“The Relationship between Seasonal Affective Disorder and Vitamin D Levels”

December 16, 2010

Winter months in Alaska can really take a toll on people. With limited sunlight, some residents experience symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), in which people with normal mental health, experience depressive symptoms in the winter or during another season.

Amber Shea, a nursing major, recently completed research on the relationship between SAD and vitamin D levels. She passed out surveys to subjects at a local health fair and a health clinic in Alaska. The survey asked questions about subjects’ symptoms of depression and the seasonality of those symptoms. She worked with Alaska Health Fair Inc. and the health clinic to match up the subject’s vitamin D levels with their surveys. Using statistical software, Amber correlated SAD symptoms with vitamin D levels of those surveyed.

To be diagnosed with SAD, one has to experience five of nine symptoms of depression most of the day everyday for at least two weeks during one season of the year. The symptoms must be disruptive to relationships, school or work. Symptoms include: depressed mood, decreased interest in pleasurable activities, weight fluctuation without dieting, changes in sleep patterns, psychomotor agitation/retardation, fatigue, worthlessness, difficulty concentrating or making decisions and suicidal ideation.

Her research found there is a link between SAD and vitamin D. As serum vitamin D decreased, symptoms of SAD increased.

Alaskans can only get Vitamin D from the sun May through August. Amber suggested other ways to make sure you get your Vitamin D, including:

  • Eat fatty (wild) fish like salmon or halibut, caribou meat or sun-dried mushrooms
  • Find fortified foods/drinks at the grocery store
  • Follow FDA recommendations for at least 600 IU daily or consult with your local doctor

For more information on her research, contact Amber Shea at brianambershea@hotmail.com or (907) 841-4073.

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