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Sunshine Vitamin: A Shield Against Depression for Older Adults

  • November 7, 2023

A person’s well-being is much more than physical health. Mental well-being and emotional health play a major role in determining a person’s overall quality of life. Various unwelcome companions can accompany the later stages of life, and one such is depression. The weight of this condition can overshadow your time of relaxation and hinder productivity.

The sunshine vitamin might be a simple and natural way to ward off this shadow. This unassuming nutrient is infamous for making bones stronger, and its the potential to lift the spirit.

Depression for Older Adults


Correlation of Vitamin D and the Human Body


Vitamin D receptors are present in various crucial parts of your body, including the heart, muscles, brain and immune system. The body’s mechanisms transport vitamin D to the liver and kidneys, converting it into an active hormone. In this activated form, it plays a vital role in aiding the body’s calcium absorption.

Sunlight is the primary source of vitamin D for your body. However, there are also specific food items and supplements that can provide this essential nutrient.

Melanin determines skin and hair color and is found in higher levels among individuals with darker skin. Interestingly, this pigmentation can hinder the skin’s ability to absorb vitamin D effectively.


How Does Vitamin D deficiency affect our Mental Health?


●     Symptoms


Vitamin D deficiency can have significant repercussions on mental health. Some visible common symptoms include mood changes such as increased irritability, moodiness, and feeling sad, often increasing the risk of deteriorated mental health.

Cognitive function may also be affected due to deficiency by heightened risk of conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s impacting memory, problem-solving abilities and overall cognitive abilities.

Fatigue and lack of energy are prevalent among individuals with low levels of Vitamin D, leading to lethargy and even a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. Insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns are also linked to Vitamin D deficiency; poor sleep can adversely affect mental health.

Furthermore, studies have also hinted at Vitamin D deficiency and various psychological disorders such as schizophrenia and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).


●     People at Risk


Older adults are particularly vulnerable due to their skin becoming less efficient at synthesizing Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Limited mobility and little to no outdoor workout routine can further contribute to this deficiency among older adults.

Similarly, people with limited sun exposure, such as those living in regions with scarce sunlight or those who spend most of their time indoors, face an elevated risk of Vitamin D deficiency.

Dark-skinned individuals possess higher levels of melanin, which hinders their skin’s ability to produce Vitamin D upon exposure to sunlight. Obesity can also play a role, as Vitamin D is fat-soluble and can be concealed in fat tissues, leading to lower bioavailability.

Additionally, medical conditions like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and kidney disorders can disrupt the absorption and metabolism of Vitamin D, increasing the risk of deficiency.


Vitamin D and Depression


Depression is a medical condition that influences a person’s thought process, emotions and behavior, including symptoms like less interest in activities, withdrawal from interactions and isolation, facing challenges while concentrating, loss of sleep and appetite and even suicidal tendencies.


Findings From Research


Numerous studies have explored the relationship between vitamin D supplementation and depression, revealing a significant connection. However, the limitation of the studies is that they do not establish a direct causation between Vitamin D deficiency and depression.

An alternative explanation for the correlation between the two lies in the demographics. Certain groups, such as individuals with obesity or seniors, are more immune to vitamin D deficiency and have a higher risk of developing depression. Depression often manifests with symptoms like withdrawal and social isolation, leading to spending less time outdoors and receiving less sunlight-induced vitamin D.

Furthermore, individuals battling depression may struggle to maintain a proper diet or take vitamin D supplements. This condition alters their thought process, leading to behaviors that exacerbate vitamin D deficiency.


Diet Plan for Good Mental Health


Vitamin D plays a vital role in mental and physical health. Best online nutrition coaches indicate that insufficient vitamin D levels can lead to symptoms resembling depression. Interestingly, individuals suffering from depression are more likely to experience vitamin D deficiency. To avoid this potential link between vitamin D and depression, consider incorporating vitamin D-rich foods in your diet.

  • Fatty Fish: Include salmon, mackerel, and trout in your diet, as these are excellent sources of vitamin D, particularly when consumed in their fatty form. They not only offer vitamin D but also offer heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Grilling, baking or pan-searing these fish can make a delicious and nutritious meal. Omega-3 fatty acids may also have mood-enhancing properties.
  • Fortified Dairy Products: Fortified dairy products are enriched with vitamin D to enhance their nutritional value. They provide calcium for bone health and vitamin D for overall well-being.
  • Eggs: Eggs, especially the yolks, contain vitamin D. You can incorporate them into your diet through scrambled eggs, omelets or simply boiled eggs. These are versatile, nutritious breakfasts.
  • Cod Liver Oil: Consult a healthcare professional before adding cod liver oil to your supplement regimen. It can be particularly beneficial for those with severe vitamin D deficiency.
  • Tofu: Fortified silken tofu can be used in various recipes, including smoothies and stir-fries. It offers a plant-based source of vitamin D, which is valuable for individuals following vegan diets.
  • Fortified Orange Juice: It is a tasty way to increase vitamin D intake. It can be particularly beneficial for individuals with limited sun exposure, as vitamin D from sunlight is essential for mental health.


Sun Exposure


Sun exposure is a significant factor in the debate about Vitamin D deficiency and depression. It is important for an individual to leave their comfort zone and have social interactions. It is essential to have proper sun exposure and an outdoor workout routine for older adults as their body produces less vitamin D, and withdrawal from outside gatherings can lead to depression.




As you know, everything is interconnected, like our mental health and our physical well-being. Intake of a good diet might improve your mental health, but it alone cannot help you. Feel free to take guidance from nutrition and wellness coaches with tailor-made plans for your needs. It will help you to jump back happier and healthier.


Sabin L
Founder & Owner

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