Tuesday, February 12, 2013. In an article that appeared online on January 21, 2013 in the journal Clinical Nutrition, researchers at London’s UCL Institute of Child Health report an association between reduced vitamin D levels and an increased risk of panic disorder and depression.
The study included 5,966 men and women enrolled in the 1958 British birth cohort, which consisted of 18,558 individuals born in March, 1958 who were followed to the age of 50 years. Questionnaires administered when the participants were 45 years of age obtained information on such vitamin-D related lifestyle factors as the intake of oily fish and vitamin D supplements, time spent outside, body mass index and other factors. Blood samples collected during the same year were analyzed for 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels, and interviews ascertained the presence of common medical disorders including depression, anxiety, panic and phobias. Additional questionnaires administered at 50 years of age identified and scored depressive symptoms.
Having a sufficient vitamin D level of at least 75 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) at the age of 45 was associated with a 43 percent lower adjusted risk of depression and a 67 percent lower risk of having panic disorder in comparison with subjects whose levels were less than 25 nmol/L. When depressive symptoms at age 50 were examined, 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels ranging from 50 to 85 nmol/L were associated with the lowest risk of depression after adjustment for several factors. Jane Maddock and her coauthors remark that the association between higher vitamin D levels and reduced depression risk may be due to the vitamin’s effects on serotonin or other neurotransmitters.
“The high burden of mental and behavioral disorders and concurrent high prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency worldwide highlight the potential importance of our findings,” the authors write. “Our results suggest that low 25(OH)D is associated with higher prevalence of depression and panic and that 25(OH)D is modestly and non-linearly associated with subsequent depressive symptoms.”
“Further prospective and experimental work is required to replicate these findings, clarify causality and establish the most effective 25(OH)D status for maximum benefit” they conclude.