A new study has found that a lack of Vitamin D may be linked to depression in women.
Three case studies of women with moderate to severe depression showed substantial improvement in their symptoms after they received treatment for a vitamin D deficiency, a new study finds.
"There is no solid proof that vitamin D deficiency causes depression," says researcher Sonal Pathak, MD. She is an endocrinologist at Bay Health Endocrinology in Dover, Del. "Large studies are clearly needed."
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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.
“Screening at-risk depressed patients for vitamin D deficiency and treating it appropriately may be an easy and cost-effective adjunct to mainstream therapies for depression,” Pathak said.
According to the study, the women involved received vitamin D therapy for eight to 12 weeks to replenish their blood levels. After treatment, their levels increased to 32 to 38 ng/mL. The women also reported corresponding improvements in symptoms of depression following vitamin D therapy.
One woman's depression score changed from one indicating severe depression to mild depression. Another woman's score improved to a level suggesting she had just minimal symptoms of depression.
Vitamin D is often referred to as the “sunshine” vitamin because the body creates it naturally when the skin is directly exposed to the sun. Vitamin D is also added to milk and other foods, and is available in small amounts in fatty fish like tuna, salmon, and mackerel; beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. It can be hard to get as much as we need from our diets, which is why supplements are often needed.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which is a key component in bone formation. It has also been linked to a reduced risk of developing cancer, osteoporosis in adults, and rickets in children.
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