Vitamin D Status and Depression: Is there a link?

Low vitamin D status has been associated with depression, but research among minority populations such as Puerto Ricans living in the United States is limited. Almost 70% of the Hispanic population has been shown to have suboptimal levels of vitamin D, as well as having a high prevalence of depression. Moreover, identifying modifiable risk factors for depression such as vitamin D deficiency could be an important step toward prevention, as well as future treatments for this high-risk population. In a recent study published in The Journal of Nutrition, researcher Natalia Palacios (University of Massachusetts Lowell) and colleagues examined associations between vitamin D concentration and self-reported depressive symptomatology in the Boston Puerto Rican Health Study, a cohort of Puerto Rican adults residing in the state of Massachusetts.

Study participants were evaluated for depressive symptoms using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. The study data included 1434 Vitamin D measures at baseline, 1218 vitamin D measures taken at year 2, and 914 measures taken at year 5. Based on baseline measures of vitamin D status, subjects were categorized as sufficient, insufficient, and deficient. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses were conducted.

Study results did not observe a significant association between vitamin D status and depressive symptomatology over 5 years of follow-up in the study cohort. Despite the lack of association observed in this study, several other important relations were highlighted. For example, vitamin D deficiency was associated with a higher body mass index, current smoking status, and heavy alcohol use. Lower physical activity score and current but not past smoking status were associated with a higher Depression Scale score in the Boston Puerto Rican Health Study subjects. As expected, there was a significant association between higher chronic medical condition score and depression. Although the study did not find a significant association between vitamin D and depressive symptoms, this does not alter the public health and clinical recommendations regarding the importance of maintaining sufficient vitamin D status for general health.

References Sahasrabudhe N, Lee JS, Scott TM, Punnett L, Tucker KL, Palacios N. Serum Vitamin D and Depressive Symptomatology among Boston-Area Puerto Ricans. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 150, Issue 12, December 2020, Pages 3231–3240, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxaa253.

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