Vitamin D and Mood Disorders Among Women: An Integrative Review

Pamela K. Murphy, CNM, MS, IBCLC; Carol L. Wagner, MD


J Midwifery Womens Health. 2008;53(5):440-446. 

In This Article

Physiology of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is either absorbed by dietary intake or manufactured when epidermal 7-dehydrocholesterol converts UVB rays in the range of 290 nm to 310 nm hitting the skin into previtamin D3.[1,6,10,23] A thermal reaction causes previtamin D3 to convert into vitamin D3, also named cholecalciferol, within the epidermis. Vitamin D3 is transported via vitamin D binding proteins to the liver, where it metabolizes into 25(OH)D, also named calcifediol, the inert form of vitamin D. Tightly regulated by parathyroid hormone, 25(OH)D converts to 1, 25-dihydroxy-vitamin D (1,25[OH]2D), also named calcitriol, the active hormonal form of vitamin D, in the kidneys and other extra-renal tissues. 1,25(OH)2D binds to vitamin D receptors to regulate cellular function in several tissues located in the body, including brain neurons.[24]

Obradovic et al.[25] demonstrated a relationship between vitamin D receptors and the regulation of glucocorticoid signaling in rat models, an important finding because dysfunctional glucocorticoid signaling has been implicated in disorders such as major depressive disorder. Glucocorticoids, a type of cortisol, are increased in the presence of major depressive disorder while bone mineral density (BMD) is decreased.[26] Decreased BMD occurs when bone formation decreases and bone reabsorption increases, which also occurs in vitamin D deficiency.[6] While the exact mechanisms for the link between glucocorticoids, vitamin D receptors, and mood disorders have yet to be determined, evidence exists to support future research exploring these associations.


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