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Effect of vitamin D supplement on depression scores in people with low levels of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D: nested case—control study and randomised clinical trial

  • Marie Kjærgaard (a1), Knut Waterloo (a2), Catharina E. A. Wang (a2), Bjørg Almås (a3), Yngve Figenschau (a4), Moira S. Hutchinson (a5), Johan Svartberg (a5) and Rolf Jorde (a5)...

To compare depressive symptoms in participants with low and high serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels and to examine whether supplementation with vitamin D3 would improve symptoms in those with low serum 25(OH)D levels.


Participants with low 25(OH)D levels were randomised to either placebo or 40 000 IU vitamin D3 per week for 6 months. Individuals with high serum 25(OH)D levels were used as nested controls. Depressive symptoms were evaluated with the Beck Depression Inventory, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Seasonal Pattern Assessment Scale and Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale. The study was registered at (NCT00960232).


Participants with low 25(OH)D levels (n=230) at baseline were more depressed (P<0.05) than participants with high 25(OH)D levels (n=114). In the intervention study no significant effect of high-dose vitamin D was found on depressive symptom scores when compared with placebo.


Low levels of serum 25(OH)D are associated with depressive symptoms, but no effect was found with vitamin D supplementation.

Corresponding author
Marie Kjærgaard, Medical Clinic, University Hospital of North Norway N-9038 Tromsø, Norway. Email:
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See editorial, pp. 339-341, this issue.

Declaration of interest


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Effect of vitamin D supplement on depression scores in people with low levels of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D: nested case—control study and randomised clinical trial

  • Marie Kjærgaard (a1), Knut Waterloo (a2), Catharina E. A. Wang (a2), Bjørg Almås (a3), Yngve Figenschau (a4), Moira S. Hutchinson (a5), Johan Svartberg (a5) and Rolf Jorde (a5)...
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Sunshine, not vitamin D, combats depression

David L. Keller, MD, Physician
05 December 2012

Depression is associated with vitamin D deficiency. However, vitamin D supplements do not reduce this depression because depression andvitamin D deficiency are both symptoms of the same underlying problem: lack of sun exposure. Exposing the skin to sunshine promotes endogenous synthesis of large amounts of vitamin D, and is the principal natural source of vitamin D for humans. Likewise, retinal exposure to sunshine prevents or treats depression, by stimulating certain endogenous brain neurotransmitters, which is why light-exposure therapy relieves seasonal affective disorder. These facts are all well established. Expecting vitamin D supplements to reduce depression in sunshine-deprived patients is analogous to treating their vitamin D deficiency with anti-depressants.

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Conflict of interest: None declared

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