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July 24, 2009


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According to recent studies, the majority of people living in the Northern climates are vitamin D deficient. I know that vitamin D deficiency greatly contributes to osteoporosis, and therefore, I've began taking calcium and vitamin D supplementation as a part of my daily diet. It's interesting to know that vitamin D deficiency causes SAD, but it is something that makes perfect sense. I believe that as healthcare practitioners, we should encourage our patients to take calcium and vitamin D on a regular basis to prevent osteoporosis and SAD.

Doing a PubMed literature search resulted in a couple hits suggesting that vitamin D may have a beneficial effect in depressive signs and symptoms. One study in particular, by Lansdowne, et al, studied 44 patients who were given 400 IU, 800 IU, or no vitamin D3 for 5 days during late winter in a random double-blind study. Results on a self-report measure showed that vitamin D3 significantly enhanced the positive effect, and there was some evidence of a reduction in the negative effects.

The next step would be determine how much vitamin D is necessary to determine improvements in SAD. In the study by Shipowick, patients were given 5000 IU daily, while other studies are using much less in their studies. In any case, the use of vitamin D seems to be promising in improving symptoms of SAD.

I believe the over-the-counter (OTC) version of vitamin D (D2) is synthesized in plants, while the prescription vitamin D (D3) is synthesized in the skin with exposure to the sun. Vitamin D intake could have some positive outcomes in regard to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). With the lack of exposure to sun during the winter months in the Northeast, it is clear that vitamin D deficiency becomes a problem.

On a recent trip to my physician during the winter months, he noted that I was deficient in Vitamin D and recommended that I start Vitamin D supplementation until the summer months where I could get some sun and increase my own production of Vitamin D. I did not have SAD, but my lab results did yield a lower-than-normal value for my vitamin D.

The study is interesting, but I would like to see it on a larger scale. Since there were only 9 women in the study and they filled out the questionnaire, it is possible there could be some placebo effect going on as well. I would also like the study to include men and not just women.

This study is extremely interesting, but it makes a lot of sense if you know about the etiology of seasonal affective disorder. As someone who moved from a warm sunny state to a cold winter state up north, I was definitely hit with SAD during my first year in school. Clearly, the lack of sunlight, cold and the long dark days of winter have a psychological and physiological effect on the body. We normally get most of our vitamin D from sunlight, where our body converts it into an active form that we can use. Almost everyone who lives above the 38th latitude is at risk or has vitamin D deficiency during the winter. As a result, I would expect Vitamin D to have a role in SAD since it is such an important vitamin for our body.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depressive disorders affect approximately 18.8 million American adults, or about 9.5% of the U.S. population age 18 and older, in a given year. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression.

Some of the risk factors for SAD are neurotransmitter imbalance, heredity, gender, stress, medications, hormones, etc. The use of vitamin D for SAD might work, but some research will be needed before firm conclusions can be made.

Vitamin D is found in many dietary sources such as fish, eggs, fortified milk and cod liver oil. The sun also contributes significantly to the daily production of vitamin D, and as little as 10 minutes of exposure is thought to be enough to prevent deficiencies.

Illnesses of the brain that cause disruptions in a patient's thinking, feeling, moods and ability to relate to others are called psychiatric disorders, or psychological disorders. Psychiatric disorders can occur in patients of all ages, genders, races and ethnic backgrounds. Although there are currently no cures for psychiatric illnesses, treatment, including psychotherapy and medications, may help manage symptoms and prevent relapses.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a pattern of depression related to changes in seasons and a lack of exposure to sunlight. According to the Natural Standard monographs on SAD, no direct correlation between vitamin D and SAD could be established. Theoretically, there are chances of possible vitamin D3 deficiency that could be related to SAD, but more scientific evidence is needed before any firm conclusions can be made.

For individuals with SAD, vitamin D supplementation would be a great alternative to other prescription medications, light boxes, etc. Light boxes are extremely expensive, and many individuals are uneasy about taking prescription medications.

