The data, published in Clinical Nutrition, investigated the potential of vitamin D supplementation on depression in people over 60 years old after previous studies suggested that the vitamin may have beneficial effects on mood and depressive symptoms.
The eight-week randomised clinical trial reported significant reductions in depression scores in those receiving vitamin D supplementation using the Geriatric Depression Scale-15 (GDS-15) questionnaire.
According to WHO (World Health Organisation) data, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years will nearly double from 12% to 22% between 2015 and 2050. The WHO estimates 15% of adults aged 60 and over suffer from a mental disorder, while UK data from the Health Survey for England reports that depression affects around 22% of men and 28% of women aged 65 years and over.
“Prevention and treatment of depression in elderly population is a crucial issue and vitamin D might have a potential impact on depression,” noted the authors, led by first author Negin Masoudi Alavi from Kashan University of Medical Sciences in Iran.
“Few randomised placebo-clinical trials (RCTs) have been done to examine the effect of vitamin D supplement in treatment of depression in older adults, so the aim of this clinical trial was to investigate the effect of vitamin D supplementation on the severity of depression in elderly population.”
Seventy eight older adults aged over 60 years with moderate to severe depression were randomly allocated to receive either 50,000 U vitamin D3 or placebo each week as part of the study. Alongside GDS-15 scores, the team also took measures of blood vitamin D status – as indicated by 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 [25(OH)D3].
Data showed that mean baseline vitamin D levels were 22.57 ± 6.2 ng/ml in vitamin D group and 21.2 ± 5.8 ng/ml in placebo group. Over the course of the trial these levels increased to 43.48 ± 9.5 ng/ml in vitamin D and 25.9 ± 15.3 ng/ml in placebo group.
Depression scores decreased from 9.25 to 7.48 in vitamin D group (p = 0.0001), while there was a non-significant increase in depression score in placebo group, revealed the authors.
Masoudi Alavi and colleagues noted that there are many vitamin D receptors in hippocampus – an area of the brain that is associated to depression – and that several vitamin D metabolites can cross the blood–brain barrier.
“In conclusion vitamin D supplementation significantly decreased GDS score in older adults,” they stated – noting that according to their findings older adults who are undergoing treatment for depression may see additional clinical benefits from vitamin D supplementation.
Source: Clinical Nutrition
Volume 38, Issue 5, October 2019, Pages 2065-2070, doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2018.09.011
“Effect of vitamin D supplementation on depression in elderly patients: A randomized clinical trial”
Authors: Negin Masoudi Alavi, et al