl Nurs Res. 2009 Aug;22(3):221-5.
8. Lansdowne AT, Provost SC. Vitamin D3 enhances mood in healthy subjects during winter.Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1998 Feb;135(4):319-23.