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Treating Vitamin D Deficiencies May Help Improve Symptoms of Depression


Treating Vitamin D Deficiencies May Help Improve Symptoms of Depression

Commonly referred to as the "sunshine" vitamin, vitamin D may improve symptoms of depression.

A deficiency in vitamin D may have an effect on mood, leading to increased depression. Conversely, vitamin D may provide a simple, low-cost method of treatment for depression among those with deficiencies in the essential nutrient. This is according to a case report series at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in Houston this past week.

The small study looked at three women who suffered from moderate to severe depression and who also had low levels of vitamin D in their systems due to low intake and/or poor sun exposure. The women underwent oral vitamin D replacement therapy over eight to 12 weeks, which restored the women’s vitamin D levels to normal.  After the treatment the women showed significant improvement in their depression, as measured by the Beck Depression Inventory—a 21-item questionnaire designed to measure sadness and other symptoms of depression.

According to Sonal Pathak, an endocrinologist at Bayhealth Medical Center in Delaware, “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.”


Depression is a medical condition that can severely impact a person’s quality of life. An estimated 1.4 million Canadians suffer from depression, and it is the second most prominent cause for long-term disability among workers.

Antidepressant drugs are a commonly prescribed treatment for depression, but they are also associated with numerous side effects, such as nausea, weight gain/loss, headaches, anxiety, insomnia or drowsiness, diarrhea or constipation, sweating, tremors, and sexual dysfunction.

Depending on the type of depression, there are many natural remedies that have been shown to improve symptoms of depression, such as S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe), 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), and St. John’s wort. In all cases of depression, and when considering taking these or other supplements, consult a health care practitioner for advice.

The sunshine vitamin

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 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.

There are few foods that naturally contain vitamin D, and it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D from food or sunlight alone. As a result, many foods are artificially fortified with vitamin D. Supplements are also available.

Where to find vitamin D

  • Dairy products
    • Cheese
    • Butter
    • Cream
    • Fortified milk
  • Fatty fish (such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel)
  • Oysters
  • Fortified breakfast cereals, and soy milk (check the Nutrition Fact Panel on the food label)
  • Supplements, found at your local health food store



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