1 in 5 US adults have mental illness- can Vitamin D help?

Researchers of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report that in 2009, Nearly 1 in 5 adult Americans, (45 million, or 20 percent) experienced some form of mental illness. The study defined mental illness as “a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder in the past year, regardless of their level of functional impairment.” This annual survey is the largest of its kind undertaken by the US government. This article examines the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and mental illness amongst Americans.

Which age group and gender is most affected by mental illness?

The 18-25 age group was reported as having the most mental illness, and more women than men were afflicted, stated Peter Delany, a doctor who heads behavioral research at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. He adds “about one in 20 individuals, or around 4.8 percent of the population, met the criteria for having a serious mental illness” which was defined by the study as ‘serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.’

In my own clinical practice in the Bay Area, CA, I am treating more and more individuals from this age group, as well as those in their 30’s- many of whom are struggling with work related stress, relationship conflicts with their peers and families, understanding their sexuality and romantic relationships, and determining which career paths best suit their abilities and interests.

As a clinical psychologist, one of my first tasks in providing optimal mental health care to new patients is determining if they are in good physical health. Obtaining a primary care doctor and getting annual physical exams is an essential first step in figuring if any physical issues could be affecting your emotional health and well-being.

Is some mental illness related to a vitamin D deficiency?

One study led by Ganji V. and colleagues and reported in the Nov 2010 issue of International Archives of Medicine showed people with current depression were more likely to be vitamin D deficient than those who had higher levels of vitamin D. The study was based on data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Dr. John Cannell, an vitamin D expert and director of Vitamin D Council suggests that some forms of mental illness can be linked with reduced sun exposure, low 25-hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D levels. Vitamin D research showed that this supplement may help improve some mental illnesses and encourage healthy immune functioning. In addition, emerging research shows a possible role for vitamin D in the prevention or treatment of type 1 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, reducing inflammation, some cancers, and autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis.

How can I find out if I am vitamin D deficient?

Click here to read more on how Dr. John Cannell suggests you find out if you are Vitamin D deficient.

What dose is optimal for my physical & mental health?

Physican/Nutrition specialist Dr. Melina Jampolis in San Francisco, CA states “The current tolerable upper limit of vitamin D intake is 50 mcg (2,000 IU) per day. Taking too much vitamin D can cause nausea, vomiting, decreased appetite, constipation, weakness, and can raise blood levels of calcium, which can lead to irregular heart rhythms.” Click here to read more about Vitamin D uses, side effects, drug interactions and warnings.

Who is most at risk for being vitamin D deficient?

Groups at risk of vitamin D deficiency include breastfed infants, adults age 50 and older, people with limited sun exposure, people with milk allergy or lactose intolerance, people with fat malabsorption, people with dark skin, and people who are obese. (Because it is fat soluble, larger pools of body fat may act as a reservoir for vitamin D.)

Sources: Webmd.com, CNN Diet & Fitness, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration


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