Effects of Vitamin D on Mental Illness

mental illnessCurrent Psychiatry posted an article suggesting that vitamin D levels are related to different mental illnesses. Although more than 50% of psychiatric patients are reported to have vitamin D deficiencies, there is still not enough evidence to say that vitamin D supplementation will help with symptoms.

One way vitamin D enters our systems is through exposure to sunlight. UV radiation is transformed to vitamin D through this pathway:

UV rays- skin- liver- kidneys- Vitamin D

Some risks for a Vitamin D deficiency include not enough sun exposure, obesity, gastrointestinal disorders, renal disorders, and various medications. Vitamin D receptors are present in many critical brain regions, which is the reason it is under investigation for being involved in different mental disorders. Some brain regions that possess vitamin D receptors are the cingulate cortex, thalamus, cerebellum, amygdala, and hippocampus.

In fact, vitamin D helps regulate the expression of tyrosine hydroxylase, which is a rate-limiting enzyme in the biosynthesis of the neurotransmitters of dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. Problems within these diffuse modulatory systems are the cause behind several types of mental illness. If vitamin D effects the production of these neurotransmitters, perhaps there is a chance it is somehow involved with mental illness.

Some research has shown low vitamin D levels are associated with symptoms of psychotic disorders, cognitive dysfunctions exhibited in Alzheimer’s disease, Depression, and Seasonal Affective Disorder. While some studies support the hypothesis that vitamin D supplementation will reduce symptoms, others do not. It is a bit of a mixed bag, and there is not enough evidence to be certain about the involvement of Vitamin D.

In Dr. Forster’s experience, a mild to moderate deficiency of vitamin D is associated with Depression. However, supplementation has not proven to be that helpful in reducing symptoms. On the other hand, a severe deficiency may have the potential to prevent a good response to other types of treatment.