Vitamin D for winter blues?

Winter is now over and spring is in the air, even in Wisconsin.

In this part of the country, winter blues are commonplace. Sometimes called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) when it's severe enough to cause functional impairment, feelings of fatigue, lack of motivation, or the blues are very frequent when days are short and sunlight is in short supply.

I've been seeing many people in the last several weeks who were advised to add vitamin D to their program last fall. Christopher's experience was typical.

"You know, since you told me to take vitamin D, I didn't get sad and tired like I do every winter. This is the first time I can remember that happening. I didn't sleep as much and I didn't get that feeling of always being overwhelmed."

I've felt it myself this past winter. I think there's some real truth to this effect.

Dr. Bruce Hollis has published a small experience in treating people with SAD with vitamin D and showed measurable improvement in depression. (One recent study in older women failed to show any effect, however, when small doses of vitamin D of 800 units were administered. In my experience, this dose doesn't even come close to normalizing blood vitamin D levels.)

The best source for in-depth information on vitamin D is Dr. John Cannell's website, If you've read Dr. Cannell's discussion on the Track Your Plaque website, you know that he is an articulate spokesman for the benefits of vitamin D replacement. He also persuasively argues that vitamin D deficiency is rampant in northern climates and in people who don't get frequent sun exposure. Interestingly, we now have two studies of populations in Florida and one in Hawaii, both of which showed substantial percentages of people even in these tropical climates to be deficient in vitamin D (around 50% in Hawaii and 30% in Florida).

The dose we've used with much success is 2000 units per day in females, 3000 units per day in males. This yields normal blood levels of around 50 ng/dl in around 80-90% of people. Occasional people will require more, some less. The best way to do it is to check a baseline blood level and a level on therapy to determine the adequacy of your dose.

Dr. Cannell will tell you that it's very important to have your doctor check the right test: 25-OH-vitamin D3, not 1,25-diOH-vitamin D3. These are two very different tests of two different compounds.

In the Track Your Plaque program, we use vitamin D to reduce pre-diabetic tendencies, reduce blood pressure (vitamin D is an inhibitor of the pressure-raising hormone renin), shut down inflammation, and gain better control over coronary plaque (mechanism uncertain). In the process, you will sharply reduce risk of osteoporosis, colon and prostate cancer.

And maybe you'll be brighter when the winter blues come around again.