Vitamin D and Depression: More Closely Linked Than We Thought?
Depression is a psychiatric disorder that is marked by various symptoms that can negatively affect a person’s quality of life. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin helpful for maintaining bone health. Recently, numerous studies are being conducted that are linking vitamin D deficiency with depression in an individual. Though there is still no absolutely conclusive proof tying Vitamin D with alleviating depression, all the studies that have been conducted are rather promising.
What is Depression?
Depression is a mood disorder. According to World Health Organization (WHO), during a depressive episode, “the person experiences depressed mood (feeling sad, irritable, empty) or a loss of pleasure or interest in activities, for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks”. Depression can cause severe set-back in the quality of life a person leads. It has been said to be the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting about 121 million people. The WHO has determined depression to be fourth on the global burden of disease list. Treatments for depression commonly include anti-depressants and therapy.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D, also known as Calciferol is a group of fat soluble secosteroids. It helps regulate the level of calcium, phosphate, and magnesium in the body. This helps in maintaining good bone health, aiding in its healing, growth, as well as maintaining the bone structure. Vitamin D also helps in keeping other systems healthy like nervous system, immune system, as well as musculoskeletal system.
Human body gets the Vitamin d it requires through sun exposure. There are certain food items that have Vitamin D content in them. Supplements for this can also be taken.
Vitamin D and Depression
A meta-analysis of various trials has suggested that there is a link between the level of vitamin D in the body and depression. Different independent studies have shown that people with vitamin D deficiency are at a significantly higher risk of suffering from depression as compared to individuals with normal levels of the same. It should be noted that while there is a correlation between the two, there is no causation, that is, while depressed individuals might have lower levels of vitamin D in the body, the occurrence of lower levels of vitamin D does not directly cause the illness.
Vitamin D and types of Depression
While there are many types of depression, the cases in which vitamin D seem to be more closely linked are post-partum depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Post partum depression is caused in women a few days, weeks, or months following the delivery of a baby. This causes a major hormonal imbalance in the body and might lead to depression. This has been seen to be alleviated to a remarkable degree when supplemented with vitamin D.
Seasonal affective disorder or SAD is a seasonal mood disorder reported by many people during the months of winter. Vitamin D is naturally produced by the body when exposed to sunlight. During winter season, people tend to avoid going outdoors, or are covered even when they do go out. This causes a drop in the level of vitamin D in the body. The lowered levels of vitamin D can cause depression by affecting the mental wellbeing of a person. People often complain feeling sad and gloomy on rainy days. This is the major reason for that.
Can vitamin D help battle depression?
Treatment for depression is generally a combination of anti-depressants and psychotherapy. These approaches are often combined with dietary changes and other activities, as required by an individual. If depression id related to low levels of vitamin D, then increasing the intake or adding a supplement might help, but there is no conclusive proof yet that shows that vitamin D is the magical solution that can help win the battle that is depression.