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Is vitamin D an effective antidepressant?

Posted on: December 4, 2015   by  John Cannell, MD


A recent Iranian paper confirmed that vitamin D is an effective antidepressant.

Sepehrmanesh Z, Kolahdooz F, Abedi F, Mazroii N, Assarian A, Asemi Z, Esmaillzadeh A. Vitamin D Supplementation Affects the Beck Depression Inventory, Insulin Resistance, and Biomarkers of Oxidative Stress in Patients with Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trial. J Nutr. 2015 Nov 25. pii: jn218883. [Epub ahead of print]

There has already been a meta-analysis of 7 randomized controlled trials that concluded vitamin D is an effective antidepressant, as effective as the medications marketed by the pharmaceutical companies.

Dr. Cannell on vitamin D for the treatment of depression

However, this study was unique in that it had a depressed control group that remained deficient throughout the 8 week trial; researchers measured baseline and final vitamin D levels of patients with major depressive disorder to find that 25(OH)D levels increased by 20 ng/ml in the treatment group to a final level of 30 ng/ml. Unfortunately, they used weekly, not daily, vitamin D dosing.

The 40 patients who met the criteria for major depression were randomized to either placebo or 50,000 IU/week for 8 weeks. The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) was used to measure depression. They also measured conditions not directly caused by depression such as serum insulin, insulin resistance, total plasma antioxidant capacity and serum glutathione (glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant).

Ultimately, 36 subjects completed the trial (18 in each group). Baseline 25(OH)D was 8 ng/ml in the treatment group and 13 ng/ml in the placebo group. At the end of the trial, after adjusting for baseline value, BMI and age, BDI scores were lower in the treatment group (P = 0.04), serum insulin was higher (P=0.03), insulin resistance was improved (P=0.03) and serum glutathione was higher (P=0.02).

One wonders whether the improvements would have been amplified if the baseline 25(OH)D levels of the placebo group was in the single digits (like the treatment group), if adequate daily doses (5,000 – 10,000 IU/day) were used and if final 25(OH)D levels were between 40 – 60 ng/ml.

2 Responses to Is vitamin D an effective antidepressant?

  1. [email protected]

    Depression and many other diseases have been proven to be treated by Vitamin D

    There have been 272 successful intervention trials – when Vitamin D level got high enough

    The study on this page has the following title on VitaminDWiki
    Depression not reduced when vitamin D levels less than 30 nanograms – RCT Nov 2015

    A similar study has a similar title
    Back pain not relieved when vitamin D levels remained below 30 nanograms – Nov 2015

  2. Rita Celone Umile

    I think 40 ng/ml to 60 ng/ml is low when we speak of utilizing vitamin D as a therapy for the treatment of any specific disease.

    I also think that stating 40 ng/mL to 60 ng/mL as being an adequate level for those who are ill sets the stage for disappointment with respect to those who desire to utilize D as a drug. In plain words: they’re still going to be sick with a 25(OH)D level in this range.

    A level of 40 ng/mL to 60 ng/mL is what we should aim for in our children, so that they have a lifetime of vitamin D sufficiency.

    Of course, this is only my opinion. 😉 But, I do follow my own advice on this topic.

    Be well.

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