Vitamin D, sometimes known as the sunshine vitamin, is renowned for its contribution to bone strength. It may also help ward off lung infections, particularly among people who are especially susceptible. You may not have heard, however, that vitamin D might be able to help boost your mood. That’s the experience one reader reported.
Vitamin D to Boost Your Mood:
Q. During a very cold winter, I began to feel more SAD than usual, as well as fuzzy, forgetful and achy. This worried me enough to send me to the doctor.
All my blood tests were fine except for my vitamin D, which was very low. Some high-dose supplements eventually caught me up, but apparently my ordinary multivitamin hadn’t been working.
Now I am reading that low vitamin D has been linked to breast cancer, immune problems and other conditions as well as seasonal affective disorder. If I couldn’t get enough sun exposure to make vitamin D where I live below the Mason-Dixon line, what about people in the north? Can older people who don’t go outside get enough vitamin D?
How Can You Get Enough Vitamin D?
A. Research links low circulating levels of vitamin D to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and depression (Psychiatry Research, May 30, 2015; PLoS One, Sept. 23, 2015). Certainly, that doesn’t prove that supplements will boost your mood. On the other hand, you should try to avoid very low levels of this vitamin. Ask your doctor to monitor your blood level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with conditions such as cancer, hypertension, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes and multiple sclerosis (Nutrition Journal, Dec. 8, 2010). Older people with inadequate vitamin D levels may have less hand strength and walk more slowly (PLoS One, Aug. 21, 2018). One study found that people with low vitamin D levels are more likely to experience anxiety and non-cardiac chest pain (Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, online Aug. 27. 2018).
You are correct that people in northern states may have difficulty getting enough vitamin D. In fact, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that 29 percent of Americans were deficient in vitamin D and another 41 percent had low levels (British Journal of Nutrition, April 28, 2018).
Finally, you can learn more about optimal vitamin D levels to boost your mood and your bone strength, as well as vitamin supplements in our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency.