Is Vitamin D Responsible For Depression In Young Women?

depression-660x330Lack of vitamin D has been linked to depression in the past through seasonal affective disorder, a seasonal mood disorder which affects up to 10% of the population and begins in fall and lasts through the winter. However new research has found a more direct link between vitamin D deficiencies and depression in healthy women according to the findings published in Psychiatry Research.

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient needed for bone health and muscle function, and low levels of the vitamin have been linked to lowered immune function, select forms of cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

The new five-week study from Oregon State University says the young women with lower levels of the vitamin are also at an increased risk of having clinically significant depressive symptoms, even after researchers accounted for outside factors such as time of year, exercise patterns, and time spent outdoors.

“Depression has multiple, powerful causes and if vitamin D is part of the picture, it is just a small part,” David Kerr, lead author of the study, said in a statement. “But given how many people are affected by depression, any little inroad we can find could have an important impact on public health.”

Researchers asked 185 female college students between the ages of 18 and 25 to give blood samples and complete a depression symptom survey each week for five weeks.

The majority of women in the study showed low levels of vitamin D, especially among minority populations. The report says 61 percent of women of color showed insufficient levels of vitamin D compared to 35 percent of other women.

Over a third of the participants in the study reported clinically significant depression symptoms during all five weeks of the study.

“It may surprise people that so many apparently healthy young women are experiencing these health risks,” Kerr said.

It came as no surprise the study showed women’s vitamin D levels fluctuated depending on the time of year, with the lowest levels during winter and peak levels in summer. However, depression did not present as clear of a pattern causing Kerr to suggest links between vitamin D deficiency and seasonal depression need to be studied in larger populations of at-risk individuals.

“Vitamin D supplements are inexpensive and readily available.” Kerr said. “They certainly shouldn’t be considered as alternatives to the treatments known to be effective for depression, but they are good for overall health.”

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