Depression & Vitamin D: The Emerging Link

Vitamin D has been linked to many health conditions before. A recent study links insufficient levels of the vitamin with the disabling condition depression

In a recent study performed by researchers from the National Institute of Aging in the United States, insufficient levels of vitamin D may be the reason why many individuals over the age of 65 are experiencing symptoms of depression.

Senior individuals often have low levels of the important vitamin because they tend to stay indoors more often, as opposed to younger, more sprightly individuals with more active lifestyles. The study was published in a medical journal on endocrinology this year.

According to Luigi Ferrucci, the lead researcher, the emerging link between vitamin D deficiency and the occurrence of depression must be further investigated.  The study involved a follow-up testing of nearly one thousand male and female respondents within a six-year period.

The researchers used a specialized scale that measured the symptoms of depression called CES-D.  The researchers discovered that those with lower levels of vitamin D in their blood tended to have poorer score in the CES-D test.  Those with higher vitamin D percentages in their blood scored better in the same test.

Alarming, global trend

Depression is fast becoming one of the leading causes of disability around the world, not just in the United States.  It is estimated that today, there are 120 million people afflicted with the condition.  Ferrucci’s study is not the first to point at the possible link between the vitamin and depression.

In an earlier study carried out two years ago, Dutch researchers reported that insufficient levels of the vitamin in the body resulted in a higher percentage of the parathyroid hormone.

This hormone, which is used by the body to regulate calcium loss, has been directly linked to a higher incidence of depression in some one thousand two hundred respondents in yet another independent study.  This is the reason why a causal pathway must be mapped out to determine just how this vitamin affects the human brain.

In a fourth related study, researchers McCann and Arnes noted that vitamin D is important for the proper functioning and health of the human brain.  The widespread presence of vitamin D receptors throughout the human brain is evidence of the vital role of the nutrient in brain health.

According to yet another scientific review, vitamin D has been associated with affecting proteins in the human brain that are responsible for governing the learning process and remembering.  If an imbalance occurs in these areas, you can just imagine a chain reaction occurring throughout the brain.

Benefits of vitamin D

There are several ways that you can get vitamin D: natural exposure to sunlight, food (like dairy products, e.g. yogurt, milk, etc.) and through vitamin supplementation.  The body only needs about 10 – 15 minutes of exposure to natural sunlight to produce vitamin D on its own.

If this is not possible, people with low levels of vitamin D should explore vitamin supplementation; this applies most especially to senior individuals who may not be eating well or are unable to engage in a more active lifestyle.  Instead of using sunscreen when going out to get your healthy dose of sunshine, you can protect your skin naturally by taking natural antioxidants like fresh wheatgrass juice and citrus fruits.

The usual recommended dose for adults is between 400 to 800 IU (international units) of vitamin D everyday. Pregnant women should be given a higher dose (800 IU) to ensure optimum bone health and proper development of the fetus.

And there are more reasons to love vitamin D! Here are some of the most important benefits:

1. It is needed for proper absorption and utilization of calcium and phosphorous.  It is needed for the proper maintenance and repair of the bones and skin.

2. It strengthens and helps maintain the immune function of the body. Conditions like flu and the common cold can be warded off more efficiently if the immune system is strengthened by vitamin D.

3. It is an important nutrient that prevents the occurrence of MS (multiple sclerosis).  According to researchers from the Oregon Health & Science University, MS is less frequent in tropical countries because there is more available sunshine in these places than in temperate regions.

4. Vitamin D has also been linked to the maintenance of normal body weight (according to research from the Medical College of Georgia).

5. Vitamin D is important for brain health in the later years (60 – 79 years of age).

6. In a recent study from the Harvard Medical School, vitamin D can also reduce asthma attacks in asthmatic individuals.

7. We are exposed continually to low levels of radiation.  The good news is vitamin D can also help protect us from such exposures.

According to US cancer researchers, people with adequate levels of vitamin D have a lower risk for many types of cancer than people with low or inadequate levels of the vitamin.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 7th June 2010

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply