The Link Between Vitamin D, Inflammation And Depression
New research - vitamin D, inflammation & depression
The activity of vitamin D was once thought to be limited to the skeletal system but we now know that it has widespread roles throughout the whole body – in fact, vitamin D receptors (VDR) have been identified in nearly all tissue types throughout the body, including in the brain, and it turns out that vitamin D regulates 3% of the human genome. No wonder then that more and more research continues to highlight a myriad of potential benefits of keeping your vitamin D within the optimal range. In this article we take a closer look at new research linking low vitamin D with both increased inflammation and depression. We also take a step back to consider the bigger picture and leave you with a very simple takeaway.
Low vitamin D & inflammation
Low vitamin D is commonly associated with elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) – a marker of systemic low grade inflammation. In a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in May 2022, researchers investigated this association more thoroughly and found that elevated CRP may be caused by vitamin D deficiency and correction of low vitamin D status may reduce chronic inflammation.1
Low vitamin D & depression
In a meta-analysis published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition in July 2022, researchers investigated the efficacy of vitamin D in reducing depressive symptoms among adults in randomised controlled trials. The researchers concluded that, “our results suggest that vitamin D supplementation has beneficial effects in both individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) as well as in those with milder, clinically significant depressive symptoms.” The researchers highlighted the need for more research in this area, in part to understand more fully the dosages needed to produce beneficial effects, and to draw accurate conclusions on the possibilities of complementing conventional treatments of depression with vitamin D supplementation.2
Consider the bigger picture
Not only do these studies add to the growing body of research which highlights the widespread activity of vitamin D throughout the body, they are also a much needed reminder of the interconnectedness of bodily systems and just how crucial it is to take a step back to consider the whole picture. Take depression as just one example. Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide; it affects more than 320 million people every year and anti-depressant drugs such as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are only considered effective in a very modest subset of patients. The underlying causes of depression are still widely debated and in more recent years, links have been drawn between brain inflammation and depression, including by leading psychiatrist Professor Ed Bullmore, an argument which is persuasively laid out in his book The Inflamed Mind. And, when you join the dots between the two research studies highlighted above it is likely that vitamin D may be an important piece of the puzzle too.
A very simple takeaway
The science and interconnectedness between bodily systems may be complex but the takeaway here is simple. There are now so many good reasons to keep your vitamin D levels within an optimal range - so keep a close eye on them and be fiercely proactive about maintaining them there.
1. Zhou A & Hypponen E. Vitamin D deficiency and C-reactive protein: a bidirectional Mendelian randomization study. International Journal of Epidemiology, dyac087. 17 May 2022.
2. Mikola T, Marx W, et al. The effect of vitamin D supplementation on depressive symptoms in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 11 Jul 2022.
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