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The Feel-Good Pill: Vitamin D Shown to Lift Mood During Chilly Months

As most of the country is easing into spring, some areas, especially those in the northernmost climate regions, have a few more weeks to go before seeing warmer temperatures and sunny days. Those of you who live in these climates know all too well of the long, drawn-out winters that can abound, and the depression and “blues” that can accompany them. But new research suggests that you don’t have to reach for an antidepressant to get through. Rather, a daily dose of vitamin D just may do the trick.

Winter can be a refreshing time, a time when many of us who enjoy winter sports such as skiing, skating, and snowmobiling can enjoy winter, snow, and all it has to offer. This said, those who live in the Northern climates have a much longer, colder experience with the season than most of us and many of those living there find themselves prone to seasonal depression. Though this bleakness of season has always been a given, recent studies show that getting some extra vitamin D for those hit hard by the seasonal depression could relieve some of that depression and help lift mood.

For those living in northern climates, winters can often cause a seasonal epidemic. And it isn’t just psychological, as many believe. It actually results from less exposure to sun, which is a vital source of Vitamin D, and causes those in colder climates to feel blue. Researchers at Loyola University in Chicago, IL (Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing) decided to study Vitamin D as a supplement more closely to see if anything could be done to combat this epidemic.

What You Need

These studies show that a diet rich in fish, milk, and other main sources of vitamin D is probably not enough to make sure your body is getting enough of the vitamin . . . to not just ward off depression, but also ward off disease. They determined that the average person needs to have a daily amount of 30-60ng/mL of vitamin D found in sunlight, foods, and D2 or D3 supplements.

Vitamin D and Diabetes

Closely tied to the mood-enhancing properties of vitamin D is that of insulin-resistance associated with diabetes. Loyola University is in the process of “evaluating whether weekly vitamin D supplements improve blood sugar control and mood in women with diabetes. Depression is associated with increased insulin resistance, so people with diabetes have a greater risk for the disease than those without depression. Women also tend to have greater rates of depression and poorer blood sugar control than men with diabetes.”

The study to analyze primarily women in relation to vitamin D and depression as it relates to diabetes is truly a groundbreaking one as it seeks to show a connection between two epidemics in this nation. The trial that the University is employing will sample 80 women between 18-70 years old, who have depression symptoms, type-2 diabetes and a clean board of health otherwise.

"Vitamin D has widespread benefits for our health and certain chronic diseases in particular," Dr. Penckofer said. "Our research may shed greater light on the role this nutrient plays in managing two conditions that impact millions of Americans. If proven to be successful, vitamin D may an important addition to care for diabetes and depression."

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