If you are feeling some depression due to the economic downturn and are experiencing the aches and pains of a shrinking portfolio, your answer may lie in taking a vacation to the tropics or at least increasing your intake of vitamin D. No, it won’t improve your bottom line, but it could help you to feel dramatically better while you suffer through the economic doldrums.
When we become financially depressed during winter, it only adds to the natural depression we feel due to lack of sunlight. That depression is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Furthermore, the pain of pecuniary woes adds to the physical pain experienced by so many people who are deficient in vitamin D.
Did you know that those who suffer from SAD are almost always vitamin D deficient and that when vitamin D supplements are provided in winter, they improve mood in only five days? Or were you aware that 75% of depressed patients (SAD patients in winter) reduce their depression levels with the use of vitamin D? There are at least two more recent papers showing that depression is lifted by the use of vitamin D supplements.  In one of them, 4,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D were given to depressed patients during Canada’s long winter. The result was a profound increase in blood vitamin D levels and an even more dramatic increase in the subjects’ sense of wellbeing.4
In another investigation, researchers studied the association between vitamin D levels and the risk of mood disorders in the elderly. The results were impressive. Those whose vitamin D levels were deficient—defined as less than 20 ng/ml—had 11.7 times the incidence of depression when compared to those whose vitamin D levels were higher. Usually an association is considered meaningful when a measured factor correlates to a 50% increase or decrease. In this case, the correlation between vitamin D deficiency and risk of mood disorders was a staggering 1,169 percent—a nearly 12 times increase in depression risk! Elderly people seldom get in the sunlight and are consequently depressed. The elderly who have low levels of vitamin D also are three-and-one-half times as likely to be admitted to a nursing home as those who have higher levels. It is criminal to let elderly persons die of depression, fractures and all of the other maladies correlated to their critically low vitamin D levels. This research is no secret, and someone needs to get the word out to the elderly and to all others interested in better health.
Now let's discuss pain:
Dr. Stewart Leavitt recently posted the results of a review of 22 scientific studies on the relationship of vitamin D deficiency to chronic pain. (http://Pain-Topics.org/VitaminD). This 2008 analysis is just the latest of many studies on vitamin D and pain, most of which have been ignored by the physicians that treat the disorder. In total, there were 3,670 patients with chronic pain, and 48% of them showed significant vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D supplementation was very helpful in alleviating the pain. Dr. Leavitt states: “When supplementation was provided for improving vitamin D status, pain and/or muscle weakness were resolved or at least subsided in most cases, and there were associated improvements in physical functioning.”
Pain is common in winter, and it has been known for some time that vitamin D or sunlight therapy is effective for its alleviation. For instance, In one interesting study, conducted on chronic pain patients in Minneapolis, Minnesota (45 degrees north latitude), it was found that 100% of African Americans, American Indians, East Africans and Hispanics were vitamin D deficient, as were most Caucasians. In summer sunlight, dark-skinned people take up to 6 times as long to produce the same amount of vitamin D as light skinned people, making dark skinned people much more susceptible to vitamin D deficiency. Indoor lifestyles and the advice to slather with sunscreen, which can reduce vitamin D production during sunlight exposure by 99.5% puts dark-skinned people at a considerable vitamin D deficiency disadvantage. In addition, during the winter at high latitudes in areas such as Minneapolis, there are several months where little or no vitamin D is produced by the skin due to the sun’s position in the southern sky; that is why vitamin D deficiency and it subsequent depression and pain are so much more pronounced in winter. It is absolutely essential for dark-skinned adults to take vitamin D3 supplementation of 4,000 to 5,000 IU per day year around or regularly use a tanning bed to stave off pain and to reduce the excessive risk of cancer, hypertension, diabetes, etc., that plague them. It is also critical for most Caucasians during winter. Remember that vitamin D3 is the only type of vitamin D that should be used.
Another impressive result comes from a clinical observation of five vitamin D-deficient patients who suffered from myopathy, a disease of bone and muscle tissue. They were confined to wheelchairs and experienced severe fatigue, weakness, and chronic pain. After receiving 50,000 IU per week of vitamin D, all regained enough strength and energy within four to six weeks to be mobile and functional, and their aches and pains disappeared. Other research reported that five chronic-pain patients at John Hopkins University Medical School were treated with vitamin D, and their pain resolved within a week!
Vitamin D is a potent anti-inflammatory and also helps to strengthen bone, joint and muscle tissue. Be sure to maintain optimal levels (50 ng/ml or 125 nmol/L) in order to avoid the aches and pains of winter.
So there you have it. Monetary woes this winter may increase depression and cause financial pain, but there is no reason to worsen the problem with severe physical pain and chemical depression. You have the answers before you. A year of vitamin D supplementation at 5,000 IU per day will cost you about $10.00 at Bio-Tech Pharmacal, and that will not cause you any additional financial pain or depression. Their web site: http://www.bio-tech-pharm.com/catalog.aspx?cat_id=2. By the way, I have no financial interest in that company and simply recommend them as an exceptionally high quality, low-price source of vitamin D3.
Lose the blues and be happy and well this winter!
 Lansdowne, A. et al. Vitamin D3 enhances mood in healthy subjects during winter. Psychopharmacology 1998;135:319-23.
 Gloth, F. et al. Vitamin D vs. broad spectrum phototherapy in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder J Nutr Health Aging 1999; 3(1):5-7
 Jorde R. et al. Effects of vitamin D supplementation on symptoms of depression in overweight and obese subjects: randomized double-blind trial. J Intern Med 2008 Dec 1;264(6):599-609. Epub 2008 Sep 10.
 Vieth, R. et al. Randomized comparison of the effects of the vitamin D3 adequate intake versus 100 mcg (4,000 IU) per day on biochemical responses and the wellbeing of patients. Nutr J 2004;3:8.
 Wilkins C. et al. Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated With Low Mood and Worse Cognitive Performance in Older Adults. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry;2006;14:1032–1040).
 Visser, M. et al. Low serum vitamin concentrations of 25 hydroxyvitamin D in older persons and the risk of nursing home admission. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:616-22.
 Plotnikoff G. et al. Prevalence of severe hypovitaminosis D in patients with persistent, nonspecific musculoskeletal pain. Mayo Clin Proc. 2003;78:1463-70.
 Matsuoka, L. et al. sunscreens suppress cutaneous vitamin D3 synthesis. J Clin Endocrinology & Metab 1987; 64:1165-68.
 Prabhala, A. et al. Severe myopathy associated with vitamin D deficiency in western New York. Arch Intern Med 2000;160:1199-1203.
 Gloth, F. et al. Can vitamin D deficiency produce an unusual pain syndrome? Arch Intern Med 1991;152:1662-4.