Vitamin D and symptoms of depression in overweight or obese adults: A cross-sectional study and randomized placebo-controlled trial

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Recent evidence suggests that vitamin D deficiency may contribute to increased risk of depression. However, previous studies are limited by variability in participant characteristics including vitamin D deficiency status and presence of existing diseases, use of low doses of vitamin D supplementation for short durations, and use of co-interventions or psychotropic drugs. We examined whether 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) concentrations were associated with symptoms of depression, as well as whether vitamin D supplementation reduced symptoms of depression in overweight or obese and vitamin D-deficient, but otherwise healthy adults.Cross-sectional analyses were performed on baseline data from 63 (39M/24F) overweight or obese (body mass index (BMI) ≥25kg/m2) and vitamin D-deficient (25(OH)D ≤50 nmol/l) adults (mean age=31.3±8.5), without clinical depression. Participants were randomized to either a bolus oral dose of 100,000 IU followed by 4000 IU daily of cholecalciferol, or matching placebo for 16 weeks. Interventional analyses were performed on data from 48 participants (30M/18F) who completed the trial. We measured serum 25(OH)D concentrations; anthropometry: BMI, waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), % body fat (dual X-ray absorptiometry); and depressive symptoms using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) before and after intervention. Data on dietary vitamin D intake (3-day food record), physical activity (international physical activity questionnaire), and sun exposure habits were collected using questionnaires.At baseline, mean 25(OH)D concentration was 32.9. ±. 11.3 nmol/l and total BDI score was 6.6. ±. 6.3 (range = 0-33). There were no associations between 25(OH)D concentrations and total BDI scores or BDI subscales (all p. >. 0.1). After the 16-week intervention, 25(OH)D concentrations increased in the vitamin D group compared to placebo (56.0. ±. 20.8 versus 2.7. ±. 13.9 nmol/L, respectively; p <. 0.0001). Change in total BDI scores did not differ between vitamin D and placebo groups (-2.0. ±. 4.5 versus -1.5. ±. 2.9, respectively; p = 0.7). There were no differences in BDI subscales between groups (both p. >. 0.1). Results remained non-significant after adjusting for multiple covariates including sun exposure, physical activity, and dietary vitamin D intake (all p. >. 0.1).Our findings suggest that vitamin D deficiency may not be related to increased risk of depression in individuals without clinically significant depression and that the use of vitamin D supplementation may not be warranted for reducing depressive symptoms in this population. Further large-scale studies are needed to establish whether vitamin D supplementation may be beneficial for improving depressive symptoms in other population groups, including in those with existing depressive or psychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-208
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


  • 25(OH)D
  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Randomized trial
  • Vitamin D

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