I just had to report on this study, I love its title… InCHIANTI (Yes, Chianti, as in wine…but it had nothing to do with alcohol consumption. I do have to assume, however, that because the study was carried out in the Chianti area of Tuscany, the participants and perhaps the researchers consumed their share.) Joking aside, this was a study that examined the impact of Vitamin D levels on depression in a population of adults over 65 who lived in Tuscany. (No novel or movie there…)
InCHIANTI stands for Invecchaire in Chianti, or aging in the Chianti area. Nine hundred and fifty four participants (531 women and 423 men) aged 65 or older were followed for 6 years. A special questionnaire called the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale (the acronym is CES-D) was used to assess depressive symptoms at baseline and at 3-and 6-year follow-up. The CES-D contains 20 questions which are scored (a point for each “depressed answer); the higher the points, the more likely the person is clinically depressed. This is considered an excellent scale to measure depression in older adults. The blood level of Vitamin D (measured as 25(OH) D) at baseline and 3 and 6 years later was measured at the same time that the CES-D was administered to the participants. The study results were published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinologic Metabolism.
Although you may not want to know the numbers (you can skip to the next paragraph), the researchers found that the women with Vitamin D levels lower than 50 nanomoles per liter) when compared with those with higher initial levels of D, had greater increases in depression scores (2.1 and 2.2 points) at 3-and 6-year follow-up.
A lower baseline blood level of Vitamin D in women was associated with a significant higher risk of developing depression during the follow-up. This was not seen to the same extent in men.
The authors point out that low Vitamin D levels become very prevalent in older individuals due to reduced sunlight exposure from decreased outdoor activity and reduced vitamin dietary intake. In older adults, Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to fractures, poor physical activity, frailty and loss of muscle mass and strength. Those with low D levels are more likely to require nursing home admission and suffer from chronic diseases including osteoporosis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Whether the low Vitamin D levels in this population of women was truly a causal factor for depression or the diseases associated with the low D levels made the women depressed is not clear. Nor do we have data that lets us state that increasing Vitamin D levels will help halt these depressing disorders.
Bottom line: Low Vitamin D is associated with depression in older women in Tuscany….and if it happens there, it can happen anywhere. It may pay to hedge our aging bets by maintaining adequate Vitamin D levels. This is where I suggest supplements, for most of us, 1,000 units of Vitamin D should get us there