Dear Dr. Cannell: vitamin D and K2 for depression

Posted on: November 6, 2015   by  John Cannell, MD

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Dear Dr. Cannell:

My name is Jane. I’m a personal trainer who works indoors all day. Two years ago, I was dealing with cancer, high levels of stress and depression. I was not feeling like my typical self, full of energy and always happy. I no longer enjoyed anything.

I saw my dermatologist for my yearly skin evaluation, and she recommended vitamin D supplementation, since I am fair skinned. She confirmed I was vitamin D deficient with a blood test showing my level was at 16 ng/ml!

I immediately started supplementing with vitamin D3, which includes vitamin K2. Now, I am happy to say I feel myself again, full of energy and back to enjoying my usual interests. My blood level is finally up to 75 ng/ml! My goal is get it up to a higher range and keep it there from all year round. Vitamin D truly saved me!

Jane

Boston MA

Dear Jane:

I’m glad you are doing better; it sounds as if you’d become depressed. A recent study showed vitamin D levels are clearly associated with a depressed mood, particularly anhedonia, which is the inability to feel pleasure.

von Känel R, Fardad N, Steurer N, Horak N, Hindermann E, Fischer F, Gessler K. Vitamin D Deficiency and Depressive Symptomatology in Psychiatric Patients Hospitalized with a Current Depressive Episode: A Factor Analytic Study. PLoS One. 2015 Sep 23;10(9):e0138550. 

You didn’t say how much vitamin D you are taking, but I’m glad you are taking it with vitamin K. We recommend three capsules per day of D3Plus, which contains a lot of vitamin K as well as other essential co-factors. Vitamin K is a minimally understood vitamin with multiple functions in the body; though, most of these functions have not been researched.

If you asked practicing physicians, I bet 99% would say vitamin K is only involved in blood clotting. However, there are vitamin K dependent proteins in multiple human tissues. These proteins assist vitamin D in facilitating proper bone formation (osteocalcin) and preventing unwanted calcification (Mgp). Blood clotting is simply the most urgent function of vitamin K, so, if vitamin K intake is restricted (as it is in most people who don’t consume five serving of vegetables every day), vitamin K is first used by the liver to handle blood clotting so you don’t bleed to death.

Similar to the world-renowned experts in vitamin D, such as Professors Hector DeLuca and Michael Holick, there is now a world-class vitamin K expert in the world, Professor Guylaine Ferland of the University of Montreal. Her last 15 scientific papers are about vitamin K.

In 2013, Dr. Ferland reviewed what is known about vitamin K dependent proteins in the brain. So, you may be feeling better, because you started supplementing with vitamin K. We know vitamin D helps mood but the combination may work even better.

Ferland G. Vitamin K and brain function. Semin Thromb Hemost. 2013 Nov;39(8):849-55.

Not everyone with low vitamin D status develops clinical depression. I have seen undetectably low vitamin D levels (< 3 ng/ml) in people with no psychiatric complaints and who otherwise appear healthy! Also, the majority of cases of clinical depression are not due to vitamin D deficiency; I know this from professional experience.

We recommend brief sun bathing when appropriate and supplementing with 5,000 IU/day (as D3Plus with its 800 mcg of vitamin K) so you get enough vitamin K too) on days you are unable to receive safe, sensible sun exposure. If possible, one should increase their green leafy vegetable intake to receive more vitamin K from their diet.

Sincerely,

John Cannell MD

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