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Vitamin D could alleviate depression and support women’s health

By Nurul Ain Razali

vitamin d

Vitamin D has a beneficial impact on both the incidence and the prognosis of depression. Whether suffering from depression or not, individuals with low vitamin D levels and all females are most likely to benefit from vitamin D supplementation.


Vitamin D may be best known for its critical importance to bone health and immunity, but it is also essential for healthy brain development and function, and deficiencies are implicated in numerous mental conditions - including depression.

Low Vitamin D levels in people with depression are well documented, but clinical trials of Vitamin D supplementation are needed to provide definitive evidence of a causal role for Vitamin D. 

This new review, involving meta-analysis of 29 such trials with 4504 participants, concludes that supplementation with Vitamin D is effective in reducing depressive symptoms - particularly in women.

Another, much larger, meta-analysis recently reached a similar conclusion. See:

The 41 trials analysed by those researchers included over 53,000 participants - and involved a wide variety of populations, dosages and durations as well as different measures of depressive symptoms. 

For those reasons 'more research is still needed' before these findings are likely to be translated into practice - despite the clear need for more effective options for the management of depression in addition to standard treatments. 

Practical implications

Bright sunlight on the skin is the main natural source of Vitamin D, as it is found in very few foods (fish and liver are the richest dietary sources).  Vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency is now widespread in the UK and most other developed countries, particularly in the winter months - and individuals with darker skins and/or indoor lifetyles are particularly at risk. 

Supplementation is therefore now recommended for most people - but only at 10 mcg/day (400 IU) in the UK, compared with 600-800 IU in the EU and US.

By contrast, this review shows that the doses found to be effective against depressive symptoms averaged around 70 mcg/day (2800 IU). 
(The Upper safe level is 100mcg, or 4000 IU per day) 

For details of this research, see:

For further information please see:

See also:

29/09/2022 - Nutraingredients

Vitamin D supplementation could have a beneficial impact on the incidence and prognosis of depression, according to the findings from a Chinese meta-analysis.
All females, individuals not facing depression and those with low vitamin D levels would also benefit from the supplementation.
The analysis, titled “Effect of vitamin D supplementation on the incidence and prognosis of depression: An updated meta-analysis based on randomized controlled trials”,​ was published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.
“Insufficient and deficiency of vitamin D are related to neurological disorders. Also, the correlation between low-level vitamin D and depression has been proved. Therefore, implementing vitamin D in antidepression treatment has raised awareness among healthcare professionals.
“However, in two subsequent meta-analyses, there was no evidence that vitamin D supplementation was always desirable in relieving depressive symptoms in people with different health problems.
“Based on the shortcomings above and in the hope of providing some guiding significance for clinical application, we intend to review the relevant randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and conduct an updated meta-analysis to investigate the effect of vitamin D supplementation on the incidence and prognosis of depression,”​ said the scientists.
The team scoured various academic databases for relevant RCTs according to the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Out of a possible 3,432 relevant studies, a total of 29 eligible studies were analysed – 18 discussed the correlation between vitamin D and the incidence of depression and another 11 featured the correlation between vitamin D and the development of depression.
In the 29 studies, there were 4,504 participants and aged between 13 to 85. They consumed vitamin D doses ranging from 200 to more than 10,000 IU daily. They were located in various parts of Europe, Asia and Oceania.

Dampening depression

The studies chosen were congruent with past research, such as the meta-analyses done by Shaffer J. A. et al.​ (2014), Vellekkatt F. et al.​ (2019) and Cheng Y. C. et al.​ (2020), in whereby vitamin D supplementation was found to be associated with a decrease in the occurrence of depression and an improvement in its treatment.
Previous meta-analyses, like Anglin R. E. S. et al.​ (2013) and Ju S. Y. et al.​ (2013), also found that patients with low vitamin D levels could benefit from supplementation in the prevention and treatment of depression. Hence, these results might be supportive in considering the effectiveness of vitamin D supplementation to lower the risk and improve the treatment of depression.
Upon further analysis of the gender subgroup, vitamin D supplements had significantly alleviated depression scores in all females, regardless of whether they were depressed. For example, Alghamdi S. et al.​ (2020) showed female patients with depressive symptoms improved significantly after vitamin D supplementation than males.
In terms of dosage, the threshold was 2,800 IU daily as higher doses than that were found to be beneficial for prevention and treatment. Lower doses were ineffective. However, due to the limited number of studies on low-dose supplementation, the results should be interpreted with caution.
The duration of the intervention was found to be best at eight weeks to trigger a response from the vitamin. A response was also triggered when the intervention was longer than eight weeks. Hence, the phenomenon could also be interpreted by the fact that the mean vitamin D levels in depressed people are more likely to be lower than that in non-depressed people, making depressed individuals more sensitive to vitamin D administration.
In conclusion, this meta-analysis demonstrated that vitamin D positively impacts both the decreased incidence of depression and a better prognosis of depression. Whether suffering from depression or not, individuals with low vitamin D levels and females are also most likely to benefit from vitamin D supplementation.
“A daily supplementary dose of 2,800 IU and an intervention duration of 8 weeks are considered as the point that may cause the observational effect of vitamin D. Our results also reveal that vitamin D supplementation works well in both prevention and treatment in normal-weight people, whereas only in treatment not prevention for those who are overweight,”​ concluded the scientists.