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Are Your Children Getting Enough Vitamin D? Studies Link Low Vitamin D Levels to Depression in Children and Teens

Studies show that the more vitamin D a child gets, the less likely he or she is to become depressed during the teen years and even during adulthood. Just by raising a child's vitamin D levels, you reduce their chances of ever facing depression. Find out more about this condition below.
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Did you know that vitamin D is important for not only the physical health, but also the mental health of your children? If your children are not getting high levels of vitamin D, they could be at risk for depression.

In fact, a new study from the University of Bristol from the United Kingdom has indicated that children who get enough vitamin D are less likely to face depression at any age. Learn more about the importance of vitamin D and its role in depression below.

Study Details

The study from the University of Bristol examined over 2,700 children at age 9, then at age 13. The study looked at the vitamin D levels of each child during the two different stages. The researchers found that children with the lowest vitamin D levels were more likely to experience depression. The children with the highest vitamin D levels were 10 percent less likely to have depression.

Why Is Depression Bad for Kids?

Depression is not simply a low mood. It is a serious medical condition that can have serious side effects throughout life. Studies have shown that children with depression have trouble socializing and making friends, are more likely to face learning difficulties, and may entertain thoughts of suicide or harming themselves. Reversing depression will heal these dangerous side effects of depression along with the depression itself allowing children to fully experience and enjoy life again.

Why Don’t Kids Have Enough Vitamin D?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that about 25 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin D. In fact, up to 8 percent of children and adults are at-risk for illnesses related to vitamin D deficiency including increased cancer risk, depression, weak bones, and heart disease.

Lack of Sun Exposure

The largest source of absorbable vitamin D comes from sunlight. When sunlight hits the skin, it synthesizes the production of vitamin D in the body. Today’s children rarely experience enough sunlight to produce necessary vitamin D levels. Children spend most of their day indoors at school or in indoor after-school activities. On the weekends, many children play indoors with video games or watch television for several hours.

Another reason that children do not have sufficient vitamin D levels is due to the excessive use of sunscreen. Sunscreen was designed to minimize exposure to UV rays to ward off skin cancer. However, blocking the sun’s rays also blocks the production of vitamin D when a child is exposed to sunlight.

Lack of Vitamin D in Food

There are few sources of food that actually contain vitamin D. In general, vitamin D only comes from animals that have had a large exposure to sunlight themselves during their life. For example, fatty fish like salmon and cod contain some natural vitamin D. Milk and dairy products from pastured-raised cows and other animals also have vitamin D, as do pasture-raised eggs.

However, most conventionally-prepared animal products do not contain vitamin D because the animals themselves were not exposed to sunlight. Many children do not consume enough fish or animal products to counteract the lack of exposure to the sun.

Which Vitamin D is Best for Depression?

Vitamin D has two specific types. The two types are called vitamin D2 and vitamin D3.

Types of Vitamin D 

Vitamin D2: Synthesized by plants and not produced in humans or animals.

Vitamin D3: Produced in humans and animals when sunlight hits the skin. Vitamin D3 can also be absorbed through animal sources.


In decades past, it was thought that both vitamin D2 and D3 were equally effective, since both were able to cure rickets (a bone degenerative disease common in the early 1900s). However, vitamin D3 is four times more effective than vitamin D2 at maintaining serum concentrations because the binding protein can work with vitamin D3 easier. This keeps vitamin D3 in the circulatory system longer, which keeps the necessary levels in the body longer.

How Does Vitamin D Fight Depression in Kids and Adults?

Researchers are not sure how vitamin D fights depression- only that it does. There are many vitamin D receptors in the brain, which triggers the brain to act in a certain way. Most of the vitamin D receptors are in areas of the brain that control mood and depression.

Researchers have theorized that vitamin D affects monoamine chemical (like serotonin) levels in the brain. Monoamines are responsible for controlling many of your body’s moods and happiness levels. Many depression medications increase monoamine levels to fight depression. Researchers have suggested that vitamin D may do this naturally.

