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Low Vitamin D Levels May Spike Depression Risk

Low levels of vitamin D may seriously increase the risk of depression according to a new study published in the November 2010 issue of the International Archives of Medicine.

Depression is becoming a disease of epidemic proportions, with the World Health Organization estimating that within 20 years more people will be affected by depression than any other health problem. Currently, depression affects 120 million people worldwide and is the leading cause of disability.

For the study, researchers from Georgia State University analyzed data on nearly 8,000 US residents between the ages of 15 and 39.

The researchers measured depression using the National Institute of Mental Health’s Diagnostic Interview Schedule and took blood samples to measure vitamin D levels.

They found that participants with low vitamin D levels had a staggering 85% increased risk of depression compared to those with normal vitamin D levels.

The relationship between vitamin D and mental health is not a new finding, but researchers are still unclear as to the mechanisms behind vitamin D's mental health benefits. It is uncertain whether vitamin D deficiency leads to depression or whether depression leads to vitamin D deficiency.

The researchers did note, however, that vitamin D is necessary for the production of some mood lifting neurotransmitters such as dopamine.

Vitamin D has been associated with numerous additional benefits including bone health, protecting against mental decline and lowering blood pressure.

Approximately 1 billion people are vitamin D deficient worldwide and since our body becomes less efficient at synthesizing the vitamin as we age, those rates are only expected to increase as the global population ages. For this reason, taking a supplement or eating more foods fortified with vitamin D is a good idea. Some foods that are often fortified with vitamin D are yogurt, milk, orange juice, cereals and margarine.

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