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The “Sunshine” Vitamin May Brighten Up Your Mood

Yet another health benefit has been found for vitamin D, the “sunshine” vitamin. A wide ranging study suggests that dietary vitamin D could have a beneficial effect on depression in post-menopausal women.

The research was conducted at Harvard University. The findings were published online ahead of print on August 24, 2011 and will appear in the October 2011 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The researchers examined data from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, which included 81,189 women who were between the ages of 50 and 79 at the onset of the study.

At the beginning of the study, the participants completed a food-frequency questionnaire and a supplement-use questionnaire. The researchers used current antidepressant use and the Burnham scale to measure the depressive symptoms of the women at the beginning of the study and again after 3 years.

At the end of the study, participants who had shown depressive symptoms at the onset and consumed at least 800 International Units (IU) per day of vitamin D through diet showed a 21% lower prevalence of depressive symptoms than those who consumed 100 IU or less daily.

Additionally, participants who had not shown any depressive symptoms and consumed at least 400 IU of vitamin D were 20% less likely to report that depressive symptoms had developed when compared to participants who consumed 100 IU or less daily.

Vitamin D has been linked to a wide variety of health benefits, including reductions in skin cancer, reducing the risk of osteoporosis, improved cardiovascular health, combating diabetes, and improving age related eye degeneration.

This study focused specifically on dietary vitamin D, which can be found in high amounts in milk, fortified cereals, fish, and eggs. Your body also processes vitamin D from the sun but those of us living in the northern parts of the world usually need more vitamin D than we are able to get from sunshine alone. A high quality vitamin D supplement is always a good option if you feel that you’re not getting enough through diet and sun.

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