Vitamin D Deficiency Associated with Depression Risk, Again


Perhaps you remember an old John Denver song in which he noted that sunshine falling on a certain part of his body made him happy. Georgia State University researchers reveal that people with insufficient vitamin D are at an 85 percent increased risk of depression compared with those who have sufficient levels.

Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin for more than one reason

Although previous research has indicated that a vitamin D deficiency is associated with a risk of depression, results of a new study add more support for this relationship. Vijay Ganji, PhD, RD, and his research team evaluated data from 7,970 individuals aged 15 to 39 in the United States. All the participants underwent an assessment of depression through use of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Diagnostic Interview Schedule.

The investigators found that subjects who had blood levels of vitamin D of 50 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) or less had an 85 percent increased risk of experiencing current depressive symptoms when compared with subjects who had blood levels of at least 75 nmol/L.


According to the Vitamin D Council, a healthy blood level of vitamin D is between 125 and 200 nmol/L (or between 50 and 80 nanograms per milliliter). Most people in the United States and more than half the world’s population reportedly has insufficient levels of vitamin D. A deficiency of this vitamin has been implicated as a major factor in heart disease, stroke, hypertension, depression, chronic pain, osteoporosis, and many other conditions. Vitamin D levels can be determined by a simple blood test.

To help achieve a healthy level of vitamin D, the Council recommends taking 5,000 International Units (IUs) daily for two to three months, and then getting a blood test to monitor progress. Doses should be adjusted so blood levels reach between 125 and 200 nmol/L. Individuals can also regularly expose their unprotected skin to sunlight for 20 to 30 minutes a day, being careful not to burn. A combination of supplements and sunshine is often followed.

In a previous study, Dutch researchers reported that low levels of vitamin D and higher blood levels of the parathyroid hormone were associated with higher rates of depression among 1,282 individuals aged 65 to 95. A 2010 article in Psychosomatic Medicine reported that vitamin D deficiency is associated with late-life depression in northern latitudes. A 2010 report in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism noted that vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for depressive symptoms in older adults.

Dr. Ganji and his team note that “The mechanism through which vitamin D plays a role in mental health is not clearly understood,” and that their study results do not prove that a vitamin D deficiency causes depression. However, they also point out that “it is important to identify persons who are at risk for vitamin D deficiency and/or for depression and to intervene early because these two conditions have enormous negative consequences on long term health.”

Ganji V et al. International Archives of Medicine 2010 Nov 11; 3(1): 29
Vitamin D Council