Vitamin D deficiency is not the main cause of depression in women

Russian scientists have analyzed more than one and a half hundred clinical studies of depression in women and the connection with it a lack of vitamin D. They have shown that world science considers vitamin D not to be the root cause of depression, as previously assumed, but only one of the factors. Using the accumulated data can help in the development of new treatments for this disease. The work was published in the journal Current Neuropharmacology .  

Vitamin D is a whole group of important compounds in the human body, among which cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) and ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) are distinguished . The former is found in meat and fatty fish, while the latter is found in vegetables, herbs and fruits. In the body, vitamin D is synthesized by the outer layer of the skin. The speed of the process depends on the time of year, geographical latitude and the activity of exposure to the skin, and urban dwellers are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D than rural dwellers. Its main role in the body is to ensure the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the intestine; it is also important for the anti-inflammatory and antitumor defenses of the body and has many other functions. A lack of vitamin D leads not only to bone problems (for example, the well-known rickets), but also to mental and neuropsychiatric disorders.

Depression in the modern world has become a very common affective disorder. Doctors characterize her as at least a two-week state, in which a person is characterized by a depressed mood, a feeling of uselessness, disturbed sleep and appetite, and a lack of interest in life. About 840 million people suffer from depression, and women are affected by the disease twice as often as men. This is due to the instability of the hormonal background that accompanies certain periods: puberty, pregnancy, time after childbirth and menopause. Age-related changes and the extinction of ovarian functions are especially difficult for a woman. However, due to the current economic situation and the pension reform in Russia, during this period of her life, a woman is forced to continue working. Taken together, such conditions lead to a complete imbalance of the nervous system – which is why women during menopause often have obvious psychiatric symptoms and affective disorder of the depressive spectrum.

Russian scientists, together with colleagues from the University of Catania and the University of Lincoln , examined existing research on the links between vitamin D and depression in women. There are several arguments in favor of the fact that its level in the body influences the onset of affective disorder. For example, people with depression tend to have lower vitamin D levels. Moreover, receptors for it are located in the parts of the brain responsible for behavior and emotions. It regulates the production of the “happiness hormone” serotonin and is involved in the immune system, which can influence stress levels and is involved in the mechanisms of neuroinflammation , leading to the death of nerve cells. Numerous scientists have investigated whether increasing the dose of vitamin D received can relieve depression in patients, but there is still no definite answer. At the same time, as the authors of the article note, some studies have shown that with the help of additional administration of vitamin D, it is indeed possible to maintain psychological and physiological health in women with diabetes mellitus, as well as in pregnant women.

Scientists supported by the Russian Science Foundation analyzed a large number of articles on the topic, which allowed them to conclude that although vitamin D can have a positive effect on mood, the available research is not enough to draw a definite conclusion. Many of them were limited in sample size or were conducted on people with too different diagnoses. 

The authors also studied clinical data on the influence of intestinal microflora on the development and occurrence of depression. They noted that gut problems (in particular, dysbiosis) contribute to mood problems. This is due to the fact that the flow of vitamin D3 from the intestines into the bloodstream, and then into the brain, is disrupted. However, in this case, vitamin D3 supplementation can help with depression by normalizing the processes in the intestines and the nervous system.

“Thus, there are several lines of clinical evidence in the current literature that indicate a strong link between vitamin D and depression in women. Its deficiency can contribute to the onset of mood disorders, but it remains only one of the additional aggravating factors, and not the root cause. However, many aspects of how vitamin D affects depression remain unclear. Further research is needed to study the potential positive effect of vitamin D in the treatment of affective disorders in women, “said one of the researchers, a leading researcher at the Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology at the Pavlov Institute of Physiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a leading researcher at the International Scientific Center” Biotechnology Of the Third Millennium ”by ITMO University (St. Petersburg) Yulia Fedotova.

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