Over the past several decades, researchers have discovered that vitamin D is essential for many important functions in our bodies, such as maintaining bone health and a strong immune system, but the benefits of “the sunshine vitamin,” as vitamin D is often called, go beyond staying in good physical health. There is a growing body of research that vitamin D plays a key role in regulating mental health as well.
While the relationship between mental health and vitamin D isn’t yet fully understood, we are beginning to piece together the puzzle. One study published earlier this year concluded that vitamin D is essential to the synthesis of serotonin, an important neurotransmitter responsible for generating a sense of calm and well-being. In light of these findings, Tranquility Labs recently added vitamin D to our anxiety-fighting Tranquilene formula so that the supplement now offers even better support for serotonin production.
One thing that we know for certain is that it’s incredibly common for those with anxiety disorders and depression to also have a vitamin D deficiency. And now, new research suggests that low levels of vitamin D may play a significant role in seasonal depression and anxiety (commonly known as SAD).
Sunlight, Vitamin D, and SAD
Full-blown Seasonal Affective Disorder affects up to 10% of the U.S. population, with an estimated additional 10-20% experiencing milder form of the wintertime blues. It’s currently thought that the primary reason for the onset of SAD is less light exposure — although those of us in cold climates have a good argument that the temperatures also have something to do with it!
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because our primary source of it is exposure to sunlight. This is why the risk of deficiency is especially high in the wintertime, with shorter daylight hours and increased indoor time. Individuals in Northern climates are even more at risk, but you can have low levels of vitamin D no matter where you live.
Because both SAD and vitamin D deficiency are associated with lack of sunlight, the new study’s conclusion that low vitamin D plays a role in SAD just seems to make sense.
“Rather than being one of many factors, vitamin D could have a regulative role in the development of SAD,” said Alan Stewart, one of the study’s authors. “For example, studies show there is a lag of about eight weeks between the peak in intensity of ultraviolet radiation and the onset of SAD. This correlates with the time it takes for UV radiation to be processed by the body into vitamin D.”
The study was published in the November 2014 issue of the journal Medical Hypotheses.