In the largest study of its kind to date, researchers from UT South Western Medical Center and the Cooper Institute reported a clear link between low levels of vitamin D and depression. In this four-year evaluation involving almost 12,600 subjects, investigators found that higher vitamin D levels were associated with a significantly lower risk of depression, especially in people with a prior history of depression. The study also revealed that low levels of vitamin D were associated with a greater risk of depressive symptoms. Again, the correlation was especially apparent in those with a prior depression history. We now know that the brain is loaded with vitamin D receptors and that this “sunshine vitamin” clearly plays a role in normal emotional and cognitive health. Although the study could not answer whether or not vitamin D supplements could be useful in the treatment or prevention of depression, it certainly supports the practice that people with depression should be screened for low vitamin D levels and vice-a-versa (Mayo Clinic Proceedings, November 2011).
Due to the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiencies in our population, I recommend that everyone get outdoors regularly for “safe and prudent” sun exposure in addition to consuming oily fish (the only food that naturally contains a good dose of vitamin D) often. As a safety net, I also think it is wise to take a supplement of 2000 iu’s of vitamin D daily. (Be sure to always talk with your health care provider before taking any supplements).
For anyone with a history of depression, I highly recommend Dr. Andrew Weil’s new book Spontaneous Happiness– it is filled with lots of happy wisdom.