I have been using vitamin D since last year for my SAD, and I think it helped me, as things are much better now. I would recommend it :)

It may be possible that the women in the study underwent a placebo effect and felt less depressive symptoms knowing that they were receiving a treatment for their condition. Since there is no objective way to measure these depressive symptoms, it's hard to analyze the results of this study without a placebo group. However, it can be the basis for future well-designed studies on a larger scale. It would be interesting to see where this goes and if, in the future, people with SAD will be able to avoid antidepressants, which have a large side effect profile.

Vitamin D plays important roles in calcium absorption and bone metabolism. Some of the disease states like liver failure, malabsorption, rickets, decreased exposure to sunlight and osteomalacia, are commonly associated with low vitamin D levels. Also peopel who take medications, such as clonazepam, cerebyx, carbamazapine, depakote ER and other anticonvulsants, may also experience low vitamin D levels.

According to the Natural Standard grading scale, vitamin D receives a grade C for the treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), meaning more studies are needed because of unclear or conflicting scientific evidence.

This is a very interesting study on the role of vitamin D. I do agree with the authors about the sample size being too small and that more people should be studied. Also, I noticed that they only surveyed women with low vitamin D levels. I can’t help but wonder if there are women with normal vitamin D level and SAD. Finally, to make sure that the mood improvement in this study wasn’t a placebo effect much more research is needed to support this finding.

As a sufferer of seasonal affective disorder, or appropriately termed SAD, I have tried many natural therapies, with mild-to-moderate success, to treat my symptoms. Since SAD is common in people who are deprived of vitamin D, it is common sense to link its treatment with vitamin D supplementation. Light boxes are also very effective, although expensive. However in my opinion, the best natural remedy for SAD is a plane ticket to a warm, tropical climate in the dead of winter, to get natural light and vitamin D! And trust me, it will probably cost you as much as a light box.

I’m sure that future studies will be conducted with larger and more diverse populations, including men and those with normal vitamin D3 levels. The investigators should also include serum levels of melatonin and serotonin at baseline to account for the effects of those neurochemicals on SAD. Since it is more likely that many chemicals are responsible for SAD symptoms, they should be able to more precisely define vitamin D3’s specific role in the disease. Vitamin D3 may turn out to benefit specific symptoms, as may serotonin and melatonin, and patient-specific therapies can be designed according to SAD symptoms.

It would be interesting to see another study in which they supplement with vitamin D in patients who don’t necessarily have low serum levels and to see if any improvements in seasonal affective disorder symptoms are seen. Also, it would be good to draw serum levels of vitamin D in patients who suffer from SAD to see the potential correlation between vitamin D levels and the disorder itself.

In the study discussed, only 9 women were assessed. This small study could not make any correlation for vitamin D supplementation with improving SAD symptoms. The correlation of SAD accompanied by vitamin D deficiency could be explained by the fact that SAD patients developed symptoms due to lack of sunlight exposure. We knew that adequate sunlight exposure is also critical for getting activated vitamin D. However, it would be important to note that lack of sunlight leads to SAD AND vitamin D deficiency. It did not imply that lack of sunlight leads to vitamin D deficiency, and therefore leads to SAD. Supplying SAD patients with activated vitamin D would not increase sunlight exposure. Therefore, SAD patients might not benefit from such supplement. More studies should be conducted to evaluate the relationship, if any, between vitamin D and SAD.

Although this study was not statistically significant due to its low patient population, taking vitamin D supplements could be an option for patients suffering from SAD. I found it interesting that all the participants were women because this patient population could potentially benefit from vitamin D supplementation. Taking vitamin D can help with dietary absorption of calcium, a mineral that helps with bone development that most women do not get enough of. I am just weary of people reading the study and then over supplementing with vitamin D -- is there a risk of toxicity over a certain blood concentration?

I am very intrigued by this study. I have recently been looking at vitamin D. I mainly looked at the differences between vitamin D2, which is by prescription, and vitamin D3, which is available over-the-counter. My research revealed that the over-the-counter is more potent than the prescription. I want to know why the researchers picked vitamin D3 instead of vitamin D2. Does it have to do with the fact that it is more potent? I am also interested in if they will do a study on vitamin D and regular depression.