It is easy to see that this theory could be correct, because spending time outside in the sun is a simply way to boost mood and feel happier without any other factors. Children are happier and healthier when they spend time outdoors- not only for depression, but exposure to vitamin D can also improve the immune system.

Ensure Your Kids Get Enough Vitamin D

Vitamin D is extremely important for the health of any child. Vitamin D can fight depression, keep bones healthy, and improve the immune system. You can give your children vitamin D in two ways.

Sun Exposure

Studies have shown that different UV levels produce different vitamin D levels in the body. Sun exposure in the summer produces higher levels of vitamin D than winter sun exposure. Studies have shown that as little as 10 minutes a day in the sunlight can help ensure your children have high vitamin D levels in their bodies.

Encourage your children to play outside in the sunlight for a small portion of every day. Encourage a lot of outdoor play in the summer. If you are worried about the risks of skin cancer, limit your children’s time outside to an hour. According to studies, the risk of skin cancer is highest when sunburn has occurred. If your children do not burn their skin, their risk of skin cancer is halved, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Food

Vitamin D3 is present in animal products- but not in all animal products and not in all animal raising methods. The highest vitamin D levels are found in animals who are exposed to sunlight during their life. This is known as traditional farming and is the most humane and healthy for the animals and you when you eat them.

When possible, look for pasture-raised animals fed a diet rich in plants exposed to sunlight (grass, usually). Avoid animals grown through conventional methods where they are fed animal by-products and are rarely exposed to sunlight.

Foods with Vitamin D3
  • Grass-fed animals
  • Eggs
  • Dairy from pastured-raised animals
  • Fatty fish like salmon, cod, and tuna

Other Ways to Prevent Depression in Children

If you want your children to avoid depression, there are certain steps you can take that will ensure your children have the best intake of vitamins and minerals to fight symptoms of depression. These actions work for both children and adults and can help improve mood, reduce depression, and improve a child’s quality of life.

B Vitamins

Researchers from Harvard Medical School have uncovered that low levels of folic acid (vitamin B9) and vitamin B6 are linked to depression. Vitamin B6 is essential for producing serotonin, and supplementing with folic acid was found to reduce depression in a study of individuals with severe depression.

Herbal Support

A few herbs have been linked with a reduction in depression symptoms. These herbs may help restore the balance of mood hormones in the body and reduce the risk for depression in children and teens.

Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo biloba is another herb that is effective in treating depression. When used in combination with St. John’s Wort, ginkgo biloba could boost the effectiveness of the herb, reducing depressive symptoms in patients with severe depression.

St John's Wort: St John’s Wort is an effective remedy for depression. Studies have shown that in some cases, St. John’s Wort is more effective than commonly-prescribed antidepressants without any side effects. A 1997 review of 12 studies on St. John’s Wort found the herb was just as effective as antidepressant medications.

Exercise

Exercise can also fight depression in children and adults. A sedentary lifestyle is not healthy for anyone- particularly children and teens. Exercise boosts serotonin levels, which can help fight depression. Exercises done outdoors when the sun is shining will provide the most mood-boosting benefit. Any exercise routine can work, from simple walking or jogging to more complicated exercise routines.

Preventing Childhood Depression

The cure for childhood depression could be as simple as ensuring your children have enough vitamin D. Of course, all depression has multiple dimensions, and if you suspect your child has depression, you should speak with a qualified health professional right away to determine the best treatment path.

However, studies have shown that vitamin D, herbal support, exercise, and B vitamins can all stop depression from the inside out. This strategy works equally well in children and adults alike. With just a few simple diet changes, you could stop childhood and adult depression for good.

Sources


http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201307/vitamin-d-deficiency-and-depression

http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/Kids-and-Vitamin-D-Deficiency.aspx

http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/4-nutrients-your-child-may-be-missing

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