Adeficiencyof anyvitaminwill have an ill effect on our health. The lack ofvitaminD has been linked to diabetes, some types of cancer, heart disease, and nowdepression. It is not known whether the link is causative, butdepressed people have reduced theirsymptoms by restocking their body’s supply ofvitaminD.
Our body creates its ownvitaminD when exposed to sunlight. Ultraviolet rays change a skin biochemical intovitaminD that is subsequently morphed into thehormonecalcitriol, the vitamin’s active form. We also get some of this vitamin from food.
There are small amounts ofvitaminD in salmon, tuna, mackerel, egg yolks, beef liver, and cheese, and it is added to some foods such as milk.VitaminD was first added to milk when its importance for strong bones and calcium regulation was determined.
Vitamin D and Our Brain
Our brain hasvitaminD receptors in the hippocampus (learning and memory area) and throughout our central nervous system. Receptors are like outlets that thevitaminD can plug into. The presence of receptors suggests the necessity ofvitaminD for emotional and behavioral regulation.
VitaminD is also involved with nerve growth andneurotransmittersynthesis by deactivating enzymes in the cerebrospinal fluid and brain. Evidence of this are the brains of animals born to mother’s deficient invitaminD. The young animals show developmental neural abnormalities.
Clinical studieshave correlated low levels ofvitaminD not only to depression, but to cognitive impairment. Adeficiencyis related to slower processing of information, and lower scores on mental tests, in older adults. Research is being done to discover if high levels ofvitaminD can restore cognitive function lost to age or illness.
Vitamin D and Depression
IncreasedvitaminD is known to raise our gray matter’s serotonin levels. In that sense it works like a prescription antidepressant. It may also reduce inflammationand protect our neurons by slowing production of theprotein cytokine, an inflammatory agent suspected in the onset of depression.
Though depressivesymptomsmay be a result ofvitamindeficiency, they may also be partly the cause.
Sometimessymptomsofdepressionresult in isolation and not enough time in the sun. Depressed people may also have suppressed appetites and not eat enough foods that provide thevitamin, or not have the inclination or energy to shop for groceries.
Get Your Dzzz!
Sun exposureof 15 to 30 minutes, three times each week, allows the body to synthesize a healthy amount ofvitaminD. There is currently some paranoia aboutsun exposureand warranted or not, may be contributing to deficiencies of the sunshinevitamin.
The currently recommended daily intake ofvitaminD, from The Institute of Medicine, is 600 IU for ages one to seventy, and 800 IU for those beyond 70. Other experts recommend twice those amounts. Your doctor can test yourvitaminD level and determine how much supplementalvitaminD you might need.