Studies have shown that vitamin D is effective in treating seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD. Additional research is needed to provide a concrete link between vitamin D treatment and improved conditions in other types of depression. That being said, evidence exists that major depression is associated with low vitamin D levels and that depression has increased in the last century as vitamin D levels have fallen. During that time, humans have reduced their sunlight exposure via urbanization (tall buildings and pollution reduce UVB), industrialization (working inside reduces UVB exposure), cars, clothing, and sunblock.

Evidence suggests that depression is associated with heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and low bone mineral density, all illnesses thought to be caused, in part, by vitamin D deficiency. In addition, vitamin D has profound effects on the brain including the neurotransmitters involved in major depression.

Where To Find D 

Aside from putting on your shades and grabbing a beach chair, there are other ways to make sure you get your share of vitamin D. The Institute of Medicine recommends 200 IU a day up to the age of 50, 400 IU from 51 to 70, and 600 IU over age 70. About 100 IU are found in an 8 ounce glass of fortified milk. Other nutritional sources of Vitamin D include:

  • Canned pink salmon: 3 ounces contain about 530 IU of Vitamin D
  • Canned sardines: 3 ounces contain about 231 IU of Vitamin D
  • Fortified orange juice: 8 ounces contain about 100 IU of vitamin D
  • Fortified cereal: 1 serving (about 1 cup) contains about 40-50 IU of vitamin D


Vitamin D research is a growing field as more and more illnesses are beginning to be associated with characteristically low levels of vitamin D. It is important, however, to understand that increasing vitamin D levels will not simply reverse your condition. It's extremely important to discuss treatment options and alternatives with your health care team in order to be sure you are following proper guidelines when ingesting an supplement. And finally, remember that vitamin D is a supplement and is not to be taken in place of conventional treatments for depression or any other illness.