Low vitamin D linked to depression in young women

More research has emerged regarding Vitamin D, an essential nutrient responsible for supporting bone health and muscle function.  A new study from Oregon State University has found a connection between vitamin D deficiency and depression in young women.

The body generates its own vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight.  Vitamin D deficiency is more common in northern areas where people are less exposed to direct sunlight.

The study focused on 185 college students aged 18 to 25, all women, living in the Pacific Northwest, because they are at an elevated risk for both vitamin D deficiency and depression. This group of subjects was chosen because of geographical location, and because past research has indicated a higher prevalence of depression in American women than men.

Participants were given blood tests and depression symptom surveys once a week for five weeks.

The findings, published in Psychiatry Research, found that more than a third of the participants reported clinically depressive symptoms during the course of the study.  Additionally, many of the women had insufficient vitamin D levels, particularly women of color.  More than 60 percent of women of color recorded insufficient levels, compared to 35 percent of other women.

Predictably, the womens’ vitamin D levels varied depending on the time of year, with levels decreasing during the fall and winter and rising in the spring.  Depressive symptoms didn’t follow as clear a path, indicating that more research is needed on a larger test group to determine at-risk individuals.

The recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is 600 IU per day, but there is no established level for supporting mental health.  Researchers hope these findings will lead to a better understanding of how vitamin D affects mental health and how it can used to improve current treatment methods.

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