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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Vitamin D supplements ‘have no effect’ on depressive symptoms

Embargoed until 12 July 2012

Treating vitamin D deficiency does not reduce symptoms of depression, according to a Norwegian study published online today by the British Journal of Psychiatry.


Some previous studies have found an association between low vitamin D levels and depression, leading to suggestions that vitamin D supplementation could help alleviate symptoms.


Researchers from the University Hospital of North Norway carried out a randomised placebo-controlled study to examine whether supplementation works. They recruited 334 healthy volunteers, of whom 230 had low vitamin D levels and 114 had high vitamin D levels. All participants were assessed to determine if they had depressive symptoms.


Those people with low vitamin D levels were randomly split into two groups. One group received high dose vitamin D supplementation for 6 months, the other received a placebo. The 114 people with high vitamin D levels were given no treatment and acted as a control group.

At the beginning of the study, the researchers found that participants with low vitamin D levels were more depressed than those with high levels. However, by the end of the 6 month study, there was no difference in depression scores between those who had taken the high dose vitamin D supplements and those who had taken the placebo.


Lead researcher Dr Marie Kjærgaard said: "Our randomised placebo-controlled study found that even though people with low levels of vitamin D are more depressed, high dose vitamin D supplementation had no effect. This may indicate that low levels of vitamin D are the result – rather than the cause – of depressive symptoms. Further studies are now needed in people with clinical depression."

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Kjærgaard M, Waterloo K, Wang CEA, Almås B, Figenschau Y, Hutchinson MS, Svartberg J, Jorde R. Effect of Vitamin D supplement on depression scores in persons with low levels of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D: A nested case-control study and a randomised clinical trial. British Journal of Psychiatry, 2012, epub ahead of print bjp.bp.111.104349


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