Vitamin D – A Natural Anti-Depressant?

September 7, 2017


What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D plays a vital role in bone health and immunity and researchers are now discovering that vitamin D may be beneficial to our health in other areas as well…

Exactly how vitamin D works in the brain isn’t fully understood. One theory is that vitamin D affects the amount of serotonin in the brain (happy hormone, many anti-depressant medications work by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain). Therefore, researchers have suggested that vitamin D may also increase the amount of serotonin, which may help treat depression. There are two types of vitamin D obtained naturally from food sources: D2 from plant sources such as mushrooms and soy milk and D3 from animal sources such as raw fish, cod liver oil, sardines, herring, canned/smoked salmon, canned tuna, oysters, shrimp and egg yolks. D3 is three times stronger than D2. Vitamin D can also be obtained from fortified foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese, margarine, orange juice and breakfast cereals.

So what does research say about the effect of Vitamin D on depression?

A lot of research has been done on the effect of vitamin D on depression and further research is needed in order to get conclusive results. However, many studies up to date proved a positive effect of vitamin D on depression and mood.

For example, a population-based cohort study in the elderly in the Netherlands reported that 25 (OH) D levels were 14% lower in both those diagnosed with minor depression and with major depression. Lower 25 (OH) D levels were linked with greater depression severity.

The authors of studies conducted in 2010 and 2013 suggested that low vitamin D levels may represent an underlying biological vulnerability to depression. Multiple other studies have supported this and concluded that people with an optimal level vitamin D had a decreased risk of depression (especially late life depression), while those with lower levels had an increased risk.
Research evidence also indicates that adequate levels of vitamin D intake are required for normal brain neuropsychiatric functioning since vitamin D is involved in numerous brain processes including neuroimmunomodulation, neuroprotection and brain development.

How to make sure you get enough vitamin D & to reduce your risk of depression

How much vitamin D you need depends on many factors including age, race, season, sun exposure, clothing and more. All things considered, a daily vitamin D intake of 600IU is recommended to ensure optimal blood levels in most people.

The most efficient and plentiful source of vitamin D is direct sunlight. Vitamin D produced in the skin lasts at least twice as long in the blood as vitamin D ingested from the diet. In strong sun, exposing arms and legs (large parts of the body needs to be exposed) for 10-20 minutes between 10 AM and 3 PM is usually enough to meet the daily requirements of most light-skinned people. People with darker skin need a little more time. Make sure you never ever burn and also note that if you use sunscreen or stay behind glass, you will produce less vitamin D or none at all.

If you live somewhere where there is sun year-round, then you may not need extra vitamin D as long as you make sure to get enough sun. If you do not have access to the sun then vitamin D3 supplements of 1000IU should be enough for most people. Have your blood levels measured in order to know if you need vitamin D supplementation. It is also advised adults over the age of 50 take a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU each day. Lastly, remember to include dietary sources of vitamin D in your diet regularly.


If you’re interested in getting nutritional support, take a look at Daily Dietitian’s meal plans and we will make things easy and delicious for you.