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Is There an Association Between Low Vitamin D Levels and Depression? The Cooper Center Longitudinal Study

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Wednesday, Aug 29, 2018

Depression is prevalent among all segments of our society and has a significantly negative impact on quality of life. An estimated 20 million Americans currently suffer from depression, so it is important to identify factors associated with this debilitating condition. Low serum vitamin D (SVD) levels are not only very common, but also associated with numerous medical conditions including neurologic disorders.

Researchers from The Cooper Institute and The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center conducted a study to determine if there was an association between low SVD and depression. The sample included 12,594 Cooper Clinic patients (8589 men and 4005 women) with an average age of 52 years, who were seen between 2006 and 2010. During their exam, The Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) was used to determine the presence of depression. The CES-D Scale consists of 10 questions that are used to detect current depressive symptoms and their severity. CES-D total scores range from 0 to 30; a cutoff score of 10 or more indicates clinical depression.

Included in the comprehensive blood analyses of these patients was a measure of SVD levels. Low SVD levels were common, with 51% of the sample having values in the insufficient or deficient range. The researchers analyzed the data 3 different ways.

First, they examined the data using the total sample. Next, they examined the data among those with a history of depression. Finally, an analysis of data among those without a previous history of depression was performed. Below, we will summarize the findings for the 3 groups:


Group 1 (total sample):

A CES-D score indicating current depression was significantly more likely in those who were either 50 years of age or older, female, obese, current smokers, non-regular exercisers or who had a history of diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. With regard to SVD levels, for every 10 unit increase in SVD, participants were 8% less likely to have a CES-D score indicating current depression; this value was statistically significant.


Group 2 (patients with a history of depression).

A CES-D score indicating current depression was significantly more likely in those who were either 50 years of age or older, obese, current smokers, non-regular exercisers, or who had a high school education or less. With regard to SVD levels, for every 10 unit increase in SVD, participants were 10% less likely to have a CES-D score indicating current depression; this value was statistically significant. 


Group 3 (patients without a previous history of depression).

A CES-D score indicating current depression was significantly more likely in those who were either 50 years of age or older, female, obese, current smokers, and non-regular exercisers. With regard to SVD levels, for every 10 unit increase in SVD, participants were 5% less likely to have a CES-D score indicating current depression; this value was not statistically significant.
 

The Results


So, the most important finding overall was that in patients with a history of depression, there was a significant association between SVD levels and a CES-D score indicating current depression. Because of the way in which the study was designed, a cause and effect relationship between low SVD and depression could not be determined. However, other studies have shown that vitamin D seems to be very important for brain health, including cognitive function

The authors suggested that studies examining the effect of vitamin D supplementation in patients with current depression and low SVD be performed. Such studies are critical in determining whether or not there is a cause and effect relationship between SVD and depression. Additionally, the authors suggested that all patients with a history of depression be targeted for assessment of SVD levels.   

Reference
Hoang, M., DeFina, L., Willis, B., Leonard, D., Weiner, M., Brown, S. (2011). Association between low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and depression in a large sample of healthy adults: The Cooper Center Longitudinal Study. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 86(11):1050-1055. Doi: 10.4065/mcp.2011.0208



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