Vitamin D is the “sunshine vitamin,” so coined because exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light converts a form of cholesterol under the skin into vitamin D. This nutrient is best known for its role in helping to facilitate the absorption of calcium and phosphorus (as well as magnesium), and so helping to promote bone health. Now, research suggests the sunshine vitamin may also have a role to play in protecting against depression.
In this new study, researchers measured vitamin D and parathyroid hormone (PTH) blood levels in 1,282 community residents aged between 65 and 95 (Arch Gen Psychiat. 2008;65(5):495). Amongst the subjects, 26 had major depressive disorder, 169 had minor depression, and 1,087 were not depressed. The researchers found vitamin D levels were 14 percent lower in subjects with major and minor depression, compared to non-depressed individuals. Likewise, PTH levels were 5 percent and 33 percent higher in people with minor and major depression, compared to non-depressed individuals.
The researchers indicated depression may be the consequence of poor vitamin D status, which in turn may be caused by “less sun exposure as a result of decreased outdoor activity, different housing or clothing habits and decreased vitamin intake.”
Gene Bruno is the Dean of Academics and is on the faculty of Huntington College of Health Sciences (HCHS), an accredited distance learning institutions offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in nutrition, as well as diploma programs in nutrition and dietary supplement science. HCHS.edu, (800) 290-4226.