Vitamin D may not help depression in middle-aged and older adults: study

But the vitamin still has other benefits, experts say

Vitamin D supplementation may not protect middle-aged or older adults against depression, according to a new study.

Despite many people reportedly taking the vitamin to help boost their mood, the lead author of the large study found "There was no significant benefit from the supplement for this purpose.”

The author, Dr. Olivia Okereke, of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Psychiatry Department, stated in a news release this week: “It did not prevent depression or improve mood."

The report published in JAMA Tuesday included a large study with more than 18,000 participants of both men and women aged 50 years or older.

None of those in the study had any indication of clinical depression to start with. The researchers then tested whether vitamin D3 prevented them from becoming depressed, according to a release from MGH.

"One scientific issue is that you actually need a very large number of study participants to tell whether or not a treatment is helping to prevent development of depression," Okereke stated in the news release. "With nearly 20,000 people, our study was statistically powered to address this issue."


Our bodies can get vitamin D from certain foods like eggs and dairy products, or from sun exposure, and supplements, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. The organization stated on its website that vitamin D typically is used for its role in maintaining and growing bones.

The study authors were quoted in the news release as saying: “Numerous prior studies showed that low blood levels of vitamin D (25-hydroxy vitamin D) were associated with higher risk for depression in later life, but there have been few large-scale randomized trials necessary to determine causation.”

During the study, half of the participants received vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) supplementation while the other half received a placebo over a course of approximately five years, the release explained.


Okereke and her colleagues stated that they found no significant difference between the two groups of participants in regards to the risk of depression or clinical symptoms of depression, according to the release, which also stated there were no significant differences in mood scores between the treatment groups.

The author told Fox News: "These results indicate that there is no benefit to using vitamin D3 supplements for the sole purpose of preventing depression in the general population of people aged 50 and over. Our study does not mean that there is no potential benefit of vitamin D3 for preventing depression in sub-groups with certain health factors or risk factors. "

And so, Okereke suggests holding onto that bottle of vitamin D, noting: "Because vitamin D is essential for bone health and has other uses, people should not stop taking vitamin D supplements on the basis of these results without conferring first with their doctor or health provider."