This study investigated the effect of vitamin D on seasonal depressive disorder (SAD), but it did not mention anything about regular depression. I wonder whether SAD’s underlying mechanism is different from that of other types of depression or if SAD is simply a much milder case of depression. Whatever the case may be, this is a promising study, which warrants further research. Also, is there a reason why only women were included in the study?

It’s important to remember that just because this study has shown a potential benefit from vitamin D on SAD, it doesn’t mean that low vitamin D levels are the only reason that SAD occurs. It is also important to keep in mind that SAD is not just due to a lack of vitamin D because of a lack of sunlight. Sunlight, be it natural or from a light box, has been shown to improve mood and prolong fatigue. There is more at work here than just vitamin D due to lack of sunlight.

So sun block doesn’t actually block the absorption of vitamin D, but rather blocks the ultraviolet rays, which help your body make vitamin D. Fortunately, it typically only takes 10-20 minutes of sunlight exposure to help make vitamin D, which is usually less than the time it takes to get burned, depending on the fairness of your skin. So, if you were going to be outside for a long period of time, it’s definitely a good idea to wear the sun block, but a short trip outside without the protection should be all right from a sun burn perspective and beneficial from a vitamin D production perspective as well.

That is an interesting question, Kara. I also wonder if sunscreen affects our skin's ability to make vitamin D. Does anyone know how long a person needs to stay in the sun in order to get enough daily vitamin D? I have heard differing skin colors can affect the amount of time it takes to get adequate absorption.

My endocrinologist warned me several years ago that most of the sun blocks we now use routinely block absorption of vitamin D. I would also be interested to know if depression occurs at other times of the year in someone who always uses sun block. Are we all just not getting enough vitamin D? There are very few nutritional sources with some fortification in cereals and milk.

I also was unaware of an association between vitamin D and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. I guess it does make sense since in the winter months, there isn't as much sunlight, so then you have less serum vitamin D. After reading this article, I thought I'd look into this relationship more, and I came across another study (PMID: 18793245) in support of serum vitamin D levels having an impact on symptoms of depression. Granted, this study was a little different (obese men and women from Norway) from the SAD one, but still interesting!

This is a very informative post. So, does that mean that people who are often depressed have low levels of vitamin D?

I was reading up on vitamin D. Apparently it is somewhat active in the brain. From what I understand, it is involved in some reactions that produce chemicals in the brain that transmit signals in the nervous system. It doesn’t really seem though like the entire process of how Vitamin D may improve symptoms of SAD is very well understood yet.

I did a quick PubMed search after reading this article regarding vitamin D and SAD symptoms. I found this interesting article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez. These researchers found that there was no association between vitamin D concentrations and depression. I would be interested in seeing more research in this area. I personally think it seems promising.

Apparently, summer sunlight increases serotonin levels twice as much as winter sunlight. In layman’s terms, serotonin is essentially the “happy” neurotransmitter in the brain. It is the chemical naturally in the brain that many antidepressant medications act to facilitate. With winter sunlight increasing serotonin levels only half as much as summer sunlight, in addition to less daylight and less time outside during daylight hours, it is no surprise that seasonal affective disorder affects so many people in northern areas.

After reading this study about vitamin D improving SAD symptoms, I looked up vitamin D on the Natural Standard Web site. There are many articles posted there about vitamin D. Apparently vitamin D deficiency is implicated in many various disease states, including bacterial vaginosis, colds, cystic fibrosis and inflammatory bowel disease, just to name a few. It certainly can't hurt to make sure we all get enough of this important vitamin.

This is an interesting study regarding Vitamin D's role in seasonal affective disorder. I would like to see more research in this area. This study included only women. It would be nice to see a study that included men too. I wonder if they would get the same benefits. It would also be nice to see a study with a larger sample size.

I was aware that lack of sunlight exposure could lead to decreased levels of vitamin D. I was not aware that low vitamin D levels were associated with seasonal affective disorder. Does anyone know why low levels of vitamin D can result in patterns of depression, such as SAD?

It is really interesting that vitamin D may improve symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I wonder if it would help depressive symptoms that were not related to SAD, regardless of the level of sunlight exposure? I also wonder if SAD occurs even in patients with normal vitamin D levels, or if it only occurs in people with borderline or low levels. This study only involved women with borderline-low levels.

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