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Low vitamin D means high risk of seasonal affective disorder

Posted:  Monday, December 15, 2014

For some, a change in season may bring about a change in disposition. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that begins in fall and lasts all through the winter months. Symptoms include feeling sad or anxious, fatigue, concentration problems, irritability and feelings of guilt and hopelessness.

American researchers have now found that low levels of vitamin D increase the risk of SAD. The researchers conducted the study with the hypothesis that vitamin D does not play a direct role in the aetiology of SAD and instead plays a foundational and regulative role in exacerbating the sub-mechanisms responsible for SAD. The results of this study were published in the journal Medical Hypotheses.

The researchers noted that the vitamin D levels fluctuate with changing seasons in response to available sunlight. The vitamin also plays a role in the synthesis of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin; past research has associated low levels of these neurotransmitters with depression. The researchers also believe there is a link between darker skin pigmentation and vitamin D deficiency, which may influence the risk of SAD in such an individual.

Explaining the association, lead researcher Alan Stewart said, “Studies show there is a lag of about 8 weeks between the peak in intensity of ultraviolet (UV) radiation and the onset of SAD, and this correlates with the time it takes for UV radiation to be processed by the body into vitamin D.” He further adds, “Therefore it is logical that there may be a relationship between low levels of vitamin D and depressive symptoms. Studies have also found that depressed patients commonly had lower levels of vitamin D."

The researchers suggest maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D for good mental health. A few minutes of exposure to sunlight should do the trick and dispel those seasonal blues!

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