Our bodies need the right amount of vitamin D to function normally – both physically and mentally – and there is a growing body of evidence linking a lack of vitamin D to depression.
Now, a new meta-analysis of 41 previous studies suggests that taking vitamin D supplements may alleviate depressive symptoms in people already diagnosed with depression, opening up a potential alternative treatment option.
In addition to regulating calcium and phosphate levels in the body, vitamin D is thought to help regulate various functions in the central nervous system — and previous research in animals suggests it could even help control chemical balances in the body. the brain, which may explain the link between vitamin D and mental health.
“These findings will encourage new high-level clinical trials in patients with depression to shed more light on the potential role of vitamin D supplementation in the treatment of depression,” said Tuomas Mikola, doctoral researcher and lead author at the University of Eastern Finland. .
The new meta-analysis included a total of 53,235 study participants from 41 studies, including those with and without depression, people taking vitamin D supplements and people taking placebos, and individuals with various physical conditions.
Although the doses used varied, the typical vitamin D supplement was 50-100 micrograms per day. In the participants with depression, vitamin D supplements were found to be more effective than placebos in relieving depressive symptoms.
Vitamin D supplements seemed most effective in shorter bursts (less than 12 weeks), the researchers report. In healthy individuals, however, it was placebos that had a slightly greater impact on depressive symptoms.
“Our results suggest that vitamin D supplementation has beneficial effects in both individuals with major depressive disorder and those with milder, clinically significant depressive symptoms,” the researchers write in their published paper.
With depression globally recognized as the leading cause of disability – affecting more than 280 million of us annually – and antidepressants are not effective for everyone, more treatment options urgently need to be explored.
However, before we get ahead of the curve, the data we have so far is not enough to prove that low vitamin D levels cause depression, or that supplements are an effective treatment. While this new meta-analysis shows a connection, previous research has not been quite as conclusive.
While a meta-analysis like this is helpful when comparing results from a large number of people, the different approaches and factors in each individual study make it more difficult to draw broad conclusions — even though a lot of work is being done to gather information about the study. as a whole.
More statistical research will be needed to know for sure what the story is: through studies of larger general and clinical populations, and by observing different dose amounts and different treatment durations, for example.
“Despite the broad scope of this meta-analysis, the certainty of evidence remains low due to the heterogeneity of the populations studied and because of the risk of bias associated with a large number of studies,” says Mikola.
The research was published in Critical Reviews in Nutritional Science and Nutrition.
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