Vitamin D Proves Helpful For Women with Diabetes and Depression
Women with type 2 diabetes tend to have worse outcomes than men with the same diagnosis.
The reason for this may be that more than 25 percent of women with diabetes also have depression, and symptoms of depression interfere with the ability to manage diabetes successfully.
A cost-effective way for women to address this problem might be taking a readily available supplement that has minimal side effects. Recent research indicates that vitamin D supplements not only improve the mood of depressed, diabetic women, but it also lowers their blood pressure significantly.
How Diabetes and Depression are Linked
It is not surprising that many women (and men) have diabetes and depression together since the two illnesses are linked several ways.
- The CDC reports that having diabetes doubles an individual’s risk of developing depression.
- Both diagnoses have common risk factors including family history, blood pressure problems, obesity and coronary artery disease.
- The two diagnoses share symptoms. Anxiety, fatigue, irritability, and restlessness are signs of depression – and of blood sugar that is too high or too low.
- Having to manage diabetes can trigger depressive symptoms, and the depressive symptoms make managing diabetes more difficult. Then the diabetes worsens, and the added stress aggravates the depression. A vicious circle.
Having depression with diabetes creates additional health risks as well. People with both illnesses have a 52 percent greater chance of experiencing a heart attack or stroke. Depressed diabetics also tend to have higher blood glucose levels than those who are not depressed.
Because the diabetes-depression link is a particular problem for women, a pilot research study done at Loyola University Chicago, Niehoff School of Nursing, was designed to look at the effects of vitamin D supplementation on depressed women with diabetes.
The Vitamin D Study
The Loyola study included 46 women, averaging 55 years of age, who had diabetes for an average of eight years. All had insufficient levels of vitamin D. For six months, the women took about 7,000 International Units (IU) of vitamin D per day. (The recommended dietary allowance for women of that age is 600 IU per day).
After six months, the participants had restored their vitamin D to healthy levels. The women’s answers on a 20-question depression survey indicated significant improvement in mood as well. Participants' average systolic blood pressure decreased from 140.4 mm HG to 132.5 mm HG, and their average weight dropped two and a half pounds.
This pilot research was such as success, the same researchers are currently conducting a larger, controlled study about the impact of vitamin D on depression and cardiovascular risk factors in women with type 2 diabetes.
Getting Enough Vitamin D
Fortunately, with awareness and a bit of effort, it is not difficult for people to get enough vitamin D through diet and time spent outdoors.
- The body manufactures vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Spend 15 to 30 minutes, at least three times per week, sitting, playing or exercising in sunshine.
- Eat vitamin D foods such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, egg yolks, cheese and beef liver. Vitamin D is also added to some food products, such as milk.
For those with depression, eating well and having the energy and motivation to go outside can be problematic. If this is true for you, talk to your doctor. He or she can test you for vitamin D deficiency and determine how much supplementation you need if your vitamin D levels are low.
Sources: Med News Today, Science Daily, American Diabetes Association