A new study links low levels of vitamin D to depression, but the researchers caution that the relationship between the two is still unclear.


The study, out of the University of Texas Southwest’s Medical Center and The Cooper Institute in Dallas, examined the vitamin D test results of nearly 12,600 participants from late 2006 to late 2010. Vitamin D testing is now a regularly part of physical exams.


The results found that high levels of vitamin D were associated with lower chances of developing depression, especially among those patients who had a prior history of depression.


Low levels of vitamin D in study participants were associated with depressive symptoms, and even more so among those participants with a history of depression.


"Our findings suggest that screening for vitamin D levels in depressed patients — and perhaps screening for depression in people with low vitamin D levels — might be useful," said Dr. E. Sherwood Brown, professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study.


The link between vitamin D and depression remains elusive. Brown and his team say they are not sure if depression causes lower vitamin D levels or if lowered vitamin D levels cause depression.


“We don't have enough information yet to recommend going out and taking supplements,” he said.


But the vitamin D may affect neurotransmitters and other factors associated with depression.


Vitamin D levels have been connected to a host of other medical problems including autoimmune disease, obesity, diabetes and neurological disorders.


The study was published in The Mayo Clinic Proceedings.


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