Vitamin D can Help Alleviate Depression Symptoms

April 20, 2023

Summary: Depression is the most common mental health issue affecting the vast majority of the population. However, about 8% may experience major depression requiring prolonged medical treatment. Studies also show that vitamin D deficiency is common among those living with depression. Multiple studies show that supplementing vitamin D may help manage depression. A new systemic review concluded that there is sound evidence in favor of using vitamin D for managing depression.

Depression is a common mental health condition. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression globally. In the United States, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that about 7.1% of adults experience at least one episode of major depression in a given year. It’s important to note that post-traumatic stress disorder treatment may also be relevant for those who have experienced trauma.

Here it is vital to understand that when considering the cases of mild to moderate depression, its prevalence would be much higher. Most adults would experience mild to moderate depression in their life. Thus, when data suggests about 8% of adults have episodes of major depression, they are suggesting severe depression. Hence, depression is among the most common mental health issues. However, studies show that people often fail to realize the severity of depression. Thus, no more than one-third of adults living with depression seek medical help. If left untreated, depression may become worse. It may even lead to fatal outcomes.1

Regretfully, treating depression remains challenging. Doctors may use various drugs to treat depression, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). However, these medications fail to help in many cases. Moreover, medical drugs have a limited role in managing mild to moderate depression, and they appear to be good only for major depression. It means that researchers need to find novel and safer ways to manage mild to moderate depression. And even find safe ways to treat severe or major depression.

In recent years, researchers have paid much attention to vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency is quite common worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 1 billion people globally have vitamin D deficiency. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 42% of the population is deficient in vitamin D.

However, studies suggest that the sunshine vitamin deficiency is even greater in those with depression. Therefore, many researchers believe that supplanting vitamin D may help in many cases. Of course, vitamin D is not expected to treat depression. However, researchers hope that it may reduce its severity. Although it remains unclear how vitamin D may help, it might help in multiple ways. For example, vitamin D can help boost metabolic health, hormones, neurotransmitters, and more.

There is already a number of studies showing that vitamin D supplementation may be helpful when living with diabetes. Hence, Finland researchers decided to conduct a systemic review and meta-analysis. These are particular kinds of studies that combine data from multiple clinical trials. In the study, researchers found that vitamin D may help considerably. It may help reduce the severity of depression by as much as 30% or more. Hence, researchers in the study concluded that there is significant evidence to say that 2000 IU or more of vitamin D a day may help manage depressive symptoms. Researchers also say that there is a need to find out if adding vitamin D to a standard depression treatment would have added benefits or not.3

However, it is important to note that research is still ongoing, and more studies are needed to understand the relationship between depression and vitamin D deficiency. But getting enough vitamin D is important, as deficiency can lead to health problems. Therefore, it is recommended to check with a healthcare professional to determine if you have the deficiency and if you need to take supplements, especially if you are experiencing depression or have frequent major depression episodes.

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Medical Disclaimer: Keep in mind that the content provided is not direct medical advice for patient care, but is provided for thoughtful discussion.

By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP