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More and more scientists are becoming interested in vitamin D as it is implicated in numerous health conditions. Depression and major depressive disorder are two conditions which seem to be affected by vitamin D levels. Still, the relationship may not be causal – lack of vitamin D causing depression – and up to now it’s been unknown whether supplementation would change the depressive condition.
A review of clinical trials which have considered the effects of vitamin D supplementation on depression was conducted by Jonathan A. Shaffer, PhD, assistant professor of medical sciences at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and colleagues at CUMC’s Center for Cardiovascular Behavioral Health. The team revealed that there are very few well-conducted trials of vitamin D supplementation and that the majority of these show little to no effect on depression.
There were seven trials with a total of 3200 participants which compared the effect of vitamin D supplementation on depression with a control group using no vitamin D. Nearly all of these studies had limitations and all but two used patients without clinically significant depression (no diagnosis) for the study. The overall improvement in condition attributable to vitamin D was so small as to be clinically insignificant. Dr. Shaffer did find some evidence which suggested that vitamin D combined with antidepressant medication may provide more help than antidepressant medication alone.
It could be that vitamin D supplementation is only good for people who start out with a vitamin D deficiency. “Although tempting, adding vitamin D supplements to the armamentarium of remedies for depression appears premature based on the evidence available at this time,” noted Dr. Shaffer.
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