A recent study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements found high dose vitamin D supplementation is associated with decreased depression, but not aggression, among teenage girls.
Approximately 20% of teens develop depression before they reach adulthood. By the age of 16 years, girls are much more likely become depressed than boys. There are a variety of factors that may contribute to one’s risk of depression, including physical health, life events, genetic predisposition, environmental factors and biochemical imbalances.
Common symptoms of depression include, but are not limited to:
Vitamin D plays an important role in many physiological processes throughout the body, including the brain. In fact, vitamin D receptors have been found in many parts of the brain linked to depression. Additionally, vitamin D helps regulate serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of well being and sleep quality. Low levels of dopamine and serotonin are believed to be major contributors to the development of depression.
Research evaluating the relationship between vitamin D and depression is continuing to grow. Overall, research suggests that a link exists between vitamin D status and depression. Unfortunately, clinical trials have produced conflicting findings regarding whether vitamin D supplementation helps treat depression. Additionally, no studies to date have evaluated the relationship between vitamin D and aggressive behavior, a common symptom of depression.
Therefore, researchers conducted a clinical trial to evaluate the efficacy of high-dose vitamin D supplementation on treating depression and aggression among adolescent girls between 13 and 16 years of age. Individuals were excluded from the study if they had chronic diseases (aside from depression), were taking anti-inflammatory medication, antidepressants, antidiabetic or anti-obesity drugs, vitamin D, calcium or received hormone therapy within the past 6 months. A total of 988 girls fit the criteria, and thus were included in the study.
The participants received 50,000 IU (1,250 mcg) vitamin D3 weekly for a total of 9 weeks. At baseline and completion of the intervention, the participants received the following assessments:
Here is what the researchers found:
The researchers concluded,
“…Our results indicate that vitamin D supplements at a dose of 50,000 IU once a week for 9 weeks can improve depression scores in adolescent girls.”
This study provides further evidence supporting the importance of maintaining healthy vitamin D status for managing depression. The researchers noted the study’s limitations. Due to the relatively short study duration, the researchers were unable to determine the long term effects of vitamin D supplementation. Additionally, the lack of a placebo group left the study at risk for response bias.
The researchers stated,
“Further studies with a follow-up phase are necessary to identify the long-term effects of this vitamin on mood disorders.”
Sturges, M. High dose vitamin D supplementation may help reduce depression among adolescent girls. The Vitamin D Council Blog & Newsletter, 8/2017.